Hard to believe that October is here already. This summer flew by. Guess I still have a few summer vegetables on my mind–including these colorful bell peppers. Bell peppers are very nutritious and also inexpensive when in season in the summer. One of my favorite ways to prepare bell peppers is stuffed with ground meat, rice and served with tomato sauce. While looked through some recipe books, I found an interesting variation on this theme which highlight’s Louisiana cuisine.
Chef John Folse’s Tunica-Stuffed Peppers
The recipe is from Chef John Folse, well-known chef from Louisiana from the Cajun area of the state. The stuffing contains corn and cornbread instead of rice. It is delicious.
Origins of the recipe’s name
Tunica is the name for the tribe of Indians that first inhabited Louisiana and much of Mississippi and Arkansas. Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, was the first European to document contact with the Tunica Indians in 1541 in the Central Mississippi Valley in Arkansas on the banks of the Mississippi River.
The Tunica Indians lived in villages and grew crops — including corn, beans and pumpkins. They also hunted and fished. The Tunica Indians were prospering when De Sota arrived. But smallpox — brought by de Sota–and other diseases, fighting with other Indians tribes and the French greatly reduced the numbers of this tribe. Now they inhabit a reservation near Marksville, Louisiana, called the Tunica-Biloxi Indians.
The Tunica Indians probably introduced corn to the Europeans that came to live in Louisiana.This recipe, then, is a tribute to the Indian tribes that inhabited parts of Louisiana and the Lower Mississipi basin when European settlers arrived.
Chef John Folse
John Folse hails from St. James Parish around Donaldsonville, Louisiana. This town is along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in the heart of Cajun country. Folse is one of the most influential chefs in Louisiana. He is an advocate preserving the foods and culture of Louisiana. He has received numerous culinary awards and recognitions at the state, national and international levels.
Folse has authored books on Louisiana cuisine, hosted television shows on PBS featuring Louisiana chefs and foods, traveled world-wide to promote Louisiana cuisine. His endeavors include catering, restaurants and food manufacturing.
One of his projects is the culinary arts program at Nicholls State University. The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute (CJFCI) is one of the fastest growing programs at Nicholls State. It’s mission–per WEB page is, “Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of Louisiana’s rich culinary heritage.”
Although I’ve never met him personally, he has been very supportive of dietitians. He helped out our state dietetic association convention one year and I remember what a gracious person he was.
Nutritional Value of Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are available year around. However, in the summertime green bell peppers are in season and inexpensive. They are very nutritious–low in calories and high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, fiber and many other nutrients. The red peppers are the same vegetable–just ripened. The red peppers are sweeter but they also spoil faster–as they are further along on the ripening process. Yellow and orange bell peppers are also the same vegetable; they seem to be hybrid variations from what I can read. Orange, red and yellow bell peppers are even higher in Vitamin C and Vitamin A than green bell peppers
The colorful peppers are also rich in carotenoids and flavonoids–antioxidant substances which are studied in relation to protection from heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other chronic diseases. When it comes to “eat your vegetables” — bell peppers are certainly ones that are nutritious and healthy and good to include in our diets.
Tunica-Stuffed Peppers Recipe Notes
Folse’s recipe uses 12 bell peppers which makes large number of servings. I scaled the ingredients back to 4 bell peppers and included instructions for a seasoned tomato sauce. It also assumes you have cornbread on hand. For this, I used a cornbread mix and baked it ahead of time.
The recipe includes the “Holy Trinity” of Cajun cooking: onions, bell pepper and celery. I ground these up finely using a food processor. (The second time I tried the recipe, the celery, etc is ground much finer than shown.) Here’s the stuffing ingredients cooking on the stove.
Folse’s recipe calls for the peppers to be baked in an oven at 375 degrees at 20 minutes. This is enough to heat the filling; the peppers are crisp and colorful.
In a variation, I lowered the temperature to 350 degrees, covered the peppers and baked them for an hour. The peppers are a little softer in this variation. I also added an egg and bread crumbs to help the stuffing ingredients bind together. If adding an egg, the peppers need to be baked for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
The recipe uses a prepared tomato sauce. You need about 2 to 3 cups of the tomato sauce. I made my own by combining: one 8-oz can tomato sauce, one 15-oz can crushed tomatoes, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/8 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp basil, 2 tsp sugar.
John Folse's Tunica-Stuffed Peppers
Cornbread is needed for this recipe. I suggest a mix, such as Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread and Muffin Mix, which has all ingredients included: just add water (or milk) and bake at 450 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes.
For the tomato sauce I combined: one 8-oz can tomato sauce, one 15-oz can crushed tomatoes, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/8 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp basil, 2 tsp sugar.
Ingredients (scaled from original recipe to 4 servings)
- 1 each red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers
- 1/3 lb ground pork (I used mild ground sausage)
- 1/3 lb ground beef
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 Tbsp diced red bell pepper
- 2 Tbsp diced yellow bell pepper
- 2 Tbsp diced garlic
- 1/2 cup beef bouillon stock (use as needed)
- 1/4 cup sliced green onions
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 cup whole kernel corn (I used frozen corn)
- 1 cup cooked corn bread, crushed
- salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Method and Steps
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a heavy bottom skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add ground pork and ground beef and cook until golden brown, approximately ten to fifteen minutes. Discard all but two tablespoons of oil and place over medium high heat.
- Add onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic. Saute three to five minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Add beef bouillon to keep mixture moist while meat is sauteing.
- Once tender, add green onions, parsley and corn. Add enough beef bouillon to ensure a very moist stuffing.
- Sprinkle in crushed corn bread and blend well into meat mixture.
- Season to taste using salt and pepper.
- Remove the top from the bell peppers and clean all remaining pulp from the inside.
- Stuff each bell pepper with the meat dressing and place in a large casserole dish and surround with a prepared tomato sauce.
- Bake for fifteen or twenty minutes or until peppers are tender.
Recipe is used with permission from Chef John Folse. “Tunica-Stuffed Peppers”, By Chef John D. Folse, C.E.C., The Evolution of Cajun and Creole Cuisine 1989. Chef John Folse and Company Publishing. jfolse.com/recipes/meats/beef43.htm
Variation: After step 5: Remove dressing mixture from stove and cool slightly. Blend in 1 egg and 1/2 cup stale bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper Stuff peppers as in steps #7 and #8. For step #9, cover casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
Enjoy this tasty and nutritious dish!
“The Many Health Benefits of Bell Peppers”. Larry Trivieri Jr., Integrative Health Review. integrativehealthreview.com/eating-nutrition/the-many-health-benefits-of-bell-peppers/
Chef John Folse
“Tunica-Stuffed Peppers”, By Chef John D. Folse, C.E.C., “The Evolution of Cajun and Creole Cuisine” 1989 Chef John Folse and Company Publishing.
Chef John Folse WEB site:. jfolse.com
Chef John Folse Culinary Institute Nicholls State Universary. nicholls.edu/culinary/
“Tunica Indian Fact Sheet.” Authors are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013. bigorrin.org/tunica_kids.htm
“Tunica Indians.” Richard Brown, eHow Contributor ehow.com/about_4567828_the-tunica-indians.html ehow.com/about_4567828_the-tunica-indians.html
“Tunica People” wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunica_people