Three Stuffed Chilis in Sauce
(Click to Enlarge)

Fish Stuffed Chilis
Tunisia
  -   Felfel Samak
Serves:
Effort:
Sched:
DoAhead:  
9 app  
***
1-3/4 hrs  
Yes

This delicious dish is usually served as an appetizer, but two or three (depending on size and appetite) are excellent for a satisfying light lunch. This is a specialty of the port city of Bizerte, at the for northern tip of Tunisia. In most of Tunisia, a Lamb or Beef stuffing is used in chilis. These can be made well ahead, see Note-5 and Note-6.




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Chilis, mild (1)  
-- Sauce
Tomato Sauce (2)
Onions
Olive Oil, ExtV
Salt
Pepper
-- Stuffing
Fish Fillet (3)
Potato
Onion
Parsley
Coriander seed
Cumin seed
Bread
Olive Oil
Harissa (4)
Paprika
Eggs
Salt
Pepper
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Olive Oil, Pure
Prep Chilis   -   (20 min)
  1. Blast the CHILIS black with your propane torch and brush the skins off under running water.
  2. With a small knife, make shallow cuts around the flanges that surround the stems of the Chilis. Holding the Chili firmly around the big end, push the stem into it a ways, then pull it out. Cut off the seed mass, but leave enough so the stem can act as a plug. Shake out the seeds. A small grapefruit spoon is good for removing membranes that won't come out by shaking (I also use long nosed pliers). Keep the stem plugs with their respective chilis.
Prep Sauce   -   (35 min, 5 min work   -   let cook while making stuffing)
  1. Chop ONION fine.
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat 1 T Olive Oil and stir in Onion and Salt. Fry over low flame, stirring often, until light golden. Stir in Tomato Sauce and Pepper. Cover tightly and simmer for about 20 minutes. When ready to use, adjust as needed with boiled water, it should be quite liquid.
Prep Stuffing & Stuff   -   (1 hr)
  1. Poach FISH FILLETS in simmering salted water 5 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Drain, cool and chop fine.
  2. Cook POTATO in boiling water until cooked through. Cool and chop fine.
  3. Chop ONIONS very fine.
  4. Chop PARSLEY fine.
  5. Grind Coriander and Cumin in your spice grinder.
  6. Crumble Bread. Mix and mash together all Stuffing Items until even.
  7. Use a Pastry Piping Bag with a 1/2 inch round nozzle to stuff the peppers. Replace the stem plugs. I use 2/3 of a toothpick poked lengthwise into the inside of the plug to help secure it to the stuffing.
Finish   -   (15 to 30 minutes depending)
  1. In a spacious skillet, heat about 1/4 inch of Olive Oil to about 365°F / 185°C. Fry stuffed Chilis three or four at a time for about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on size, turning several times. I like a core temperature of about 165°F / 75°C so the egg binding is set well.
  2. Serve warm, over a scoop of Tomato Sauce. See Note-5 for buffet service.
NOTES:
  1. Chilis:   Small green Anaheims work well for this recipe, about 5-1/2 inches long by 1-1/2 inches diameter at the big end. Select straight ones for easy frying. 9 chilis will be 20 ounces or a bit more in this size. For details see our Chilis Page.
  2. Tomato Sauce:   Use a very simple tomato sauce without strong seasonings. I use Faraon brand "Spanish style" which comes in convenient 8 ounce cans, but other simple sauces will work.
  3. Fish Fillet:   The pattern recipe calls for Whiting, but other light ocean fish will work fine. The photo example was made with Tilapia, because I always have frozen Tilapia fillets on hand. It's not an ocean fish, but it is a North African fish, and it worked fine.
  4. Harissa:   This is the hot sauce of Tunisia. Most canned Harissa is pretty awful - best to make it yourself - see our recipe Harissa. 2 T by our recipe will give a just noticeable hotness to the stuffing.
  5. Service:   For buffet service, you'll probably be making at least a dozen, and they can be made even days in advance, right through the frying step. Make at least half again the amount of sauce per chili called for above. Place the Sauce in an electric skillet (or similar contraption). Cut the chilis into 3 unequal parts (short at thick end, long at pointy end) and place them over the sauce. Cut them straight across, rather than diagonally as in the photo above, so they hold together better. Warm them to a simmer and turn the skillet down to "Warm". Keep covered through warming. Leftovers can be reheated this same way, over some sauce and covered on the stovetop, or in the oven.
  6. Comments:   The pattern recipe makes no mention of skinning the chilis. Skin-on, they blister fiercely, and the tough browned skin makes them difficult to eat. The pattern recipe also doesn't fry them long enough to set the eggs that bind the stuffing. The photo looks really nice with pretty green chilis, but careful examination suggests the photographers fried the chilis lightly, and then carefully peeled away the blistered skin - nice looking, but a bit tedious. If you want pretty green chilis by my recipe, just steam them instead of frying them - slightly different flavor.
  7. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove ",in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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