Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fusion Stuffing

So why am I calling this post "Fusion Stuffing"?  Basically it's the best way to describe the combination of ingredients for today's recipe....Stuffed Tomatoes.  I'm using cubed stuffing and chicken which is typically American,  veggies, cheese and herbs which are typically Italian, but some of those same veggies plus chili powder gives it a taste of Mexican cuisine; hence the fusion part. 

Now let me warn you now about the heat in the Mexican spice factor; I used mild, since this is the first time I'm doing this dish.  Remember, you can always add, but cannot take away; that's always the best rule when working with spicy ingredients.  If you like more heat, but this is your first time making this recipe, take a little advice; start with mild and add dashes of hot sauce as you eat to see what it will taste like to you.  Not good enough?  Then use three types of chili powder (mild, medium and hot); make three stuffed tomatoes and use one type of chili powder with each.  Stick a toothpick (one for mild, two for medium, three for hot) in the appropriate tomatoes; after they're baked do your taste testing.  Don't forget you can get others in on this too for a real judging.

I thought this dish would be difficult and sure that I would mess it up terribly; but it wasn't that bad.  The trick is to use firm tomatoes that you can easily grip in your hand that won't squash, or crack when being hollowed out.  Have a game plan for all the tomato meat and liquid you'll gather as you won't be using all of it for this recipe.  I was planning on making Vegetarian Pasta Sauce anyway, so what better to put fresh tomatoes in?

Stuffed Tomatoes


4-6 medium to large firm tomatoes (dependent on size)
2 cups herbed stuffing cubes
1 Tbsp butter
¼ cup each small diced red onion, red bell pepper and mushrooms
1 tsp minced garlic
2 chicken breasts halves, boneless and skinless
½ tsp each salt, ground black pepper, mild New Mexico chili powder; mixed together
Additional salt to season tomato interior
Olive oil; 1 Tbsp per tomato
Grated Parmesan cheese; 1 tsp per tomato

With a small knife, cut out hard center where stem was attached and discard. Cut ¼ inch off the top; use a spoon to hollow out tomato to ¼ inch inside. Rinse out tomatoes and invert onto a paper towel lined pan.  (I had two large and three medium which fit perfectly in my casserole dish.)  Strain tomatoes, but reserve ½ cup of liquid; dice tomatoes and set aside.

Place stuffing cubes in a medium sized bowl, pour reserved tomato liquid over and mix.

In a medium sized skillet, over medium-high heat, melt tablespoon of butter; sauté onion, bell pepper and mushroom until softened. Add in ½ cup of diced tomatoes and garlic; let cook another minute; add to stuffing cubes.

At same time vegetables are sautéing; season both sides of chicken with seasoning mixture; brown in skillet, with one tablespoon olive oil, over medium- high heat (3-4 minutes per side). I made several extra which I cut into 1/2 inch slices and froze for use later on; very convenient when doing a spur of the moment recipe.

Dice chicken and add to stuffing bowl; mix thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 375F; spray 2 quart round casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt inside each tomato, then stuff with mixture; place ¼ inch top back and place in casserole dish.

Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over each tomato; bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with one teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese; return to oven for 5 minutes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

So, how does it all taste together? It was a cultural party going on in the mouth and it tasted so good! The chicken was tender, juicy and savory; the stuffing herbalicious with a mild tomato flavor from the tomato liquid used to soak the cubes. The tomato itself, while fully cooked, could be cut with a fork and still hold together its texture; it tasted with the Parmesan cheese, like a very chunky and rich tomato sauce. I will most definitely be making this recipe again!

Mary Cokenour