Barley is one of those foods that, when I eat it, I wonder, “Why don’t I eat this more often?” Then I remember that barley can be a little boring. But with these stuffed peppers, I could eat barley every day and not get tired of it.
I’ll tell you true: My mother wasn’t the sort to bother stuffing things, and I didn’t really have stuffed vegetables (or stuffed pasta) until I was older. However, one common thread among others when they talk about Mom Food is stuffed things: stuffed peppers; stuffed cabbage; stuffed pasta shells. There’s something there that I think my mom accomplished with layering (lasagna, chicken-and-rice casserole, etc.). There’s something about layers of food, or hot food in an edible container, or something, that I can’t put my finger on, but it means comfort.
Whatever it is, it hits my comfort-food spot even though it has nothing to do with my own childhood. Not sure what that’s about, but if it means I get to eat more stuffed peppers, I’m all over it.
Chorizo-and-barley Stuffed Peppers
1 tablespoon bacon grease or other fat, optional
1 cup uncooked pearl barley (or use 3 cups cooked barley or other grain; leftover rice is fine)
3/4 lb. spicy sausage, without casings (I used Whole Foods chorizo, which is firmer than Mexican chorizo; any spicy sausage will work, or heck, use non-spicy if you want)
6-8 green bell peppers
1 onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
Skip this paragraph if you’re using already cooked grains. Heat bacon grease, if using, on medium heat in a medium saucepan. Rinse and drain barley, then add to bacon grease (or dry pan) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grain is dry. Add 6 cups water, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-high and boil gently for 30 minutes or until barley is cooked.
In a large frying pan, cook the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula so the pieces are small. Cook it until it’s just done, or a little underdone, then remove the sausage to a bowl and set aside in the refrigerator, leaving the sausage grease in the frying pan. In the same frying pan, fry onions and carrots until soft.
Meanwhile, cut the tops off each of the peppers, and mince the tops finely. Find a baking dish that will hold all the peppers snugly when they’re sitting upright. Add onions, carrots, and peppers to the bowl of sausage. Preheat oven to 350F.
Drain the barley, but you don’t need to rinse it. Add to the meat mixture, along with the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Stuff the peppers with the mixture and stand them up in the baking dish. If you have any leftover filling, put into a small ovenproof bowl.
Bake peppers (and the extra filling, if you have any) for an hour at 350F. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature, depending on whether you’re feeding mama, papa, or baby bear. If your baby bear is like mine, she’ll eat the filling and not the peppers, so maybe you’ll score a free baked pepper while you’re at it.