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Local restaurant owner shares 'secret ingredient'

Zoe Greszler • Jul 27, 2016 at 10:06 AM

Barb Allison, 47, North Fairfield is known by most as the owner of Norwalk’s Pizza Brothers. To her employees, though, she is known as the best cook in the building.

Allison said it wasn’t always that way though.

“When my kids were growing up I cooked out of boxes and packages and stuff,” she said.

“Then my son and daughter and son and husband and I all work here (at Pizza Brothers) now so there’s no one really to cook at home so I started bringing things here and now I end up cooking for everyone here. Some of them, their wives are still cooking out a box (like I did). Then there’s some things that are just easy and simple to make and goes around good and something everyone likes, like my stuffed peppers. Everyone’s always asking me to make them and it’s just so easy.”

Allison chose to share that recipe with the Reflector, saying “they’re good — a comfort food.”

“It’s simple and it’s good,” she said of the dish.

“Traditional (stuffed) peppers have rice and I used to do it like that but then awhile back I saw a recipae that called for corn so I started making it with corn and rice and then I dropped the rice and just started making it with the corn. ... The last time I made the peppers I gave some to a girl to take home and her mom wound up eating them and she texted me and said ‘these are the best peppers I’ve ever had.’ I was like ‘it’s the corn.’

“I love corn. I throw it in everything. It’s like my secret ingredient.”

Allison said she enjoys the vegetable so much she adds it to dishes that traditionally may not include it and has found a variety of ways to make it.

“I put it in everything. It starts off as a side dish,” she said. “Frozen corn is the best. I love fried corn like when you get a little bit of brown on it and I found that if I put frozen corn in the oven with some butter and salt and pepper it’s so easy and simple and it’s so good and then I don’t have to stand over stove all day and wait for it.”

She enjoys experimenting with other things as well.

“I like to take other ideas like from other restaurants and try to make them,” Allison said. “Like Taco Bell’s crunchwrap — I do my own crunchwrap and Burger King’s ham and cheese croissan’wich and Arby’s chicken salad with the grapes and apples and all of that in it. I like to try to make them myself.

Most often I make the crunchwraps and the green peppers too lately,” she added. “Everyone here is like ‘you need to make stuffed peppers.’ And I make barbeque chicken dip frequently and I put corn in it and it’s really good.”

It’s no surprise that, other than onions and milk, Allison said she always has corn on hand.

“I always have corn. It’s like panic mode if I don’t,” she said.

Allison said she gets a lot of enjoyment out of cooking.

“As far as liking to cook, it’s not as much as I like to cook as I like to cook and then they like it — it’s an enjoyment,” she said. “It’s not (the actual cooking) it’s just that I like the end product of it. The so many years I went where I was cooking out of the box, you don’t get that (reaction from people). It all comes out the same. So now I make homemade mac and cheese instead of out of a box.

“Over the years you keep cooking and you get bettter. I’ve made plenty of mistakes — plenty. And my family had to eat it, whether they liked it or not,” she added with a laugh.

While nothing ever came out inedible, Allison said biscuits have always given her problems.

“I always burn them,” she said.

Her tip to other cooks is to experiment.

“Definitely experiment with stuff,” she said.

“Don’t try something, it be a failure, and then never try it again. Don’t be afraid to tweak it. If you like an ingredient and you want more of it, do it. I was always afraid to cook. If it was a new recipe I would stress out over it. My problem would have to be biscuits or rolls. I’ll be watching them and watching them and watching them and then I’ll get sidetracked with something; then I burn them. It’s the joke in my family. So now I just buy cold rolls and they have to eat those instead.”

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FEATURED RECIPE

Stuffed Peppers with Corn

Ingredients:

Three large green peppers, seeded and cut in half

1 pound ground beef

1 medium onion diced

1 cup frozen corn

1 jar spaghetti sauce, divided

12 slices white american cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil peppers for five minutes. Lay peppers, cut side down to drain water out from inside. Flip peppers and sprinkle salt on the inside. Put a slice of cheese in it.

Brown the hamburger with the onions and the corn. Add one to two cups of the pasta sauce to the mixture and allow flavors to mix and the food to become warm. Divide among peppers.

Lay another piece of cheese over top. Pour remaining sauce over top. Place in oven for about 30 min.

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