08 December 2007

chiles rellenos

What do I do when Planet Organics drops four unexpected poblano (or pasilla) chiles on my doorstep because I wasn't paying careful enough attention to my produce order?

Chiles rellenos! I'd never had this at a restaurant because of the breading. But Mike loves these cheesy chiles, especially from one particular place that was our favorite Mexican restaurant in San Diego. So I set about figuring out a way to make them at home with my beautiful accidental poblanos. Between online searches and rifling through cookbooks I couldn't find anything that jived with Mike's memory of the specific chiles rellenos. But I figured out the basic idea and I used Joy of Cooking as my main guideline.

First I roasted the peppers. To roast in the oven, place them on a baking sheet and broil for a few minutes, turning two or three times for evenness. Make sure you use tongs for turning them; a fork might pierce the skin. They're done when the skin starts to blister and turn black. Once they're cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.

Then I came to my first impasse. How do I get the cheese in and the veins and seeds out? I wanted to bread them, which makes it difficult to make a long, lengthwise slice. None of the recipes I found made the chiles exactly the way I wanted them, so I had to wing this part. I made two slices near the stem, forming a T. I was able to get my paring knife into the T and with a little careful wriggling I cut out the bulk of the seeds near the base of the stem and most of the veins. After that, shoving in the cheese was a cinch.

I grated some Monterey Jack cheese to stuff the peppers. I also threw in some kidney beans. I couldn't come up with a good side dish, making the chiles rellenos the only course, so I wanted them to be slightly healthier than breaded cheese. Beans make a good filling because they are nonfat yet high in fiber and protein.

Phew. Next step, breading. Usually I recruit Mike for this job but being my first stab at chiles rellenos I wanted to have my hands on every step. It was surprisingly easy to handle the stuffed peppers. They are sturdy yet pliable. Dipping them in potato starch then in egg made a nice sticky paste that sealed the slices together quite nicely.

For bread crumbs I used Southern Homestyle Tortilla Crumbs. I had never even heard of tortilla crumbs, yet lo and behold, I found a new grocery store recently and they sold tortilla crumbs. Theoretically, you'd think they'd be the perfect breading for chiles rellenos.

I baked my breaded chiles in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Since they're already roasted, they're soft enough to eat. You just need to get the cheese all warm and melty.

And boy were these warm and melty! The taste wasn't perfect and Mike and I have a few ideas for improvement. But lots of melted cheese heals all ills. (Except lactose intolerance I guess.) We deemed these chiles pretty good for a first effort. The breading wasn't quite as thick and crispy as we both like. Mike's the breading genius so I'll let him do it next time. And more flavor was needed in the stuffing. I'm thinking either garlic or green onions next time. Poblano chiles are mild, so if you want a little kick you need to add it. Maybe a bit of chopped serrano?


Justin said...

that sounds really good!! Did you get any photos of the process?

Stephanie said...

Unfortunately, no photos. I was concentrating so much I completely forgot to grab the camera. I'll try to next time!



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