Forgive me if that sounded over-the-top, but I can’t help it.
My (once) favorite Mexican restaurant in my area has gone downhill in the past few years. We’re talking toddlers running around and stealing chips from your table, unkempt eating area, horrible service, bland food downhill. It’s really bad, and I have to assume that there was a change in management that caused it. Still, every once in a while I stop in, hoping that the place will return to the fantastic hidden gem I remember. I always order a Chile Relleno, praying that it will taste like they did a few years back– the ones that I can’t get out of my head for days every time someone so much as mentions Mexican food.
I’m always devastatingly disappointed.
But why not order Chiles Rellenos somewhere else, you ask? I have. I have so many times, and no matter where I go, they’re just not even close to as good as the ones I used to get. Some places use a watery cheese wiz-y filling. Others use breadcrumbs or flour when they fry theirs. Many places don’t even use the right kind of pepper! Of course, I’ll eat them that way (because I won’t turn down any sort of fried pepper stuffed with cheese), but they don’t fill that Mexican pepper void deep in my soul. I’m not being dramatic, this is serious stuff.
So what’s a girl to do in this situation? Make her own, of course.
But again, the Mexican Pepper Gods must have set their smite targets on me, because I could not find a recipe that I liked after months of searching. I would try my own modifications to failed attempts, and still, my “Chile Relleno” would leave much to be desired. Until…
… I made myself try CHOW.com’s recipe, with just a few modifications. At first I dismissed it because the egg batter seemed like it had to have been missing something. (Just eggs? No way.) However, desperation forced me to finally try the odd separated egg method, and I couldn’t be happier. If I could type out the proper sound effect for a choir of angels singing, I would right now, just to drive home how my tastebuds lit up when I took a bite. These were the closest I’ll ever get to the Chiles Rellenos of old.
The batter is light and slightly eggy, but less so than you’d imagine considering the ingredients are egg and, well, egg. I was afraid it would taste like a giant omelette (not that that would be bad, per say), but it didn’t. In fact, I really recommend that low carb dieters try this batter to fry a bunch of things. I have a feeling it would work well with other foods and serve as a great alternative for flour-based batters.
It takes practice to get the hang of these, but luckily, even if they don’t turn out perfect, they still will taste amazing. I messed up on my first attempt and only got better as I continued, but I got to eat the ugly-looking first one as I made the others. That’s a win for me in my book.
This tasty Mexican dish is comprised of a roasted poblano pepper, which is stuffed with cheese or other fillings, fried in an eggy batter, and topped with enchilada sauce.
- 6 poblano chiles
- 3 1/2 cups (1 3/4 8oz bags) shredded 4-cheese Mexican cheese*
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on the finished chile
- 1 cup canola oil
- Enchilada sauce or salsa, to serve
- Slice down one side of each chile relleno, from stem to tip. Then slice again, just below the stem, perpendicular to the original slice. You should create a “T” shaped cut in one side of the pepper.
- Pry open the “T” shaped incisions just enough to scoop out all of the seeds and membranes. Use a paring knife to carefully cut out the seedy center. Shake remaining seeds out of the pepper if necessary.
- Roast the chiles on gas burners set to medium high heat, turning occasionally until the skins are completely blackened and charred on all sides. Alternatively, you can roast them on a high grill, or in a broiler set to high heat.
- Put the roasted chiles into a brown paper bag (or bowl with plastic wrap) and seal it immediately. Wait for them to cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Then peel the blackened skin from the chile, being careful not to rip the flesh of the pepper. Your fingers will get sticky and dirty, so keep a bowl of water nearby to dip your fingers in. You can also gently use a butter knife to help peel the skins, but it is more likely that you could tear the chile this way, so be very careful. Season the peeled chiles with salt and set aside.
- Stuff the chiles with the cheese or filling of your choice. Don’t force it in, and don’t overstuff. The edges of your chile should still be able to come together.
- Whisk the egg yolks until they become slightly frothy and set them aside.
- Whip the egg whites using an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Slowly fold the egg yolks into the stiffened egg whites with a pinch of salt. Make sure they are just combined, or else the egg whites will deflate. Set aside.
- Heat one cup of canola oil in a frying pan over medium-high until the oil has reached frying temperature, about 5 minutes.
- Drop enough egg batter into the oil to cover one side of a roasted chile.
- Place the chile on the batter. If your chiles close perfectly, place seam side down. If you are afraid of the cheese or other filling falling out, try placing it seam-side up.
- Spoon an equal amount of batter on top of the chile, and spread it using a rubber spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. The chile should be encased by the batter.**
- Cook each side until it becomes golden-brown and the batter has cooked through, approximately 3 minutes.
- Remove the chiles from the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle a bit more salt on top of the chiles. Serve immediately with enchilada sauce. If can’t serve the chiles immediately, keep them on a lined baking sheet in an oven set to 250 degrees F to keep them warm.
*You can use a variety of fillings here. Other cheeses such as Queso Blanco and Monterey Jack work well with the chiles, and meat such as shredded chicken or ground beef can be added, if desired. **If your batter is too runny, simply turn the chile as each side cooks and roll it into more batter, allowing it to cook on that side before turning again.
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