My sister Shannon, who is a relatively recent recruit to the club of vegetarianism, and I have started our own ‘Christmas feast’ tradition. Our family’s feast usually consists of turkey and/or ham, neither of which fit very well into our current culinary repertoire. We’re both fans of international foods, so last year we made an Indian feast, and this year we went for Mexican (or is it really Tex-Mex? I’m never completely certain). I have to note that this was my first attempt at chiles rellenos, but it was a very worthy attempt. It went so well, in fact, that my brother and parents scarfed down all of the leftovers when my sister and I were out doing some post-Christmas shopping. Thanks a lot, family. But hey, if that means they liked my food, then that further validates my efforts in bringing these recipes to all of you, my loyal followers. The surly vegetarian will blog on!
*Also, many thanks to the parents for letting me use their kitchen and pantry ingredients!
- 8 poblano (or pasilla) chiles
- Oaxaca cheese (Mexican mozzarella)
- Cotija cheese (Mexican cheese, kind of like a milder feta)
- Lots of vegetable oil
- Masa harina (corn flour)
- Bread crumbs
- 3 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Chili powder
- Ground cumin
- Red enchilada sauce
- Optional: avocado slices
- Optional: cilantro
In case you didn’t notice, this recipe doesn’t involve much measuring of ingredients. It kind of depends on how many chiles you want to make, how big they are, how much you want to stuff them, how big your frying pan is etc. This is ‘cooking by feeling’ at its finest, but hopefully this can serve as a guide for your own attempts.
The first thing you’ll need to do is roast the chiles. I just popped them into the oven whole on a baking sheet at 400 degrees. Let them roast about 20-30 minutes, turning them over halfway. The skin should start to blister and pull away from the flesh. Pull the hot chilies out of the oven, place into a large bowl, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let sit for 15 minutes. This will allow the chiles to cool and will help the skin come off. Then pull off as much of the skin as possible. I then cut off the stem, allowing me to get in and scoop out the seeds. My chiles also happened to be very spicy, so I ran them under some cold water to further rinse out the seeds.
Next! You will want to cut large chunks/slices of cheese, and carefully stuff them into your chilies as shown above. I added about equal parts oaxaca and cotija. Then you’ll need to get ready for breading and frying the chilies. First get a large frying pan and fill about half an inch deep with vegetable oil (NOT olive oil!). Heat over medium-high heat. Oil is ready to fry once it starts shimmering.
On one plate, spoon out plenty of masa harina. In a shallow bowl, beat a few eggs (I used 3 whole eggs to coat 8 chiles). On another large plate, spoon out equal amounts breadcrumbs and masa harina. To the breadcrumb mixture, season with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Taste the mixture to assess the flavor. It should taste pretty good on its own, and keep in mind that this is going to be the majority of your coating.
I used some metal tongs to handle the chiles while coating and frying. You have to be careful not to let the cheese slip out. First coat in the masa, then the beaten eggs, then the breadcrumb mixture. Then immediately place into the hot oil. I let the chiles cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, until the coating turns golden brown, as shown right. Set fried chiles on a paper towel-lined plate to drain some of the excess oil. Now your chiles are ready to do whatever you want with! If you want to keep them warm and/or melt the cheese further, pop them in an oven at 350 degrees for a little while. Serve smothered with sauce of your choice (I recommend my red enchilada sauce), and sprinkled with some cilantro and crumbled cotija, and sliced avocado on the side. Feliz Navidad, indeed.