In a list of my favorite foods, you would definitely see Chile Relleños near the top of the list. I think I could eat one of these several times a week and not get tired of them. I really came to appreciate them in high school when a boyfriend’s Mom prepared them with such finesse and flavor like I’d never had before or since. Someday, maybe I’ll get the secret of why Mrs. Cano’s rellenos were SO good!
Later, when I was newly married and living in Kentucky, it was impossible to find one on a menu. Even so, I was reluctant to try to make them because the recipe sounded intimidating to a novice cook. It took me about 10 years before I even attempted to make them on my own. I seem to remember that there was flour everywhere and at the time I used Anaheim chiles which just didn’t cut the mustard. I definitely prefer the flavor of pasilla (poblano) chiles.
Which brings me to why I decided to try making them again. There is a sweet lady named Belinda (www.belindascocina.com) who sells some of the most authentic Mexican food around (here in San Diego county). I first tried her rellenos at the La Jolla Farmer’s Market on Sundays. They were so perfectly prepared and delicious! She made them even more so when she offered to put a little chile verde on top instead of the red sauce. Wow, that was good!
Now, I’ve seen them on menus with different fillings such as shredded beef, picadillo and chicken but I’ve never tried them. I like the simplicity of the chile, the cheese and the egg batter covered with a salsa fresca red sauce.
Getting over to the farmer’s market isn’t exactly convenient so I knew it was time to tackle making them again.
First I bought the dark green poblano (pasilla) chiles at Pancho Villa’s store on El Cajon Blvd. They have great produce at great prices (they’re part of the Boneys market group). I started to roast them on the gas grill but that wasn’t enough flame to get the outside skin blistered up so I brought them back inside and just did it like my Nana did so many years ago. I just patiently roasted them over the flame of my gas stove. (The last time I made them, I roasted them on the top rack of the oven and I felt it overcooked the chile.)
When they were good and black, I dropped them into a clean, brown paper bag and folded down the top. I let them sweat in the bag for about 15 minutes. I then removed them from the bag and ran them under cool water and rinsed off the blackened skin (see photo above), split ONE side open very slightly and reached in and pulled out the seeds. Try to get them all out as they are unpleasant to bite into if you don’t. Pat the chiles dry and put a piece of Monterey Jack Cheese in the opening. You can TRY to use a toothpick to secure but I heard of a better way to make these that I’ll mention in a minute. After stuffing the chile, dip them into a plate with flour on it and coat well. This will help the batter stick later.
After the chiles were dry and waiting to be stuffed with cheese, I looked through my 20 or so books on Mexican cooking to get a recipe for the batter. You would think that I could get a consensus on how to make the batter but noooo, they were all different!
So I finally decided that I would be OK if I used enough egg whites to cover my 7 chiles and settled on 5 eggs for 7 chiles. I had batter left over, so I guess 4 eggs would have been enough to coat them but it was easier to have a full bowl of batter. To make the batter, you simply separate the egg yolks from the whites:
Beat the egg whites at a high speed with your electric mixer until stiff peaks form. With a fork, beat the egg yolks you’d set aside until they are well mixed. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold them into the beaten, stiff egg whites. Distribute the yolks as evenly as you can through the egg whites without breaking the egg whites down. Get a big skillet and heat the oil so it will be sizzling when you drop the chile rellenos into the oil. If your oil isn’t hot enough, the egg batter will absorb too much of the oil. Yuck!
I used the deep, narrow bowl for beating the egg whites and it was perfect to dip the chiles in. Using the stem of the chile, dip it all the way up to the top of the chile. If you can’t quite get it to stick to your floured, toothpick-secured chile, just lay it in the hot oil and spoon a little batter toward the top. It will work just fine.
Remove them with a slotted spatula or spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Remove the toothpicks if you used them to secure the side. (I read on one restaurant’s website that they spoon the batter into the hot oil and lay the stuffed chile on top of the batter, THEN spoon more batter over the top and then flip it. I may try that next time.)
So, it is time to make the sauce. I diced up 4 small tomatoes, 1/4 of an onion,1 clove of garlic minced, 1/4 of a Bell Pepper and half a jalapeno (to add a little kick). Saute everything except the tomatoes in some oil until the onions are transparent. Add the diced tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste after it has cooked down awhile. It will thicken up after about 15 minutes. I was too impatient to wait for the thickening part and just ate it in its early stages. it was still good but would have been better if it had thickened and developed the flavors a lot more!
Here’s the final product:
They were so good that I ate two of them! But still, I think some time will have to pass by before I get a hankering to do this again. However, if I ever move to Kentucky…well…that’s another story!