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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Monday, July 8, 2013

Chiles Rellenos

Before I knew Matt, I'd never heard of chiles rellenos, stuffed, fried poblano chiles.  But over the years I've seen him order them any time he sees them on a menu.  It's not easy to find a wide variety of chiles where we live, so when I saw poblano peppers at the grocery store, I snapped them up and decided to surprise Matt with his favourite dish.  

I'm not going to say this was easy.  It's pretty ambitious, but you can prepare it in stages and fry the peppers in the batter at the last minute.  Frying indoors is one of my least favourite ways to cook; it's messy and hot and requires full attention.  But for some things - including this - it's worth it.  

I used this recipe from Chow which calls for an egg batter and claims to be the most authentic method.  Some recipes call for breadcrumbs in the coating.  This was an unusual batter but it tasted great.  

First, make a simple, spicy tomato sauce.  Here's what you need:

1 pound Roma tomatoes
1 small white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 serrano (or jalapeño) chile
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt to taste

Preheat the broiler to high heat with a rack in the upper third of the oven.  Halve the tomatoes and place them skin side up on a baking sheet. Slice the onion, crush the garlic and stem the chile and toss them around the tomatoes.  

Broil for about 7 minutes until tomato skins are blistered and blackened.

Toss the vegetables in a blender or food processor. 

Purée until smooth, then add the lime juice and salt to taste.  You can keep this warm if you're making the chiles right away, or set it aside/refrigerate until you're ready to use it, then warm it on the stove.  

For the stuffed chiles, here's what you need:

4 poblano chile peppers
3 cups shredded monterey jack cheese (about 250g)
4 large eggs, separated
salt & pepper
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

First, separate the eggs and leave them at room temperature while you prepare the peppers.  

Slice a T-shape in one side of each chile, slice across the top and down the centre, but don't cut all the way through.

Remove the seeds.

Repeat for all the peppers.

Grill the peppers over a high flame until the skin is blackened and blistered.  You can do this over the burner of a gas stove if you have one, or over the bbq grill.

Place the hot peppers in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let them sit about 15 minutes until cool enough to handle, then peel away the pepper skin. 

Open up the skinned pepper and season with salt and pepper.  Place a quarter of the shredded cheese inside.

Then close up the pepper.

Repeat with the remaining peppers and cheese.

Now, the batter.  (I told you there were a lot of steps!)

Whip the egg yolks until frothy.  I used an electric mixer.  

Clean the beaters or whisk well and then beat the egg whites with a teaspoon of salt until stiff peaks form.  

Add the yolks to the whites and fold them in carefully with a spatula without letting the egg whites deflate.  

By the time I'd fried a few peppers one at a time, my batter had begun to separate.  I just mixed it back together and it worked ok.  

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place a rack over a baking sheet.  

Heat the oil in a large pan until shimmering and hot.  Then add about 1/2 a cup of the batter to the hot oil and spread it out so a pepper can be placed on top.

Place the pepper seam-side-down on top of the batter and cook, undisturbed for about 2 minutes.

This part's a little tricky... fold the batter over the pepper and add a little more to the top to totally cover the pepper.  

Now, very carefully use two spatulas to flip the pepper over and brown the other side another 2 minutes.

Remove to the rack and place in the oven to keep warm while cooking the remaining peppers.  

To serve, spread some of the warm tomato sauce on a plate and top with a pepper.  I sprinkled the top with queso fresco.  

I served these with warm corn tortillas and some avocado and radish slices.  

Here's a shot of the melty insides and, believe me, these tasted much better than this shot looks.

The peppers are a tiny bit spicy.  The sauce is fresh and smoky.  Definitely worth the effort for these delicious treats!  Enjoy!  

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