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Chile relleno, that egg-puffed, cheese-filled, roasted poblano marvel, is what I order when we get special Mexican food-to-go. But stuffed peppers taste best when they’re minutes out of the fryer, and to-go anything is often lukewarm by the time you get it home. So last week, finding great green stacks of perfect poblanos next to the tomatoes and garlic at the farm stand, I headed back to the kitchen to make this dish. It takes time to char, peel, seed, stuff, coat and fry the peppers, but the effort is a fun adventure. Served over rice with this spicy tomato and chile de arbol sauce, chile rellenos make a meal. I tucked fresh snipped epazote (the beguiling Mexican herb,) into the peppers with the cheese and sprinkled more of the herb on the finished dish. If you can’t find epazote (my friend Sergio brought me some from his garden!) you can substitute cilantro.
Chile Rellenos (Stuffed Poblano Peppers) with Rojo Sauce
- FOR THE STUFFED PEPPERS:
- 6 large, fresh poblano peppers
- 12 oz. Queso Oaxaca cheese, cut into 2-oz fingers
- 6 fresh epazote leaves (optional) plus a few more to mince for garnish OR substitute cilantro
- Grapeseed or vegetable oil to fill deep-fat fryer according to operator instructions
- 4 large eggs, separated
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- FOR THE CHILE DE ARBOL ROJO SAUCE:
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium (or two small) white onions, peeled, cored and chopped to make 1 cup
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 2 to 3 chile de arbol peppers (more if you like it really spicy!)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp fresh-ground cumin seed OR powdered cumin
- FOR THE FINISHED DISH:
- Pot of cooked long-grain white rice
- Minced epazote leaves OR substitute cilantro
- MAKE SAUCE: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook chopped onion in 1 Tbsp of oil for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low add ½ cup water and cover. Simmer until onions are very soft. Snip ends off the dried chile de arbol peppers and discard seeds. Crumble the chile de arbol. Uncover pan; add minced garlic, crumbled chile de arbol, cumin and another ½ cup water. Cover and continue cooking until garlic and chile de arbol are soft. Remove cover. Add chopped tomatoes cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove cover again and using a potato masher, mash tomatoes. Cover and continue cooking about 20 minutes until mixture is very soft. Place mixture in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour sauce back into pan. Season with salt. Cook for five more minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and set sauce aside, keeping warm.
- MAKE STUFFED PEPPERS:
- While the sauce is cooking, make the peppers. Preheat oven to broil setting. Place whole poblanos on sheet pan in oven. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skin of the peppers is charred all over and peppers are roasted. Remove peppers from oven to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin. Carefully cut a slit in the side of each pepper and scoop out and discard seeds. Slip a 2-ounce finger of cheese into each pepper along with an epazote leaf (if using.) If you like, you can stitch the opening closed with a toothpick, to discard after cooking. Set peppers aside.
- Preheat deep fat fryer to 350. Whip egg whites until they are fluffy and hold peaks. Whisk egg yolks separately in a small bowl. Carefully fold egg yolks into whipped egg whites in a wide shallow bowl. Pour ¼ cup flour into another wide shallow bowl. Carefully dip and dust 2 peppers in flour; shake off excess. One at a time, dip the two floured peppers in the whipped eggs, generously coating. Place the two stuffed and coated peppers in the fryer basket of deep fat fryer; lower into fat and fry about 2 minutes on each side until puffed and golden brown. Place fried peppers on a sheet pan layered with paper toweling to drain off and blot oil well. Remove toothpicks if you used them to stitch the peppers closed. Repeat for the remaining peppers.
- SERVE: To serve, mound cooked rice in center of plate, top with a stuffed pepper, ladle chile de arbol rojo sauce over. Garnish with fine snipped epazote (or cilantro) leaves. Serve piping hot, with extra sauce for people to add at table. Add a nice green salad on the side.
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