The sweet Italian frying peppers have hit the farm stands and they beg to be used in many different ways. I’m stuffing mine with smoked trout and chèvre for a delightful treat.
A recipe often begins life with a flavor combination found in something totally different. I found the most beautiful sweet Italian frying peppers at my favorite local farm stand Harlow’s in Westminster. They were so lovely, and so large, I didn’t want to just fry them or chop them up and add them to something. I was thinking out loud, and told my sister Jan I wanted to stuff them, but I didn’t want to use a stuffing of rice or quinoa or other grain we’ve done before. She suggested I use mashed potatoes.
Inspiration from a local restaurant
That sounded wonderful to me, and I doubt I’d ever stuffed a pepper with mashed potatoes before. On its own, it sounded a bit bland, but then I remembered one of my sister’s favorite dishes of all time, a little tart that is served as an appetizer at T.J. Buckley’s in Brattleboro, Vt. Now, if you are from out of town looking for a nice place to eat, you would probably drive right past this little Worcester dining car establishment, but that would be a mistake. You won’t find burgers and fries there, but beautifully prepared upscale French inspired dishes using local organic ingredients.
Two great flavors combine
My sister’s favorite dish there is a smoked trout and chèvre tartlet with caramelized leek, roast corn, and thyme with crème fraîche and ethically sourced paddlefish roe. That’s a lot of flavor, and a lot of work I’ll gladly leave to the master chef. I pared the stuffing down to the predominant flavors, the trout and the chèvre, and let these shine, in a filling of mashed potatoes with an additional nod to the original with fresh thyme from my herb garden. With my husband’s saturated fat restrictions, I left out the crème fraiche. The chèvre has less sat fat than cow cheeses, and you don’t need as much because of its strong flavor, so its place was secure. Each stuffed half has less than two grams of saturated fat and about 120 calories.
Use Yukon Gold
I made my own mashed potatoes from about 2 lbs. of Yukon Golds, one of my favorites. I had some of this mash left which I put to work the next morning for breakfast. Mashed potatoes never go to waste in this house. If you already have mashed potatoes made up, this comes together really quickly.
A delightful harmony
We were delighted at how these turned out, and they will definitely be part of our regular rotation. What we all loved was the harmony of the flavors; you could taste every component and nothing dominated. We were very quiet as we tasted. Yum.
This dish served as centerpiece for a family supper table, but it is also memorable on a dinner party buffet. You can even make this vegan with a couple of simple swaps.
Chèvre and Smoked Trout Stuffed Sweet Italian Frying Peppers
- 6 large sweet Italian frying peppers
- 2 cups mashed potatoes
- 2 large scallions, whites and greens, minced
- 6 oz. chèvre, crumbled, divided
- 6 oz. smoked trout, shredded
- ½ tsp. fresh thyme, minced
- Olive oil spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.)
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and gently scoop out the seeds and ribs. I used my melon baller. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and lightly salt. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from the oven.
In a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, scallions, 4 oz. of the goat cheese, and trout and mix well. Season lightly with salt and pepper (the trout and cheese are a bit salty so start slowing), taste, and correct the seasoning.
Using a teaspoon, divide the mixture among the 12 halves. Sprinkle the rest of the chèvre over the tops, and spritz with a bit of olive oil.
Return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes.
Arrange on a platter, and dive in!
Substitute vegan feta for the chèvre and smoked baked tofu for the smoked trout.
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