Monday, May 7
Chile Rellenos (Improvised)
poblano stuffed rellenos are traditional. Well, to hell with tradition altogether!
As you can imagine, putting together a relleno is tough work. Roasting, peeling, stuffing and deep frying results in quite a labor of love. It is best to make in large batches, and have plenty of help. So what do you do if you just want to make a few, refuse to use pablano peppers and do not want to deep fry? Try this out.
I have had a hankering for border rellenos for a while now, and woke one morning having a seriously good idea on how to make them without too much trouble. Well, as you can imagine, putting together a relleno is tough work. Roasting, peeling, stuffing and deep frying results in quite a labor of love. It is best to make in large batches, and have plenty of help. Not really something you can put together on a weeknight after work. So, instead of frying, what about pouring a batter over and baking them. You can use Jiffy! (BTW, Jiffy is a fantastic corn bread mix, and I highly recommend it) Doing this lets you skip the deep frying, and also adds a different dimension to the formula. Corn bread is a great compliment to green chile, as the sweetness of the corn bread balances the heat and earthiness of the green chile. Adding cheese to corn bread is also great, so this covers all the bases. Green chile, corn bread and cheese. Dead simple. Monterey jack cheese is good, but I always preferred a nice medium cheddar. It melts fantastically, and as my mom taught me: everything is better with cheddar.
Lastly, the total time after roasting is pretty short. Sure, it does take a while to roast and peel the chiles, but if you do that ahead of time, this recipe is as simple as slicing open the chiles, stuffing with cheese, seasoning, and pouring over a corn bread mix. Bake for 20 or so minutes, and you have a damn good improvised relleno.
Chile Rellenos (Improvised):
6 Fresh Anaheim Peppers (or Hatch, if you can find them)
1 block of firm cheese (Medium cheddar or Monterey jack are both equally good choices)
1 box corn bread mix (Jiffy is my top choice)
9" x 13" backing dish
Pinches of: Cumin, Cayenne and paprika
Salt and pepper to season
Brown paper bag to rest the roasted chiles in
Now, if you can find peppers that are already roasted, get that. Roasting peppers yourself is easy, but time-intensive, mostly because you don't want to catch the house on fire with a flaming pepper.
I am sure you can do this on a grill without any trouble, but I did it indoors for some reason (hot, raining, etc.). As you can see, I turned the burners to full, and tried to do 2 peppers on one burner. The trick is to keep a constant eye on them, as they blacken quickly and non-uniformly. Make sure to get them as charred as possible as this helps when peeling.
As the chiles finish, toss them into a brown paper bag. Once all the chiles are roasted, seal the bag up, and let them steam in there for as little at 15 minutes or as long as 2 hours (I let them sit 2 hours). Once they are cool enough to handle, they are ready to peel.
There are probably better ways to peel chiles, but the way I do it is like this: hold the knife blade lightly against the bottom of the stem where it meets the chile. Tilt the knife just slightly, and push the char off, much like a barber using a straight razor. If the chile is really charred, you can just use your hands to peel the skin off. Whatever you do, do not run them under water because it will wash away the great flavor.
At this point, you can preheat the oven to 400F.
Once you have your chiles peeled (whew) cut a slit in each, and stuff with cubes of cheese from your block. My cubes were probably a little less than a half inch. Season with the pinches of cayenne, cumin, paprika, and dash with salt and pepper.
Spray your backing dish with Pam, and line the chiles up.
Now you can make the corn bread mix. I just followed the instructions on the back. Pour the batter over the chiles. The batter should just about cover all the chiles without a problem. I took a spoon and smoothed it over to make it even.
The total time in the oven will depend on the box mix. Jiffy says between 15-20 minutes, and I left it in there for 25 minutes. The edges just started to brown very lightly, which is exactly what I wanted.
These cornbread rellenos turned out fantastic, and were not too spicy, but had enough bite for me to be happy with the results. The next time I make this I will buy more chiles, and double the batch.
Lastly, I know I decry Tex-Mex rellenos for not being what I like, and I take what I like, and bastardize it. Well, the ends justify the means, I reckon