March 24, 2012

jambalaya-stuffed bell pepper

After Latin Quarter I moved to the Cafeteria hot line, otherwise the most grueling station consisting entirely of slopping and plopping food and getting slopped and plopped on by an endless stream of customers. It was a relief when that week was finally up and I rotated to my last station on the Cafeteria/Latin Quarter side: A La Minute Vegetarian.

Although a relief, ALM Veg was one of the culinarily-demanding positions that required coming up with a special every day. With no class time to prep, this already meant squeezing in time before/between/after classes, but lucky for me, it also happened to be Iron Chef competition week. And having lost last year, I was not going to go down without a fight. So I literally spent all of my free time in the kitchen (both at school and at home). And I basically powerwalked everywhere with anxiety knotting my stomach.

Thankfully I had researched some recipe ideas before the week came upon me, which meant that I already knew what I was making every single day of the week. Which took some stress off and enabled me to do some prep in advance.

So I decided to start off the week with a stuffed bell pepper. Rustic, hearty, not overcomplicated. A search on yielded this recipe. While looking at the italian-style rice stuffing I thought, why not do vegetarian jambalaya? I love jambalaya (and cajun food in general), so why not make the rice stuffing spicier and more interesting? So I went ahead with this recipe for the stuffing.

vegetarian jambalaya

Everything was a snap to chop up, then a quick stir-fry before I added rice and water and baked the dish like a casserole in the oven (foil on, 350F, about an hour). As for the bell peppers, I just chopped them in half and hand-scooped the seediness out, then roasted them (cut side down) in the oven so they would soften up and be nicer to eat.

jambalaya-stuffed pepper

The rice stuffing went in the bell pepper, and I garnished the tops with crumbled feta cheese and a parsley leaf. Unfortunately Mr. P came by and told me that the portion was too small. I didn't have anything else prepared and didn't want to add greens because there was already so much green on the plate. That's when I looked to the cafeteria hot line and saw that one of the vegetable sides for the day was corn. Nice yellow color, and it was sauteed with bits of bell pepper. The perfect complement.

jambalaya-stuffed pepper special

This was how my special was displayed. Unlike the hot line, I got a customer maybe one every couple minutes (as opposed to one every couple seconds). I was afraid the 18 servings I prepared wouldn't sell out, so I prepared little sample cups for people to try.

jambalaya-stuffed pepper samples

I have to say, it was nerve-wracking to put these out there and have people take one, eat it and walk away. "Did it not taste good???" was the fear. But on the flip side I was overjoyed to have a few people eat the sample and then order the dish after, because it was instant validation. And in the end I sold out!

I couldn't sell the display, since it's food sitting out, so I got to eat it. Pretty tasty, though I'd cook the rice a little longer next time (a little al dente). But maybe people liked it that way. You never know what other people prefer!

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