Lots of my co-workers are Mexican American and many a time have I drooled over their homemade lunches as we ate in the staff lounge. Homemade flautas, carnitas and tamales always look amazing, but it is the chile rellenos that I most coveted. While they involve several preparation steps, I decided it was high time I made them. Such a smart idea!
Chile rellenos are stuffed chiles, usually with a meat (pork, beef) or cheese filling, smothered in a tomato and pepper sauce. While all of the ingredients are humble, the taste is divine!
Following my usual M.O. I scouted out recipes in the blogsphere and ended up cobbling a few together to suit my preferences; ranchero sauce from Closet Cooking and a cheese filling from what I had in the pantry. After asking a co-worker about the batter I decided to stay with the traditional egg white, flour and egg yolk batter that was both authentic and most widely used. It did not disappoint!
Dividing the preparation over two nights made this so much easier. One night I roasted and peeled the poblano peppers and made the ranchero sauce and the following night they were stuffed, fried, baked and eaten.
These would make a wonderful dinner party centerpiece since everything up to the stuffing of the peppers can be done in advance. Just be sure to bring the stuffed peppers to room temperature before frying since cold ones will take so much longer to cook and will soak up a ton more oil when fried. Happily, frying the peppers was less difficult (and messy!) than I had anticipated.
My poblanos were really large and did not need toothpicks to secure them, as so many recipes advised. One pepper per person was plenty, although we could have easily eaten more if only our bellies were larger!
Cheese Chile Rellenos
1 pint (15 oz) canned tomatoes (crushed, diced, whole)
1 whole roasted sweet red pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
4 serrano peppers, stems removed and chopped (deseed for less heat)
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 poblano peppers
4 oz goat cheese (chevre) or queso fresca (found in latino grocery stores) crumbled
1 cup sharp cheddar (or monterey jack) shredded fine
2 tablespoons cilantro plus some extra for garnish
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon flour
flour for dipping peppers in (1 cup)
oil for frying (sunflower, safflower, peanut)
Roast poblanos by placing them on top of a burner with a gas flame; you should be able to roast 2 at a time on one burner.* Turn it to blacken evenly. Place in a plastic bag (large ziplock) and seal or close and allow to steam for at least 10 minutes or until cool enough to touch. Remove skin, rubbing it off with your fingers or a paper towel. Slit open one side to create a pouch and remove seed pod and set aside.
Make ranchero sauce by combining all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Place in sauce pan and bring to simmer and cook for 15 minutes, just enough to meld flavors. In a mixing bowl combine cheeses and cilantro and set aside. If you are using goat cheese, it is easier to work if it is at room temperature. Once the peppers are completely cooled, gently insert 1/4 of the cheese filling into each, distributing the cheese evenly and pulling the opening slit closed over the filling.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat egg whites until stiff and beat in flour and each egg yolk, one at a time, until fully blended. Dip stuffed peppers in flour, shaking off excess and then dip in egg flour batter and set aside. In a deep skillet or pot heat high temperature oil (sunflower, safflower, peanut) to 350 degrees (use a thermometer or drop in a bread crumb and when it sizzles and browns in 30 seconds the oil is ready). Slide the pepper into the hot oil gently and cook 4-5 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. If you need to do this in batches, allow the oil to heat up again in between batches since the temperature drops while frying. If you don’t, your peppers will soak up a lot more oil then you intend and will be soggy rather than crisp. 1 minute between batches usually allows the oil to return to the temperature. Place fried peppers in a baking dish and smother with ranchero sauce (either warm from the stovetop or at room temperature, not chilled.) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and hot. Garnish with minced cilantro and serve.
*I have to confess I have always been skeptical of this method of roasting peppers; I always assumed the pepper would catch fire and always roasted red peppers in the oven for 40 minutes. So wrong! The pepper simple blackens and chars, making it so easy to peel the skin after it has steamed in a plastic bag for 10 minutes.
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