Chile rellenos con queso

Stuffed poblano?  No problemo

Originally appeared in the March 24, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

Chile rellenos are poblano peppers—large, mildly spicy chilies—stuffed with a variety of ingredients.

There’s some debate about whether cheese or shredded meat is the most faithful interpretation of the dish; but in my encounters, queso’s the most ubiquitous.  In many Mexican kitchens, chile rellenos con queso (cheese-stuffed peppers) are frequently filled with Chihuahua or Oaxaca cheeses (although Monterey Jack’s a suitable U.S. substitute).  But as far as fillings go, there aren’t really any rules.  Example: I cherish a memory of “Maggie R”—a culinary acquaintance during my more formative days in Chicago—who introduced me to a version of chile rellenos stuffed with creamy mashed potatoes, and served with a roasted red pepper sauce (at the time, a delicious yet unthinkable medley for this novice young cook).  Check out more after the jump:One crucial step is removing the skin.  This can be achieved by either placing the peppers over an open gas flame, or blistering them under a broiler.  Scorching the pepper not only develops flavor, but allows the skin to be easily peeled away.

Finally, you need sauce.  But since I’m running out of room, check out my website for a tomato sauce recipe which is the perfect finishing touch to this time-tested classic.

Chile rellenos con queso

Serves 2

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 8 – 10 ounces queso fresco (or Monterey Jack), cut into small cubes
  • 3 eggs separated (3 yolks, 3 whites)
  • ½ tablespoon water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • As needed, all-purpose flour for dredging
  • As needed, canola oil for frying

1.  Using either an open gas flame or a high-heated broiler, scorch peppers until skin blisters and is blackened.  Afterwards, zip them in a plastic bag or place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, steaming for several minutes until skin begins to slough off; peel skin away, ensuring not to damage or tear the actual pepper in the process.  Cut a slit along one side of the pepper; shake out and discard loosened seeds.  Stuff peppers with cubes of cheese, and fold over one side of the slit.  Reserve peppers in fridge.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk the yolks together with the water, flour, and salt.  In an electric mixer, and using a whisk attachment, whip egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into yolk mixture 1/3 at a time until you achieve a frothy batter.

3.  In a high-sided pot or cast-iron skillet, heat oil to 375° F.  Pour flour into a dish.  Making sure not to spill stuffing, gingerly place peppers in flour, coating entirely and shaking off excess.  Dip into egg batter and carefully lay into heated oil.  Fry on one side until batter is golden brown before flipping to other side.  Serve with spicy tomato sauce (follows).

Tomato sauce for chile rellenos

Yields approximately 1 pint

  • As needed, vegetable oil
  • 1 ounce onion, small chop
  • 2 cloves garlic, small chop
  • 14.5 ounces, canned peeled-and-crushed tomatoes
  • 8 – 10 fluid ounces chicken stock
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Heat oil in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat; add onion, sweating until softened and translucent.  Add garlic and cook briefly (make sure not to burn).  Pour in tomatoes and bring mixture to a simmer.  Remove from heat.

2.  Pour tomato mixture into a blender and puree until smooth.  Pour in stock and continue to mix till a light sauce is formed.

3.  Return sauce to pan, add cinnamon stick, cayenne, and cumin and bring to a low simmer until thickened (about 7 – 10 minutes).  Season to taste with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

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