Grandmother Shirley Webb’s Stuffed Banana Peppers

Holley Pearce, Vivian's "coordinator of chaos" grew up in Armory Mississippi (just outside Tupelo) and has fond memories of summers with her grandmother, Shirley Webb. These Stuffed banana peppers with hamburger and spices melded together with Monterey Jack cheese are just like Grandmother Shirley used to make and might become your family's new fun-food fav!

About 24 sweet or hot banana peppers, stem, seeds and membrane removed
2 pounds 80 percent lean ground beef
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped onion
3 ¼ teaspoons cumin
3 ¼ teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons salt
8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup milk 
Vegetable or peanut oil

Fill bowl with ice, cover with water and set aside. 

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with water and bring to a boil. When boiling, add peppers and blanch for about 2 minutes. Remove peppers and place in the ice water bath for 3 to 4 minutes and then drain in a colander. 

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and brown. When beef is fully cooked, drain all but a few tablespoons fat from the pan. Add celery, onion, cumin, oregano and salt and stir to fully combine. Continue cooking until vegetables are soft. Remove from heat, add cheese and mix together. 

Use a spoon to fill peppers with ground beef mixture. Use spoon handle or a butter knife to pack ground beef down into peppers and add more filling as needed. Once all peppers are filled, make the batter by combining egg, flour and milk in a medium bowl until it creates a thin, pancake batter. 

Pour enough oil in a large cast-iron skillet to have a depth of about 2 inches. Over medium heat, bring oil up to between 350 to 375 degrees. Dip filled peppers in batter to fully coat. Slowly place peppers in hot oil. Fry peppers in batches for about 2 minutes, turning until golden brown on all sides. 
Remove to paper towel-lined plates. 

Yield: 24 peppers