Hot Peppers Made Cool

By Habeeb Salloum

“Our food in the Yucatán has its roots in the cuisine of the Maya”, explained Francisco Javier Hernandez Romero, owner of La Pigua Restaurant in Campeche. Expressing pride in the Mayan influences in the cuisine of the Yucatán he continued, “This restaurant is constructed in the architecture of a typical Mayan home and serves food based on aboriginal dishes. When you taste our food, you will appreciate the contributions made by the Mayans to Mexico’s kitchen.”

Peppers from sweet to fiery hot were all contributed by Mexico to the cuisine of the world. Francisco had brought back to life one of the stuffed hot pepper dishes from the Mayan past. Toned down in heat when they are stuffed, the peppers are cool. I liked the dish so much that I resolved to replicate it when I returned home. And I did as I promised myself. After a couple of attempts to get the taste right, I must admit that my version here is good enough to compete with La Pigua’s offering. No need to travel to Campeche.

Stuffed Peppers – Poblanos Rellenos

Serves – 6

12 large poblano or similar hot peppers, about 5-inches long

6 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 cups ground uncooked peeled shrimp

1/2 cup ground almonds

4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Sauce

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons, finely chopped coriander leaves

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups water

Cook peppers in boiling water for 4 minutes, then remove and let cool.

While the peppers are cooling, make the filling. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan then sauté onion over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining butter, garlic, shrimp, almonds, parsley, salt and pepper, then stir-fry for 4 minutes. Set aside.

To make sauce, heat oil in another frying pan, then sauté onion and garlic over low heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining sauce ingredients and bring to boil, cover, bring heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then set aside.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Remove stems of peppers by cutting around them then gently remove and reserve. Carefully scoop out and discard pulp and seeds. Stuff peppers with the filling then fi t reserved stems in place. Place, tight fitting, in a casserole, then spread sauce over top. Cover then bake for 50 minutes.

Serve two peppers per person covered with some of the sauce.