Ever since talking with my BFF Jeanne (in Texas), I've been hungry for Mexican food. The good stuff like posole, taqueria tacos, and chile rellenos.
The last is easy enough to make in a restaurant, but when made at home, they really shine. The batter, a fluffy confection, has to be just right and the rellenos have to hit the table as soon as the insides are completely hot.
This recipe is cobbled together from rellenos I've eaten, rellenos I've made in restaurants, and a few glances at the Interwebs.
A couple of elements make this a near-perfect recipe; 1) ground pork, 2) a blend of cheeses, 3) hot peppers in the cheese mix and 4) amazing, flavorful peppers.
4 - 6 Poblano peppers
1/2 pound ground pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 wheel (6-8 oz) Queso Fresco (a crumbly Mexican fresh cheese, also called Queso Blanco)
3/4 cup cheddar (white, aged)*
1 serrano pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
3 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp AP flour
Garnish with any light marinara. I used some of my own tomato juice, added a chopped serrano pepper and some garlic. I cooked it down while I made the rellenos, and finished it with butter. It's not unheard of to heat up salsa and use it as a finishing sauce.
Roast the peppers until black and blistered on the outside. You want them black and burned, not white and ashy.
Cool in a sealed container.
Brown pork. Add chopped onion. Cook until nicely caramelized. Set aside to cool.
Grate cheddar, and crumble queso fresco. Add chopped serrano. Add cooled pork and onion. The filling must be room temp or colder. The peppers should also be room temp or colder or the batter will slide off.
Clean the peppers in a colander under cold running water. A stem-to-tip seamshould open up on it's own. If not, make a stem-to-tip incision. Gently rinse out the seeds. I leave the stem -- it adds to the stability of the pepper once stuffed but it's not edible. Use your best judgement.
Stuff the peppers with the filling. Once full, I usually give the pepper a squeeze to hold the filling inside. Some folks usetoothpicks to secure the seam. Handle the peppers gently and you won't need toothpicks.
The batter: Beat egg whites until fluffy. Add egg yolks and flour, beat again. I used the hand mixer and had a moment of panic when the yolks and flour clumped up. Just keep mixing it.
Heat a saute pan. Add enough oil (I used olive oil but a grapeseed/OO blend would be fine) to coat the bottom of the pan.
Gently roll the rellenos in the fluffy batter. Gently place in the hot pan. Turn as needed until evenly browned. The batter will come off if you over fuss the bundles, so turn them only as often as you must.
Put on a platter and finish in a low (200 degree) oven for ten minutes. Serve when the insides are hot.**
The peppers this year are amazing. Thank you Karen Anderson at Spring Hill Organics (Albany OR) for the rockin' fantastic peppers.
I only had four poblano's so I roasted and cleaned three super-sized pemiento padrone peppers. I wasn't sure how they'll 'relleno' but I had a lot of stuffing so -- I gave it a go. OMG they were wonderful. Hotter than I expected, but quite delish.
Regarding Southwestern cuisine...
I cooked for a guy named Stephan Pyles, at his namesake restaurant in Dallas. Stephan is one of the Godfathers of Southwestern Cuisine. He's also a brilliant cook. So, many of the techniques I use in that style of cooking -- tamales, pupusas (I know, not southwestern but still fun), rellenos etc I picked up from him.
So, you understand my pedigree when it comes to Southwestern cuisine.
Fast forward to Portland and the first time I roasted peppers in the Northwest. I roasted em (on the grill -- although I usually use the gas stove), steamed them in a bowl, and put a colander over the sink to clean them.
Heavens! Did I get a tongue lashing. "Never rinse roasted peppers, you'll wash away the flavor," I was told. Bullshit. You won't wash away anything -- and you'll save yourself a lot of time.
So, roast peppers on a grill or on the flames of a gas stove, clean them in a colander under running water, and enjoy the sweet/hot/smokey flavor of peppers. Get 'em now, while they're plump, delicious and meaty.
Buenos Noches Amigos,
* You could use Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Cheddar... really anything that isn't stringy.
** A little cooks trick. Insert the tip of a thin-bladed paring knife into the center. Count to three. Remove it and gently touch it to your lip. If it's hot, the insides are hot. This is a great test for anything you're heating up in the oven.