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Need a Seafood Recipe for Lent? Try Shrimp-Stuffed Bell Peppers

Here's a tasty remedy for those meatless meals during Lent.

It’s Lent season, which means Christians are in full repent mode and Cajuns are cooking lots of seafood, including boiled crawfish, crab stews, turtle soups — and shrimp-stuffed bell peppers.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, and continues until Easter to prepare the believer for the resurrection of Christ. Meat products were off-limits as part of fasting during my Catholic upbringing; fish, reptiles and crustaceans were acceptable instead. I used to think the Christians who lived in coastal places like Louisiana and Maryland were cheating since seafood was a year-round staple.

And we either had to give up something or do something extra.

Growing up, my mama always decided our penance, and every year was the same — soft drinks. I think it was the only way she had a chance to drink Diet Coke without five kids sipping at it each time they passed by the kitchen counter.

One year, I took on the challenge of adding an extra penance and swore off candy for 40 days. Two weeks into Lent, my sister caught me eating some chocolate. I convinced her that it was only a half-sin and that God wouldn’t really mind since it was my extra penance.

My favorite Lent food is boiled crawfish, but since I live in Maryland now, my access to shrimp is easier. Hence the shrimp-stuffed bell peppers.

Unlike other recipes that I've found online and used in the past, my dad's shrimp-stuffed recipe makes a stuffing that has a jambalaya texture. And, it has a bit of a Cajun kick, of course.

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Shrimp-Stuffed Bell Peppers Recipe

Ingredients/Materials:
6 bell peppers (any color)
2 tbs. oil
2 sm. onions – chopped
¾ c. celery – chopped
2 bay leaves
8 cloves garlic – diced
1 can Rotel
3 tbs. tomato paste (½ sm. can)
1 lbs. shrimp
2 c. cooked rice
½ c. bread crumbs
1 tsp. Tony Chachere’s seasoning
2 c. tomato sauce
¼ c. basil
leftover water from boiling peppers

Serves 6-8

Instructions:

Stuffing
Step 1
: Prepare peppers.
Clean all peppers (de-seed, rinse). Cut in half, if desired. Blanch peppers – boil peppers for 3 min. in water and immediately after, place peppers in a bowl of ice water. This stops the peppers from over cooking. Save the hot boiled water.

Step 2: Sautee onions, celery.
Warm the oil, and cook down the onions and celery on medium-high fire for about 5 minutes.

Step 3: Add bay leaves, garlic, Rotel, tomato paste.
Add the bay leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, Rotel, tomato paste. Cook until the paste becomes more of a sauce, about 3-5 minutes.

Step 4: Add shrimp.
Add shrimp. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are completely cooked.

Step 5: Add rice, bread crumbs, seasoning
Take the shrimp mixture off the fire. In a large bowl, combine shrimp mixture, cooked rice, bread crumbs and Tony’s.

Step 6: Stuff peppers.
Stuff the mixture into each of the whole or half peppers.

Step 7: Add topping sauce.
Place the peppers in a baking dish. Cover the peppers with the topping sauce (see below).

Step 8: Bake peppers.
Bake the peppers in the oven at 350° for 10-15 min.

Topping sauce
Step 1
: Cook down tomato sauce, garlic, basil.
In a saucepan, cook down the tomato sauce, 4 cloves of garlic and basil on a low fire. Also include the second ½ of the tomato paste.

Step 2: Add water.
After a few minutes, the tomato mixture cooks into a paste. Add about ½ c of the boiled green pepper water to bring the mixture back up to a sauce. Cook a few minutes longer.

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