Editor's note: Each Saturday afternoon we bring you a Sunday Supper recipe. Why on Saturday? So you have time to shop and prepare for tomorrow.
When I was a kid, I looked forward to birthday presents. Obviously. I also relished the chance to choose my birthday dinner. Stuffed peppers were on the short list. I'm not going to lie: I even dig the Stouffer's version to this day. As such, my mom kept it pretty traditional, using the familiar ground beef and rice filling and then blanketing the peppers in a tomato-based sauce. That got me thinking.
I updated the flavors of that comfort food favorite with a cheesy, creamy Mexican filling that's spiked with chili powder and cumin. Like the traditional version, ground beef and rice form the base. But here, a mixture of American and cheddar cheeses and sour cream—when combined with crushed tomatoes—forms a rich, lush filling, one that's complemented by a complex, enchilada-like red sauce that simmers atop the stove. Why American cheese? It's incomparably creamy, and that's what you're going for—this is Tex-Mex, after all. If you have something against it, though, go ahead and just use a full cup of shredded sharp cheddar instead. Meanwhile, the sauce gets its depth from ancho chili and unsweetened cocoa powders, and its aromatics from cumin and floral Mexican oregano.
Then the filling is mounded into the peppers, and the sauce is ladled on top. The whole happy concoction bakes, covered with foil, in the oven for about an hour. Be sure to baste the peppers every 15 minutes or so to keep the filling moist and meld the flavors. Then, just remove the foil during the final 15 minutes of cooking so the tops of the peppers get slightly browned.