Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Newest Addiction ...

Here they are in all their glory, my latest addiction - poblano peppers. Its not like they're a new food for me, I've had them before - but suddenly I'm in love. Madly, passionately in love with poblanos. It helps that Clearbrook Farm's peppers are so fragrant and fresh - I want to put them in everything. I want to roast them and eat them warm from the oven with a drizzle of fruity olive oil and some smoked salt, I want to make ropa vieja and eat it for three days running, and mostly I want to do something I've never done before ... make chiles rellenos. I took one look at these peppers at the farm stand last week and instantly became obsessed with the idea of making chiles rellenos.

I had to defer my chiles project until we returned to my own kitchen. Its a complicated, though not difficult, dish and I wanted to be on familiar territory. I did use the peppers to make a wonderfully rich pot roast while up in Vermont and I brought the left-overs back home with me. On Sunday I put them to astoundingly good use by contriving a sort of hybrid chiles rellenos out of the savory meat and super fresh peppers. Hybrid, because I chose to fill the peppers with a flavorful picadillo of my own creation that was closer to Cuba than Mexico in its origins. As for the chile sauce and peppers, I turned to "Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta" by Deborah Szekely and Deborah M. Schneider for inspiration. This is a beautiful cookbook and a wonderful resource for seasonal, healthy recipes.

Out of necessity and dietary preferences, I made a few small changes to their recipes. I used whole wheat flour to coat the peppers and ... because neither of my three grocery stores stocked the right kind of dried chiles ... I used a different variety than those called for in the chile sauce - no matter, the results were outstanding! I also added a few other ingredients to the sauce ... because, well, I can't help myself. Its a given that I'm going to make any recipe my own by changing it up a bit - and you know that by now.

Be forewarned, this is a three part process but I assure you it is well worth the effort. While I made my filling out of the left over pot roast, I'm going to assume that not all of you have half a roast hanging around in your fridge, so I'll give you the option of using either ground beef or ground turkey instead. Ole.

Chile Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup diced Vidalia onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 small dried green chiles, seeded and torn into pieces*
  • 1 large Chile Negro, seeded and torn into pieces*
  • 2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 or 4 large tomatillos, husked and chopped
  • 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano*
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro*
Heat the oil in a large, non-reactive skillet over medium high heat and add the onions, garlic and dried chiles. Saute for approximately 5 minutes or until the onion has softened and is translucent, but not brown. Stir the mixture often to prevent sticking. Add the tomatoes and tomatillos and let the mixture cook for 10 minutes, stirring as necessary to prevent sticking.

Add the vegetable broth, tomato paste, cocoa powder, salt and black pepper, stir to combine and raise the heat, brining the sauce to the boil. Lower heat and allow the sauce to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring as needed. Rub the oregano between the palms of your hands and add to the sauce, stir to combine and remove the pan from the heat. Allow the sauce to cool and then puree it in a blender until smooth. Add the cilantro and reserve for later use.

* The cookbook calls for a combination of dried Guajillo and Ancho chiles - and that would certainly be delicious - but use whatever you've got or whatever your store sees fit to carry. The green and Negro chiles worked just fine. The ratio is 3 guajillo to 2 ancho if you're going to go that route. In addition, the recipe also calls for fresh Mexican Oregano - which is wonderful ... if you've got it, go for it and double the amount if its fresh. If not, no need worry just go with the regular stuff in the amount I've listed.

Fair warning, this sauce is spicy. Delicious, but spicy. I wouldn't change a thing, but if you're heat-averse, you may want to reduce the amount of dried chiles or be sure to use a mild variety.

Pot Roast Picadillo:

  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound of left over pot roast, cut into slices and then shredded in a food processor*
  • 1/2 of a 14.5 oz. can of Petite Diced Tomatoes with Zesty Jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp. dried currants
  • 1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the onions, garlic and bay leaf. Saute until the onion has softened and is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded pot roast and stir well to combine. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, chili powder, cayenne pepper, currants and olives and stir well to combine. Allow the mixture to simmer over medium heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until the flavors have combined and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove and discard the bay leaf and reserve the picadillo for later use in stuffing the peppers.

*Option 2 - use 1 pound of lean ground beef or ground turkey breast, or a combination of both, in place of the left-over pot roast. Add the ground meat to the pan after the onions and garlic have softened, allow the meat to brown and proceed accordingly. I would simmer the mixture for at least a half an hour if using this option to allow the flavors to build - adding some chicken or vegetable broth as necessary to prevent sticking.

Chile Rellenos:

  • Chile Sauce (see above)
  • Picadillo (see above)
  • 6 poblano chiles
  • 6 oz. of Monteray Jack cheese, cut into one ounce strips
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten until light and very frothy
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. Canola or vegetable oil
Char the chiles on all sides until the skins have blacked and blistered all over, by either placing them over the open flame of a gas range or under the broiler, turning as necessary to ensure a proper char. (See below ... you can't see the flame, but you get the idea ...)

Place the charred chiles in a bowl and seal tightly with plastic wrap so the chiles will steam. Let them rest for 30 to 60 minutes before peeling. After the time has passed, gently peel off the blacked skin from all the peppers, it should come away easily using your fingers or a paper towel if desired. Leave the stems intact. Make a small, lenghthwise slit in each pepper and gently remove the seeds.

Filling the peppers: reheat the picadillo so that it is warm. Place one slice of cheese in the hollow of the pepper and fill with the warm picadillo mixture, using a teaspoon. Fold the chile together so that the seam is closed. Reserve and repeat the process with the remaining peppers.

Combine the whole wheat flour, the dried oregano and a pinch of Kosher salt on a large plate, mix well. One at a time, dip each chile into the seasoned flour to coat, shaking off the excess. Repeat until all peppers are coated. Reserve. Reheat the chile sauce at this point so it will be ready.

Place the egg whites in a medium sized bowl and whisk until they are very frothy. Reserve.

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Dip each chile into the egg white and set them into the skillet carefully. Cook the chiles, turning often, until they are golden brown on all sides and the filling is hot. Serve immediately, on a bed of the warm chile sauce, garnish with additional cilantro and some non-fat sour cream if desired.

As written, this recipe will serve 3 - two chiles per person ... however, they are filling so I could only manage one! While this is a time consuming meal to be sure, these were far and away the best chiles rellenos I've ever had. They were probably the best Mexican food I've ever had. Period. I couldn't be more pleased with the results of my project ... the photo, however, leaves something to be desired ...

So, what's your latest food addiction? Spicy Diva wants to know!

Bon appetite!


Deb said...

Recipes and pictures are amazing!

My latest addiction is using whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. I've been having so much fun using them. You already know about my brown rice jazzed up. Well quinoa is so versatile. You can flavor it with onions and garlic and cumin and chopped tomatoes for a spanish rice type grain. You can combine it with ground meat and stuff peppers or cabbage.

I even took a class called cooking with grains, we used barley and quinoa and buckwheat.


Have fun with grains!

Veriance said...

this is where a gas stove really is better. Dh doesn't grumble too much about the flat top stove, but when it comes to fire roasting peppers, you can't beat a gas stove! Looks delish!

The Diva on a Diet said...

I'm with you, Deb, love those grains! Have you done anything with wheat berries yet? I adore them and must find my old recipe and post it. They're delish!

Veriance - I couldn't agree more, got to have the gas stove for roasting peppers. Such a PITA to do it under the boiler.

Deb said...

I have not tried wheatberries yet but hear they are quite good. Would love your recipe. Ina Garten does a wheatberry salad that looks great.

Wish I ahd that gas atove but alas not for me. My Mom used to do the peppers in an old fashioned pie tin on the electric stove top. Worked fine.


The Diva on a Diet said...

Will put the wheat berry dish on the menu soon so I can post the recipe, Deb. I remember that the husband wasn't as enamored of them as I was ... we'll see what he thinks now. LOL

Also, cool tip about roasting the peppers in a pie plate.