published Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Japanese rice updates the tired old stuffed pepper

These stuffed peppers ditch the traditional ground beef in favor of chicken, then replace flavorless white rice with more-robust japonica, a colorful Japanese variety.
These stuffed peppers ditch the traditional ground beef in favor of chicken, then replace flavorless white rice with more-robust japonica, a colorful Japanese variety.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Here's the thing about baked stuffed peppers ... Plenty of people hate them. And when you consider the classic approach to this dish, it's hard to argue. Tasteless ground beef mixed with white rice and some sort of tomato product? Not particularly exciting.

So we decided to create a version with plenty more appeal. We started by ditching the ground beef in favor of chicken, then replaced the flavorless white rice with the more robust japonica, a colorful Japanese variety. Now add shiitake mushrooms, fresh herbs and goat cheese, and you've got a stuffed pepper worth getting excited about.

Japonica, Shiitake and Chicken Stuffed Peppers

6 large red bell peppers

1 cup japonica rice

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

5 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped shallots

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken

2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Slice 1/2 inch off the top of each pepper, then scoop out and discard any seeds and ribs. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until all the broth is absorbed.

While the rice cooks, in a large skillet over medium-high melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until most of the water has been released from the mushroom and has evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, celery and onion and continue to cook until the onion and celery are tender, another 5 to 6 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, mushroom mixture, chicken, marjoram and goat cheese. Season with salt and black pepper. Spoon the mixture into the peppers and place in the prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender.

Servings: 6.

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