Posts Tagged by Chili Rellenos

Mexican Night–Chili Rellenos, Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

While you couldn’t tell by my blond hair and extremely fair (read: pale) skin, sometimes I truly feel like I am part Mexican!  This has a lot to do with the fact that I absolutely adore authentic Mexican food and used to spend a few weeks every year vacationing in various places throughout Mexico. 

It’s funny how food can so closely connect you to a place like it has done for me and Mexico.  When I used to visit a lot (a least once a year), my family would often hire local Mexican cooks who would prepare us breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And while the food they made for us was obviously quite a special treat, the best thing about having them cook for us is the recipes that taught my family.

To this day, my family still frequently makes the Mexican recipes that we were taught over ten years ago.  Two of our favorites include enchiladas verdes, with homemade verdes sauce, and chili rellenos.  It is also a requirement in my family to serve homemade pico de gallo, guacamole and Margaritas as accompaniments to either of theses meals.

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While the girls are typically in charge of the food prep, my dad is always responsible for the margaritas.  He literally makes the best margarita you can find thanks to lots of fresh lime juice.  He somehow always strikes the perfect balance between sweet and sour and strong but not overpowering.  One of these days, I will attempt to record his drink “recipe” and share it on the blog.  The only problem is, he doesn’t do a lot of measuring and instead relies on feel and taste!

For those of you who don’t know what Chili Rellenos are, they are basically cheese stuffed poblano peppers that are breaded and fried.

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When topped with a fresh tomato sauce, and served alongside rice and beans, these unsightly fried blobs above actually become even more delicious.

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The only problem with chili rellenos is that they can be a little hard to predict – hotness wise.  I have come across an equal amount of extremely spicy poblanos as I have mild, which makes planning your tomato sauce somewhat tricky.  You see, if the poblano pepper itself is hot, you want to make a tomato sauce that cools down the heat in the pepper.  But if there is little or no heat in the poblano, you want to kick up the heat level in the sauce.  I typically taste a little bite of a poblano I am using to get a sense for the heat level and then plan accordingly (I find that if you get the poblanos from the same source, they will all generally have a similar heat level).

When making this meal, try and enlist a couple of helpers, because when it comes to making the salsa and guac, shredded the cheese and then stuffing, breading and frying the peppers, many hands make much lighter work of the whole process.

Mexican Meal featuring Chili Rellenos, Pico de Gallo and Guacamole – Serves 6:

Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 serrano chilies, minced
  • 1 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 large avocados, mashed

Directions:

Chop tomato, onion, chilies and cilantro and add to a large mixing bowl.

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Stir everything to combine and add the 1/3 cup of lime juice.  Season with salt to taste (I usually start with 1 tsp and increase from there).

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In a separate mixing bowl, mash two avocados until most of the lumps have been removed, but it is not totally smooth.  You want it to still have some texture.  Add 1/3-1/2 cup (depending on how much you like) of the pico de gallo mixture directly to the mashed avocado as well as 1 tablespoon of the tomato/lime juice.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary (you may need to add more salt or a bit more lime).

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Serve the guacamole and salsa with some salted tortilla chips.

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Chili Rellenos:

Ingredients:

Stuffed Peppers:

  • 12 poblano peppers,
  • 1.5 lb Mexican crumbling or shredding cheese, shredded or diced (good cheeses include: oaxaca, queso fresco, mozzarella, monterey jack, etc.)
  • 6 eggs (room temperature), whites separated from the yolks
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • S+P
  • Oil for frying

Tomato Sauce:

  • 12 roma tomatoes, chopped or 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup carrot, chopped
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • Optional: 2 serrano chilies, minced (depending on how hot your poblanos are/how spicy you like your food, you may want to use more or less of the serranos)
  • S+P to taste

Directions:

In order to make chili rellenos, you have to remove the skin from the peppers.  You do this by broiling the poblanos in the oven or charring them on your stove top.  Both ways are pretty straight forward, but I find broiling the peppers is a little easier from a clean up POV. 

If you are broiling, place into oven and broil until one side is completely blackened, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven, flip the peppers, and broil until the other side is blackened as well.  Remove the peppers from the oven and immediately place in a large paper bag or a big bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow the hot peppers to steam in the paper bag or bowl for 10-15 minutes. 

Once 10-15 minutes has elapsed, remove the peppers from the bag or bowl.  At this point, the skin on the peppers should be easy to remove.  I find that I can just remove it with my fingers, but some people find it easy to remove all the char by running a paper towel over the peppers.  Once all the skin has been removed, the peppers will be soft and should look like this.

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Once 10-15 minutes has elapsed, remove the peppers from the bag or bowl. At this point, the skin on the peppers should be easy to remove. I find that I can just remove it with my fingers, but some people find it easy to remove all the char by running a paper towel over the peppers. Once all the skin has been removed, the peppers will be soft and should look like this.

Next up, it is time to make the sauce.  In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots and cook for 5-7 minutes until the veggies are just soft, but not browned.  Add the serranos and garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Finally, add the tomatoes and their liquid.  Note – you don’t need to worry about having perfectly cut vegetables because everything is going to be blended anyway.  Bring the tomatoes to a simmer and then reduce heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp of each to start).  Cook for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled, blended the entire mixture together until smooth.  Return to the sauce pan and taste for seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.  Set sauce aside until all the other ingredients in the dish are almost ready.

Next up, you will need to de-seed the poblano peppers delicately.  Because the skin has been removed from the peppers, they can tear easily, so you want to be careful.  First, if the peppers are hot, you will want to be wearing rubber gloves to do the de-seeding as this is where all the heat lives in the peppers.  To de-seed the peppers, cut a small vertical slip near the stem of the pepper (it will expand, so start small) and remove all of the seeds.  Once all the peppers have been de-seeded, use the same slit that you made to remove the seeds to stuff them with the shredded or diced cheese.

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Now you have to do what my family fondly refers to as “pepper operation.”  Because the slits in the peppers are so large, you need to close them up with tooth picks.  This doesn’t have to be exact, as the batter will also help to keep the cheese inside the peppers, but goes a long way to prevent any possible leakage.  I typically use 2-3 toothpicks per pepper.

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Once you have stuffed and “sewn up” the peppers, it is time to warm up the oil and get the batter made.  I think its best to get a large pan and slowly warm up the vegetable or canola oil.  You want it to be almost smoking when you put the peppers in to cook.

In order to make the batter, you first will need to separate six egg whites from six egg yolks.  It is important that no part of the egg yolk contaminates any of the egg whites because you will be beating the egg whites to a stiff peak and any yolk will prevent this from happening.  With an electric mixture (much easier than by hand), whip the egg whites until they come to a medium stiff peak.  In other words, the egg whites should be able to stand up on their own, but shouldn’t be as stiff as you would make it for a meringue.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks together.

When the oil is up to temperature, you want to mix half of the beaten egg whites with the egg yolks in another separate bowl.  You want to mix to combine, but do not over mix so that the egg whites lose all of their stiffness.  I like to “fold” the egg whites into egg yolks with a spatula to prevent over mixing.

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In a large shallow bowl or plate, combine the 1 cup of flour with about 1/2 tsp of salt and peppers.  Set up a little assembly line of: stuffed peppers, flour mixture, egg mixture, hot oil, paper towel lined cookie sheet.  By doing this you can go into auto-pilot when cooking up the peppers!

Step 1:  Dredge the pepper in the flour mixture:

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Step 2: Dip the floured pepper in the egg mixture and cover completely (sorry forgot to snap a picture of this step!)

Step 3: Lightly place the battered pepper into the hot oil.  Repeat with other peppers, careful not to overcrowd the pan (I like to cook 2-3 peppers at a time). 

Step 4: Cook peppers for 2-3 minutes per side on medium high heat until the peppers are lightly browned. 

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Step 5: Remove from oil and place onto a paper towel lined plate to remove any excess oil.  Sprinkle with salt and then place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm as you cook the other peppers.

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You will need to replenish the egg mixture half way through cooking the pepper.  Repeat by folding in the remaining egg yolks to the egg whites.  Replenish the flour mixture as needed.

As I mentioned above, its much easier to make these if you can enlist some help.  This way one person can be responsible for the batter, one person can be responsible for the frying and one person can be responsible for the oil blotting/seasoning/putting in the oven step.  Here is a live shot of all the actions (Thanks Sarah!)

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While the peppers are cooking, make sure you turn on your sauce to get it hot.  Top the peppers with the sauce and serve with rice and beans.

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 ¡Buen apetito!