I can feel football season in the air. It’s coming. I keep hearing whispers of fantasy football drafts, predictions for the season, and plans for tailgates, and I am beyond excited. Not because of some burning, deep-in-my-soul love for the game (although I have to admit, I get a little bit intense when the season heats up), but because football season and buffalo chicken season are one in the same, and I can’t wait to douse everything that I touch in an ocean of Frank’s Buffalo Sauce.
I originally planned to hold off on the buffalo chicken creations until at least the first big game, but sometimes you just have to follow your heart down the path of spicy righteousness. Mine lead me directly to Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers, loaded up with monterrey jack and blue cheeses, shredded chicken, rice, crispy bacon, and of course, buffalo sauce.
This dish has a lot of parts, but it comes together easily and deliciously. First, I cook the bacon until crisp, and then I boil the chicken breasts so that they can easily be shredded. Some people prefer to boil their chicken breasts whole, but here I decided to chop the chicken into large chunks first. Using chunked chicken allows it to cook quicker and prevents the chicken from overcooking on the exterior while the large interior area cooks. It also ensures that the shredded chicken pieces will be smaller and thicker instead of long and stringy, which makes it much better for stuffing!
While the chicken cooks, I prepare the rice and get the peppers in the oven to soften them up. It’s important to pre-bake the peppers or else they wind up too tough, and cooking them longer with the filling would overcook the chicken. Cooking the peppers in three intervals– pre-cooking, cooking when stuffed, and then once more after topping with cheese– gives you a tender pepper, warm filing, and perfectly melted (and slightly golden-brown) cheese. Yum.
I use monterrey jack and blue cheese, but if you’re not a big fan of the blue, feel free to replace it with additional monterrey jack or cheese of your choice. You can also mix in dry ranch mix if you’re a ranch-fanatic. Feel free to make them your own!
- 6 strips bacon
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into large chunks
- 3/4 cup uncooked white rice
- 4 red bell peppers
- 1 cup buffalo hot sauce, or to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped, divided
- 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles, optional
- 2/3 cup shredded monterrey jack cheese
- 2 sprigs of green onion
- Ranch dressing, to serve
- In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside. Drain the grease from the skillet.
- In the same skillet, cook the chicken breast. Place the chicken in the skillet and add enough water to cover the chicken. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until no pink remains and chicken is easily shredded with a fork, about 10 minutes.
- As the chicken cooks, cook the rice according to package directions.
- While the rice cooks, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large oven-safe dish with nonstick spray.
- Cut the bell peppers into halves and remove the seeds and large sections of membrane. Arrange the pepper halves in the dish, cut side up. Bake until slightly softened, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and shred with two forks. Crumble the bacon and add half of it into the bowl with the chicken, reserving the other half to top. Add in the cooked rice, hot sauce to taste, and butter. Add in half of the chopped cilantro and half of the blue cheese crumbles.
- Divide the mixture between all of the peppers, pressing gently to fit. Bake again for 10 minutes.
- Top with reserved cheeses and bacon. Place back in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 3-5 minutes.
- Garnish with green onion and cilantro. Serve warm with ranch dressing.