Tonight’s recipe is from a freak inspiration in the grocery store yesterday. I was wandering aimlessly around the produce section, bemoaning the fact that it is winter and there wasn’t the selection of delicious, fresh, produce that I love. Then I spotted some huge poblano peppers just sitting and gleaming up on the top shelf. The inspiration hit me–I am going to try to make healthy chili rellenos. The taste of thought of spicy chilis and cool smooth goat cheese made me shiver with delight. It also helps that every time we go get Mexican food Ben orders chili rellenos. And I decided to make them tonight because I had a great conversation with my best friend Kristina, who lives in Mexico, and in celebration of getting water again (our pipes burst in this rediculous cold).
Roasting peppers is, in my opinion, the most delicious way to have them. And the best thing is that you don’t have to coat them in any oil to do it. There are many ways to roast a pepper. If you are fortunate enough to be reading this during the summer, I highly recommend that you go down to your farmers market and buy roast peppers from whoever has the huge rotating mesh barrel over the high flames. You can usually follow your nose and the sound of crackling pepper skin to find it. The only concern there is that the peppers may be small. Look at the peppers he is roasting. You don’t want chile relleno tapas (or maybe you do), so make sure you get big peppers that you can stuff. That is also a good way to be able to choose your heat level (and when they are marked XXX, believe them. Ben and I found that out the hard way.)
If you have been lucky enough to grow some, or you have them raw, you can roast them either outside on the grill, or inside under the broiler. It is up to you and the weather. If you want to grill them, heat your grill up to a medium heat. You want to make sure that your grill is hot before you put on the chilis, it helps roast properly. Once it is hot, set the peppers directly on the grill rack. Check every few minutes, and turn a 1/4 turn every time the skin on the underside is blistered and blackened. This method usually takes 20-30 min depending on the quality of the grill. They will be done when collapsed and throughly blistered.
The broil method requires your almost constant attention, but makes you house smell of roast chilis, which is a definate plus. Preheat your broiler and put the top rack 4 in from the top. Line a roasting pan with foil (this part is very helpful later.) Put on the chilis and put in the oven when the broiler is hot. Like with the grill, it is important that the broiler is preheated. And make sure you remember to leave the door cracked too, for proper broiling. The first part will take a few minutes. You know to start paying attention when you hear the little cracks from your oven. That is the sound of blistering pepper skin, and what a delightful sound it is. Keep watching them, you want to make sure that the peppers are not burned, only throughly roasted. Turn a 1/4 turn every time the top of that side is finished. You are done when they are collapsed and throughly blistered.
The next step is sweating. This process helps to release the skin from the chili, and to make the flesh nice and soft. You can put them either in a paper bag, or wrapped up in foil. When they are cool enough to handle you can peel them. The skin should come right off, but sometimes it helps to do it under running water. Next, you will want to split them open and take out the seeds. Check around the pepper before you put in your own slit. I have found that often the pepper has started to split on its own, you can just follow that. HELPFUL TIP: When you are pulling out the seeds they will often come off with the side membranes attached. Don’t rip these membranes all the way to the end. If you do, your tip of the pepper will come apart and not be a nice tip any more. I messed this part up tonight. You are now ready to relleno.
The recipe includes the filling that I made for mine. It was amazingly delicious. But you can stuff yours with whatever you like. Just cheese, just chicken, beef, carnitas, whatever you like. I can highly recommend this mix, or spinach and goat cheese for you veggies out there. This is a chance to be creative.
- 4 large poblano or other large medium to mild spice pepper
- 1 large chicken breast
- Adobo seasoning, garlic/onion seasoning, or other of your choice. I used “The Gourmet Collection Spice Blends Garlic and Onion” from the company Dangold. I got it as a wedding gift from a friend of the family, I think she got it at William & Sonoma.
- Cumin and corriander
- 1/2 onion, sliced long ways into strips
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Baby spinach
- Butter and oil, as needed (about 1-2 Tbsp each)
- Motzerella or other white cheese that melts well
- Goat cheese, or similar
- 4-8 oz sour cream
- Wooden skewers or toothpicks (I recomend toothpicks)
- Roast your peppers according to the instructions above. Sweat and prepare them to be stuffed.
- While they are cooling, start on your stuffing. Make sure that your onion is pre-sliced, or slice it while your chicken is grilling, it goes in quickly. Season your chicken breast in whatever seasoning you choose. If your seasoning doesn’t already include cumin and corriander, then make sure you add them in. Those are your essential Mexican/ Southwest seasonings. Then brown the chicken in a little olive oil in a pan until cooked through (you could also grill it). Put it in a large bowl.
- You should have enough left over oil/ drippings to cook the onions. If not, add a little more oil. Sautee the onions until throughly carmelized. While they are cooking, you can use two forks and shred the chicken in the bowl. When they are done, toss in the garlic for about a min until it is fragrant. Then put it all in the bowl with the chicken.
- Put 1 Tbsp each butter and oil into your pan. Toss in the spinach a handful at a time. When one handfull has started to wilt, add the next one. Do this with as much spinach as you like. Don’t forget–it cooks down a lot. Put it in with the chicken and onions, and mix well.
- Let your bowl of filling cool until you will be able to handle it.
- Next we make the pan sauce. This is a super simple technique. It allows you to use all the delicious drippings from the bottom of the pan. In this case, I had already used up all of the left over seasonings and such on the onions and spinach, but that is ok. You can roast up more seasonings and still have it delicious. Put a little bit of oil in the pan, and then put in about a Tbsp of the seasonings into the pan with it. Stir until the seasonings are fragrant. Then add in your sour cream. Stir throughly (a whisk would work very well) until the sour cream is smooth and creamy. Take it out, put in a bowl, and set aside. It will cool back into a sour cream texture instead of the runny one.
- Preheat oven to 375. Get your pan for baking ready. Line it with foil (you can even use the foil you used to broil the chilis). Otherwise things can get messy.
- Now you are going to stuff your chilis. You should already have them seeded and slit open on one side. Mix in about a cup of mozerella cheese with your stuffing. It shouldn’t be so hot that the cheese melts. Don’t mix in the goat cheese. Put the goat cheese in the pepper before the rest of it. I wanted to make sure that I got a good amount of goat cheese in each one, because it makes such an impact. Don’t be shy with it, I wish I had more. So put in the goat cheese and then the stuffing in each pepper. Don’t stuff it too full, you don’t want it exploding.
- Now you are going to want to find a way to keep the chilis closed. I started off with the suggested wooden skewer. My cook book suggested threading it through lengthwise. That didn’t work very well for me, my chilis were too soft and kept ripping. So I ended up breaking the skewers into pieces and stabbing it through short ways, 3 pieces per chili. Of course, if you had them, toothpicks would have done that much better.
- Put your sewn chilis on your pan and bake at 375 for 30 min. Top with sauce and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!