Is it Chile Rellenos or Chiles Rellenos? Does it make a difference if there’s one in front of me or a whole pan? Someone help me–I have absolutely no background in Spanish, and the internet isn’t all that helpful on this one. Throughout the recipe below for goat cheese stuffed baked chiles rellenos, I refer to poblanos as both chiles and peppers, confusing things even more.
If you’ve never tried chiles rellenos, let me start at the beginning. They start with a roasted, peeled poblano pepper–a usually mild chile large enough to fill with a bunch of cheese, plus meat and/or beans if you’re getting crazy. The stuffed pepper is dredged in a bit of flour, so it’s dry enough to grab onto the egg batter. Immediately after getting dunked in batter, the stuffed chiles are fried in a shallow bath of oil, enough so the oil comes halfway up the sides of the pepper. The chiles are fried on both sides until the batter is golden all around and cooked through, and the cheese inside is melted and hot. As if all that weren’t enough, the chiles are topped with a slowly simmered sauce of roasted tomatoes and garlic, the brightness of the sauce balancing the rich egg batter and decadent cheese filling.
When I first set out to make chiles rellenos, Steve’s favorite Mexican dish, at home, I found a lot of recipes for baked chiles rellenos casserole. If you’ve tried chiles rellenos at a restaurant, you know a casserole is not the real deal. I knew that if I was getting all these “shortcut” search results, the authentic version had to be a pain, but I was determined to find a recipe. It eventually came from The Mija Chronicles, a blog in which Lesley details her friend’s Mexican grandmother’s recipe for authentic chiles rellenos. I figured if the recipe came from anyone’s Mexican grandmother it was the real deal.
I made the recipe with great success and many compliments from Stevie (the story and recipe are on my first blog). Forgive my self-promotion, but the chiles were to-die-for, better than the restaurant versions we tried, which often taste like they use the same batter as chicken fingers–a heavy, floury coating. The traditional batter, made exclusively of whipped egg whites with egg yolks stirred in, feels dense and satisfying, but its fluffy lightness allows you to eat more than one chile without the feeling of a greasy bowling ball in your stomach the rest of the evening, and maybe the rest of the weekend.
After all this, maybe you can better understand my side-eye attitude toward baked chiles rellenos. Like, the concept is good, but how can you beat that first delicious version I made?! Although the book doesn’t name them as such, when these battered and baked stuffed chiles came up in my gratin challenge, I knew they belonged with the rest of those chiles rellenos posers. I wasn’t about to skip a recipe because of my own hangups, though, and come to think of it, there’s a reason I haven’t reproduced the authentic version even once. They require impeccable timing of batter preparation and perfect temperature hot oil, and they leave a nasty mess. They also don’t do too well as leftovers. Leftover eggs…yeah, I’ve never enjoyed them.
Turns out this baked chiles rellenos recipe is still a bit time consuming, but I won’t hesitate to repeat it–soon. The chiles are baked, not fried, in an easy batter closely resembling cornbread, and my first thought after taking a bite is how perfect they would be for brunch. Especially, brunch with a Tex-Mex loving Oklahoman in Maine over the fourth of July. I can’t think of anything more patriotic. I can prep the chiles in my own kitchen before we even leave for the weekend, then easily whip up the batter in ten minutes while half asleep in my HomeAway kitchen. Given the appetites involved, I can almost guarantee we clean the pan, but if you have leftovers, the “cornbread” batter reheats much better than deep fried eggs. I could even foresee it freezing well after baking.
I still love the authentic version, but being a good midwesterner, I should have known all along that the casserole-inspired baked chiles rellenos would win my heart and stomach.
Up next: Cauliflower gratin with tomatoes and feta
Your best bet is to make the sauce in advance. It’s not difficult, but it does take some time and attention–just one less thing to worry about when dinnertime rolls around. You could substitute pre-made enchilada sauce if you’re really time crunched, but the fried garlic tomato sauce is traditional with chiles rellenos and really balances the richness of the cheesy filling and dense batter.
Fried garlic tomato sauce
- 2 lbs. roma tomatoes (6 to 8 medium)
- 4 T olive or vegetable oil
- 5 plump cloves garlic, not peeled
- 1 T finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 t dried)
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1 1/2 C (or more) grated monterey jack cheese
- 4 to 6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
- 8 poblano peppers
- 8 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
- 3 T chopped cilantro
- 1/4 C all-purpose flour or fine cornmeal
- 1/2 T butter or oil, for greasing
- 3 large eggs, separated then brought to room temperature
- 1 C whole milk
- 1 T vegetable or olive oil
- 1/2 C all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C finely ground yellow cornmeal
- Ground black pepper
- Kosher or sea salt
Fried garlic tomato sauce
- Toss clean tomatoes with about 1/2 teaspoon oil to coat. Broil on a rimmed baking sheet close to heat for about 15 minutes, turning a few times and rotating the pan once, until blistered and charred in spots. Cool slightly, cut off tops, chop roughly, and transfer to a blender. While tomatoes roast, heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic (with skins on) and toss to coat. Cover the pan and toast 10 to 15 minutes, shaking or stirring frequently, being careful of splatters when removing the lid. Once golden and soft, turn off heat, cool slightly, and remove peels. Add peeled garlic to blender with tomatoes and blend until very smooth.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the same saucepan until very hot, then carefully pour in sauce (it will sizzle and steam). Stir in oregano and simmer about 10 minutes, or until reduced to desired thickness. Season with salt, and pepper if desired.
- Place cheeses in a medium mixing bowl at room temperature to soften.
- Broil dry chiles on a rimmed baking sheet 6 inches from heat for about 10 minutes, turning a few times, until blistered and soft but not completely blackened. Place in a plastic bag in a heatproof bowl and cover with a tray or dinner plate for 15 minutes. Use fingers to remove pepper skins, trying not to tear the chiles. Don’t worry about removing every last bit of skin, just most of it. Cut a slit about 75% of the length of each chile with a paring knife, creating an opening. Use fingers or a paring knife to remove most of the seeds and membranes from each. Set aside on the baking sheet.
- Add scallions, cilantro, and a little salt and pepper to cheese mixture and mash everything together with a fork. Turn mixture onto a cutting board, press together into a “cheese ball” with your hands, and cut into 8 equal wedges. Form each into a rough cone shape and place inside each chile. Fold cut sides of peppers over each other to close, then gently squeeze to form cheese to shape of the pepper. If you puncture or tear the chile, don’t worry about it. Put 1/4 cup flour or cornmeal into a shallow bowl and dredge each chile in it, patting off the excess. Arrange chiles in a buttered or oiled 9 x 13″ pan or similar sized baking dish. You can also place 1 or 2 chiles into ramekins.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F) while you make the batter. In the bowl used to steam the chiles, whisk together egg yolks, milk, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 cup each flour and cornmeal, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper until smooth. In another very clean glass or metal bowl, use a hand mixer (or the whisk attachment of an electric mixer) to whip the egg whites until nearly stiff peaks form. This will take a while–5 minutes or so (see tips for whipping egg whites). Fold whites into batter mixture, then pour over chiles. Bake just above the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until top begins to brown and batter is set. Cool about 5 minutes before serving with warm tomato sauce and extra minced cilantro.
By far, the most time consuming (and annoying!) part of the dish is “operating” on the chiles: peeling them and removing the insides while keeping the pepper intact. Try doing this, or everything except making the batter, in advance.
I haven’t tested non-dairy milk in this recipe, but it should work in equal quantity to dairy milk.
Instead of 1/2 cup each all-purpose and corn flour, the recipe should work with 1/3 cup each, reducing your grain/flour intake further.
- Prep Time: 1 hour 5 mins
- Cook Time: 55 mins
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Southwest
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