When we go out for Mexican food, one of my favorite meatless entrees to order is chile rellenos. I love the mildness of the poblano peppers and usually get them at the Farmer’s Market because they are usually fresher and less expensive than those from the grocery store. I like to fill these chiles with some a combination of queso fresco and monterey jack cheese, but pepperjack would also be a great choice for a little extra kick.
You can either bake or fry chile rellenos. I prefer the fried version because it gives the peppers some crunch, and let’s face it, everything is just better fried. I make a fresh tomato-based sauce with some green chiles to go with the peppers, but if you want to save time (or if tomatoes aren’t in season), use your favorite jarred salsa instead. Serve with some seasoned black beans and you’re good to go!
Ingredients (makes 2-4 servings)
- 8 to 10 poblano chile peppers
- 1 ½ cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup sweet onion, diced small
- 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles
- 1 garlic clove, pressed
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (not pictured)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
- 1 cup queso fresco, crumbled (save ¼ cup for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, snipped into small pieces
- 3 large egg whites plus 1 egg yolk at room temperature
- Vegetable or canola oil for frying
- All-purpose flour
- Hot sauce (optional)
- Cilantro or flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
Char the poblano chiles until they are blackened all over. You can do this on a gas cooktop or grill, placing the chiles right on the grate and turning with tongs. No gas? No problem! You can char the chiles under your oven’s broiler.
Once the poblanos are blackened, transfer them to a plastic bag. Seal the bag and let stand for 10-15 minutes. This helps steam the chiles, making them easy to peel.
Using plastic gloves, gently rub off as much of the skins of the peppers as possible. You may use a paper towel for this step.
Using a sharp knife, carefully slit the pepper just below its stem (do not cut off the stem.)Slice the poblano lengthwise, making sure you cut through one layer only.
Spread open the chile and remove its membranes and seeds. Repeat with the rest of the peppers, and set aside.
Next up is to make the sauce (skip this step if you choose to use prepared salsa instead.) You can actually start working on this while the poblanos are steaming in the plastic bag. Using a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes, onion, green chiles and garlic.
Heat the olive oil to medium in a medium skillet. Add the tomato puree, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat to low to keep the sauce warm.
In a large bowl, mix together the monterey jack cheese and ¾ cup of the queso fresco. Add the oregano, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stuff each chile pepper with the cheese mixture.
Secure the poblanos with wooden toothpicks so the filling will not leak out.
Place the egg whites in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until peaks start to form. Add the egg yolk and beat for a few more minutes.
In a deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil (about an inch or so) to medium high (375 degrees F). You can test to see if the oil is ready by dropping a little flour into the pan – once it starts sizzling you’re good to go.
Place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge each pepper in the flour, shaking off any excess.
Coat each pepper with the egg mixture and then add them to the hot oil, a few at a time.
Fry until they turn golden brown all over — a couple of minutes per side should do it.
Drain the rellenos on paper towels.
To serve, place some of the sauce (or salsa) on your plate. Place the chile rellenos on top, and then drizzle with more of the sauce. Add some hot sauce, if desired, and some of the crumbled queso fresco. Garnish with cilantro or parsley and serve with black beans or rice.
Eat, drink and be merry!
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