Cooking Like A Mexican

Chiles Rellenos
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

This is as Mexican mom cooking as any dish can go. Comfort meal at its best. And, it’s one of those dishes which recipe goes back as far as grandma’s time, it’s highly secret and valued. Chiles Rellenos are simple, but the steps take time and lots of paying attention and patience. Roasted poblano chiles stuffed with loads of cheese, battered with a fluffy egg coating, and fried until crispy are the Mexican stairway to heaven. Chiles Rellenos fillings can range from ground or stewed meats to seafood, vegetables and refried beans, but this recipe sticks to classic cheese. The roasted tomato salsa is the perfect topping, and white rice and sour cream on top are Chile Rellenos' best friends. Even though the main ingredient here is chiles, it is not a spicy dish, depending on which chile you use.  

Su origen se remonta a la época colonial; el chile relleno es fruto de la conquista española, el vínculo entre el viejo continente y el nuevo mundo, la mezcla de ingredientes indígenas y europeos.

Chiles Rellenos are said to have been born in the state of Puebla, near Mexico City, during the colonial times. They have a mix of prehispanic and Hispanic ingredients, chiles rellenos are a perfect mix of indigenous and European.

Before I continue, here’s my mother in law’s tips: Separate the eggs while they’re still cold, which will make them easier to handle; then let them come to room temperature and make sure there are no traces of yolk in the whites or the whites will not whip properly.

Removing the seeds and veins from the peppers is easier before roasting and keeps the peppers from tearing while stuffing in the cheese. Roasting over a gas flame keeps the peppers’ shape and texture intact during frying.

INGREDIENTS

For the salsa:

1 lb. of tomatoes, cored and halved

1/2 medium white onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 medium serrano chile, stemmed (Optional for heat)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the chiles rellenos:

4 medium poblano chiles (about 1 pound) Now, you can also try ancho peppers which are dry, you just have to soak them in hot water before.

Freshly ground black pepper

3 cups Oaxaca shredded cheese (about 8 ounces) you can get creative here, use a mix of cheeses, and maybe even try with goat cheese!

4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature (as explained above)

Salt to taste

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

INSTRUCTIONS

For the salsa:

•       Place the tomato halves skin-side up on a Comal over high heat. Scatter the onion, garlic, and serrano around the tomatoes. Cook until the tomato skins start to blacken and blister, about 7 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a blender, add salt, and blend into a smooth runny salsa. Taste and season with additional salt as needed.

•       Transfer to a small saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

For the chiles rellenos:

•       Lay 1 chile on a work surface so that it sits flat naturally without rolling. Using a paring knife, make two cuts forming a “T” by first slicing down the middle of the chile lengthwise from stem to tip, then making a second cut perpendicular to the first about a 1/2 inch from the stem, slicing only halfway through the chile (be careful not to cut off the stem end completely). Carefully open the flaps to expose the interior of the chile and, using the paring knife, carefully cut out and remove the core. Scrape the inside with a small spoon to remove the seeds, ribs, and any remaining core. Repeat with the remaining peppers.

•       Turn on the gas on your stove to medium-high heat. Place 1 chile directly on each burner and roast, turning occasionally with tongs, until blackened and blistered on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes.

•       Place chiles in a plastic bag so they “sweat”, let the chiles steam until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. With your hands, scrape away and discard the chile skins, being careful not to tear the chiles; set the chiles aside. If you think the chiles smell too spicy, you can soak them in milk for a little bit.

•       Stuff each chile, being careful not to tear them, with a quarter of the cheese (about a heaping 2/3 cup) and close the flaps over the cheese; set the chiles aside.

•       Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until lightened in color and frothy, about 2 minutes; set aside.

•       Place the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, add the egg yolks, and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined (do not deflate the egg whites); set aside.

•       Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until hot, about 4 minutes... Working with 1 chile at a time. Dip the stuffed chiles carefully in your egg batter, making sure they are covered and drop in the hot oil, again, very carefully. Cook without disturbing until the bottom of the chile relleno is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a flat spatula and a fork, carefully flip the chile relleno over and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. (If the sides of the chile are not brown, use a spatula or tongs to turn it onto each side to brown.)

•       Serve on a plate, cover with the warm salsa and top with some sour cream! I recommend serving these with white rice and let the salsa soak the rice. Warm some tortillas, too!

•             Pro tip: you will have some bits and pieces of egg and chile and some grains of rice swimming in salsa. When you’re done eating, grab a quarter of tortilla and scrape the plate. Damn, my mouth is watering!