And no, I’m not talking about the country of Chile, ‘though I think it would be a fascinating place to visit.
I’m talking ’bout Chiles Rellenos, peoples. 🙂
(My apologies for my prolonged absence, but within the past month, my 80-year old father-in-law passed away, and, in addition to dealing with that and the aftermath, we’ve been dealing with some work deadlines. In other words, life intervened in several major ways.)
As handy, dandy Wikipedia tells us:
The chile relleno (Spanish pronunciation: [‘tʃile re’ʝeno], literally “stuffed chile”), is a dish of Mexican cuisine that originated in the city of Puebla. It consists of a stuffed, roasted, fresh poblano pepper (a mild chili pepper named after the city of Puebla), sometimes substituted with non-traditional Hatch chile, Anaheim, pasilla or even jalapeño chili pepper. In its earliest incarnations, it was described as a “green chile pepper stuffed with minced meat and coated with eggs”. In current cuisine, it is typically stuffed with melted cheese, such as queso Chihuahua or queso Oaxaca or picadillo meat made of diced pork, raisins and nuts, seasoned with canella; covered in an egg batter or simply corn masa flour and fried. Although it is often served in a tomato sauce, the sauces can vary.
There are versions in Mexico using rehydrated dry chiles such as anchos or pasillas.
In the U.S. chiles rellenos are usually filled with asadero, asiago, or Monterey Jack cheese, but can also be found with cheddar, Monterrey or other cheeses. The chile is then dipped in an egg batter and either pan fried or deep fried. Variations include pecan encrusted and crab filled. Chiles rellenos are a popular cuisine in the state of New Mexico where the Hatch Chile is revered for its slender (rather than round) shape and medium to hot flavor. In the U.S., rellenos are typically served with red or green chile sauce or mole.
Well, for our meatless meal one day in late April, I decided to try making some Cheese-Stuffed Chiles Rellenos at home. And taking inspiration from the following two recipes, I decided to bake them instead of fry them:
And peoples, let me tell you, they are YUMMY!
Now, this is a bit of a “piddling around” dish — it takes a while to prepare them — but they aren’t difficult to make. And, provided you have the proper size pan, it’s a very easy recipe to scale up or down as per the number of servings.
I made ours meatless, so I stuffed them with cheeses, but one could also stuff them with seasoned ground meat or ground meat and cheese, if desired. I used three different cheeses — some reduced-fat, higher protein cream cheese made from Greek yogurt; a reduced-fat sharp Cheddar; and regular (full fat) Monterrey Jack, but you can use whatever combination of cheeses appeals to you and that you have on-hand.
A Note About the Peppers: I used good-sized poblano peppers, which are a relatively mild pepper, and each pepper made a serving. If you prefer, you can also use Anaheim peppers (or, as noted in the Wikipedia entry quoted earlier, other sorts of peppers), but when using longer, more slender peppers, you’ll likely need to allow two or three peppers (depending upon their size) per serving.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE: Whenever you’re working with hot peppers, even a milder pepper, such as a poblano or anaheim pepper, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you wear gloves while handling the peppers, as the capsaicin oils in the peppers could irritate your skin to the point of blistering it. I always wear disposable gloves so I can just toss them out when done. It is also VERY IMPORTANT not to touch your face, most especially your eyes, while handling peppers. Once you’re done handling the peppers, carefully remove the gloves (I always peel them off so that they’re coming off “inside out” to help avoid the risk of accidentally coming into contact with those concentrated pepper oils) and discard them, and then carefully disinfect the area where you were working with the peppers.
The “heat” in a poblano (or any spicy pepper) is mostly in the seeds and ribs of the pepper. By removing the seeds and ribs, you remove the lion’s share of the capsaicin, making the peppers safe to handle with bare hands once they’ve been filled, although you should, of course, still keep your hands away from your face, most especially your eyes, after coming in to contact with any kind of pepper.
So the next time you’re craving something a bit special, a bit spicy, and a whole lotta yummy, try making Chiles Rellenos at home. I rounded out our meal with Saffron Rice (from a package) and Refried Beans (from a tin), and, as it was a pleasant evening, we ate al fresco on our front deck.
This lighter version of this yummy food will have you feeling so festive, you’ll want to put on some mariachi music 🙂 (Go on, take not quite two and half minutes from your day and watch and listen — you know you want to!)
Cheese-Filled Chiles Rellenos (Serves 4)
- 4 large Poblano chiles (see notes about chiles above)
- 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (I used a cream cheese made from Greek yogurt)
- 4 ounces shredded Cheddar (I used reduced-fat)
- 4 ounces shredded Monterrey Jack, Jalapeño Jack, Jalapeño Cheddar, whatever you have that sounds yummy
- 1 can (about 10 ounces) mild enchilada sauce (NOTE: You could use your favorite salsa, if you prefer)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1. Mix your cheeses together and set aside.
2. Separate your eggs and set aside. (The eggs will separate easiest when cold, but will whip up better once they’ve lost some of their chill from the ‘fridge.) TIP: To ensure fluffy egg whites, use a scrupulously clean, oil-free glass or stainless steel bowl and make sure your mixer beaters are scrupulously clean and oil-free.
3. Prepare the peppers (see important safety message above and remember to wear gloves!): To soften them a bit, I roasted them for a few minutes on each side on my gas burner. If you don’t have a gas ring or a grill at your disposal, you can place them under your broiler and broil them for a few minutes on each side.
4. Once the peppers are cool enough to touch, you’ll want to carefully cut a slit in each pepper. (I cut the slit like a “T,” with the top cross of the “T” at the stem end of the pepper.) Gently remove the ribs and seeds.
5. Stuff each pepper with the cheese mixture.
6. Melt the tablespoon of butter and set it aside to cool. Whip egg whites until stiff and fluffy. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Fold egg yolks into egg whites, then stir in cooled (NOT HOT!) melted butter.
7. Preheat oven to 350F (or 375F, if you prefer). Prepare pan of appropriate size by greasing/oiling it lightly but sufficiently with butter, oil, or cooking spray. (You don’t need a lot of oil or butter, but you do want enough to keep the egg batter from sticking.) I used an 11″X7″ pan, which was the perfect size for my four filled peppers.
8. Spread about 1/3 to 1/2 of the egg mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan. Top with filled peppers (the cream cheese will help keep the slit from gaping open); I alternated my peppers (stem and end) so they would all fit and yet have sufficient room.
9. Top with remaining egg mixture.
10. Bake until egg is a light to golden brown (20 to 25 minutes at 350F; 15 to 20 minutes at 375F). Let rest (keeping warm) for 10 minutes or so before serving.
11. Heat enchilada sauce. Garnish each serving with sauce. (If you don’t have enchilada sauce, you can use your favorite salsa.)
When I brought him his plate, my beloved said he’d never before had such a beautifully presented plate of food. 🙂 And it’s YUMMY, too — hubby had never had a chile relleno before, and he was impressed. 🙂
12. Refrigerate leftovers. They will re-crisp if you reheat them gently in the oven (325F – 350F) for 5 or 10 minutes. If not re-heated all the way through, you can finish warming them in the microwave.