Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It reminds me to appreciate the food on my table, the roof over my head, and the beauty of this precious Earth. It makes me think about how lucky I am to have love and support from family and friends, and it serves as a time to share these feelings with people I’ve never met.
Thanksgiving is also filled with the most magical fall flavors. Honestly, I could eat Thanksgiving dinner every day for the entire year. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, roasted squash, turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce… my mouth is watering!
You know who doesn’t feel the same way? My fiancé.
He is probably going to give me the stink eye when he reads this blog post, but that’s just too bad! I hear this from him every year- “I don’t like sweet potatoes. Pumpkin tastes like rotten pâté. Squash is gross.”
Have you ever heard such outlandish statements?
The two of us are unable to spend Thanksgiving at our families’ homes this year. Therefore, I am preparing an entire Thanksgiving meal for two… on my own… for the very first time. I always help my mom cook for the holidays, but this time I am flying solo.
I tried to come up with a side dish that my fiancé would actually enjoy, and then I had a clever idea.
Honestly, I only thought of this idea while I was grocery shopping for the holiday. I saw the bright, orange bell peppers and the idea for this recipe instantly came to me. That orange color is going to match my Thanksgiving dinner perfectly, and my fiancé LOVES peppers. It’s brilliant! And it’s also a play on “stuffing.”
I’ve seen too many stuffed pepper recipes filled with rice. There are enough carbohydrates on the Thanksgiving table to last a lifetime, so I will pass on the grains for this one. I also just blogged about Stuffed Cabbage, which contains a filling of rice and meat.
Therefore, I’m going entirely with vegetables for this recipe (and maybe a little cheese). However, I still want to give this dish a hearty, meaty flavor, because my fiancé will likely skip all the other side dishes that I’m preparing.
Mushrooms will fit the bill! Here’s why.
There are five basic tastes that our bodies experience- sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. You’ve likely heard the word umami, but you may not know what it means.
The term was first imagined by a Japanese professor who discovered the compound monosodium glutamate, or MSG, in 1908. In the year 2000, an umami taste receptor called taste-mGluR4 was found in human taste buds. Umami is therefore a proven taste, and can be described as meaty, brothy, and savory. Umami-filled foods seem to coat the tongue with these descriptors, and cause us to salivate. You can find derivatives of this umami flavor in foods like sundried tomatoes, mushrooms (especially shiitake), hard cheeses, fermented soybeans, dry-cured hams, fish sauces and fresh fish, seaweed, potatoes, and cabbage.
The taste of isolated MSG is not enjoyable. Trust me, I would know. I used to work with the compound in the flavor industry, and I once had to taste and compare it with sodium. It honestly reminded me of old, thick, salty broth that was left in a pan to soak in the sink. Yummy.
However, MSG and its derivatives in foods give dishes silky textures, and add meaty flavors and aromas. High amounts of MSG are rarely put into foods. Apparently, the most enjoyable tastes of MSG and its counterparts occurs at <1% by weight of food. That’s not much at all.
It’s also been proven that MSG does not lead to migraines, as some of you former Chinese food lovers might think. You probably just get dehydrated while eating these foods due to the high amount of sodium that the chefs add to their dishes. Drink some water, and you’ll likely be fine.
I hope my future husband’s taste buds are ready to savor the umami flavor. Let’s give this a try!
Mushroom Stuffed Peppers
- 6 large orange bell peppers
- 16 oz. sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
- 1 medium onion
- 1 Tbsp of olive oil
- 2 tsp of chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- 6 oz. mozzarella cheese
- Dice the mushrooms and onions. Set them aside in a bowl. It might look like you made too much filling for the peppers. Trust me, you didn’t. We will cook this filling and shrink its size.
- Prepare the peppers. Slice off the tops evenly. Take out the seeds from the inside of the peppers and rinse them. Make sure that the peppers stand upright. If they don’t, you can thinly slice off a portion of the bottom of the peppers to make them stand. Be careful not to make a hole in the bottom, otherwise the filling will come out!
- Put the peppers in a 9 x 13″ glass baking dish. Set them aside for now.
- Heat a large pan on the stove with olive oil. Put the diced mushrooms and onions into the pan. Add the rosemary, black pepper, and thyme, along with the soy sauce. The soy sauce adds an extra umami note to the pepper filling.
- The filling needs to be sautéed because the mushrooms will shrink upon cooking. When they shrink, they let out a lot of water. No one wants extra water in their stuffed peppers!
- While the filling is cooking, fill a medium-sized pot or saucepan with water and 1 tsp of salt. Allow the water to come to a boil. The mushroom filling is likely finished cooking when the pot of water starts to boil. Set the filling aside when finished.
- Boil each pepper for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly softened. Make sure to drain and dry each pepper before putting them back into the glass pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Then fill the peppers about 3/4 of the way with the stuffing mixture. Slice up 6 oz of mozzarella cheese into 1 oz slices. Put the slices on top of each pepper.
- Place the dish in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted completely. Serve and enjoy.
When you eat one of these peppery beauties, you will notice that some of the sauce falls out. Even though we pre-cooked the filling, excess water still comes out of the peppers and the mushrooms.
If you are one of those people who doesn’t like it when all of your foods touch together, then put the stuffed pepper on a separate plate. However, if you’re like me, and don’t mind the sauce getting onto the other portions of the meal, you can use the extra liquid as a makeshift gravy for your turkey.
These peppers are a fantastic side dish for any Thanksgiving meal, and they are sure to please the palates of those who don’t like Thanksgiving flavors.
Part 1, complete! Onto part 2…
The Nutrition Facts below are a very rough estimate of 1 serving of the stuffed peppers. The Nutrition Facts do not account for the sauce that comes out when cooking. The USDA Nutrient Database also didn’t have nutrition facts for orange bell peppers, so I based the calculations off of the red peppers.
Umami- The Delicious 5th Taste you Need to Master. Molecularrecipes.com. Updated March 24, 2013. Accessed November 24, 2015. http://www.molecularrecipes.com/molecular-gastronomy/umami/