Chilli Rellenos (Poblano)

  • Time: 3 hours
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: medium

Chilli rellenos are an amazing combination of ingredients and cooking techniques. They’re a little fiddly, but as with so many involved recipes, perseverance is rewarded. This recipe uses fresh poblanos, which are sometime available online (Cool Chile). Whole tinned poblanos are easier to find, but they are rather fragile, so I would substitute other types of chillies, peppers or small peppers. . I’ve suggested three different ways with the cheese centres for each of the three chilli rellenos recipes (see notes in method below). All are delicious and ensure a smooth oozing cheese melt – so mix and match to suit.

This recipe makes 4 chillie rellenos. They are very moreish but also quite rich. Serve as a starter or light lunch or supper with some rice and a green salad.

Fried chillies stuffed with cheese.

What you need

For the chipotle and tomato sauce

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

3 chipotles in adobe and their sauces, home-made or from a tin

3 bay leaves

1 tsp dried oregano

400g pulped tomatoes

400ml chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water

1 tsp red wine vinegar

For the peppers

4 poblano chillies or 4 small normal green peppers

300g finely grated medium cheddar cheese

2 level tsp cornflour

200ml milk

40g fresh white breadcrumbs

Juice of half a lime

1 tsp epazote (optional)

3 jalapeno chillies if using green peppers

Plain flour

A little fresh coriander or parsley to garnish

For the batter

3 eggs

1 tbs plain flour

1 lt vegetable oil for frying



Dad's Recipe Tales

Chilli Rellenos

Once upon a time, I witnessed a remarkable culinary event: Ricky, a young handsome man visiting from the States made our family chilli rellenos.

This was back in the 70’s, a period when Old El Paso food products were yet to wash up on the shores of the British Isles (a land where the indigenous population were largely unaware of the culinary delights of Spanish-speaking civilizations). My family, of course, were very familiar with the food of Mexico, having lived in Southern California, an area immersed in the wider influence of its southern neighbour.

Ricky was a close friend of my sister (who was living in the States at the time). He was travelling in Europe and staying at our mother’s house for a few days. A call came through; Ricky had invited us to dinner.

Hang on… Why is a young handsome American man cooking dinner? Surely, he should be hitting baseballs in the park with the kids, or lookin’ for adventure in the Surrey hills on a gleaming Triumph Bonneville, or at least swooning the British lasses down the pub with his alluring American accent.

Instead, Ricky sets off for the local shops, seeking the obscure ingredients, herbs and spices to make chilli rellenos. On his return, he unpacks his bags, dons an apron and takes over the family kitchen, much to our mother’s surprise and amusement.

To make his chilli rellenos Ricky would have bought large chillies (poblanos in Mexico). He would have then roasted them in a very hot oven or under a hot grill until they were blackened and blistered then cooled them in a covered bowl. He would have then delicately skinned and de-seeded the chillies and stuffed them with a couple types of cheese and herbs (epazote in Mexico). He would have then sealed them and and dusted in flour before enrobing in a whisked egg batter and then frying in oil until the cheese is oozing and the crust was browned and crisp. To serve, he would have placed the chillies in a pool of hot chilli and tomato broth, garnished simply with a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro.

Clearly, making chilli rellenos requires a fair amount of cooking nous, but it’s also about the intent, the presentation, a little showing off, and just a hint of magic.

There certainly was a ‘ta-da’ moment as the rellenos made their way from the kitchen. No doubt, Ricky had sussed long ago that cooking was a far more effective way to woo the ladies. He certainly made his mark at our mother’s dining table – and by all accounts, my sister’s too.

I had not quite established the interest in cooking that I have now, but I could recognise the nascent budding fascination with food within, such that Ricky and his ability to cook also enraptured me.

Later, Ricky explained he was a bit of a gourmet and subscribed to the food connoisseurs’ magazine, Bon Appétit. This was an American mag, and although Ricky aroused a hankering, it seemed impractical (or a little obsessive) to form my own subscribed loyalty at that stage of my life.

These days Bon Appétit is widely available. I sometimes, browse the online version – it reminds me of Ricky and how that night, at his dinner, I hoped one day to be able to cook like him.

It also seems that Ricky’s cooking had quite an influence on my sister. I believe she still adheres to some of his culinary tenets:

   Always use the best ingredients

   Spend as much time cooking for yourself as you do for others

   Always buy the more expensive bottle of wine – it’s much better value.

 

Epilogue

I do not know what happened to Ricky – his and my sister’s ships sailed different paths. He may have become a famous chef, or perhaps cooking was just his sideline and he became the CEO of a Tech Co in Silicon Valley. I like to think he reconciled his Mexican instincts and is touring Latin America with his Mariarchi band – Ricky and the Chillies Rellenos…

 

 

How Dad Cooked It

I have developed three different cheese centres for my chilli rellenos – the usual recipes use grated cheese, so if the idea of making complex sauces is too much just follow the Padron peppers recipe for using cheese only. The sauce-based cheese centres also require a small chopper, or food processor, if this equipment is not available, again, follow the method for Padron peppers.

  1. Padron peppers. A grated cheddar and mozzarella centre. This tastes the most of cheese – a pure melted cheese. For those worried that the cheese might split, it will not. That is not unless it is over-cooked – the beauty of the chilli rellenos recipe is that by the time the batter has cooked the cheese will have just melted. It can be a little fiddly to get the cheese in the chillie, but once you’ve done one, the rest are much easier. See the recipe at chilli rellenos (padron)
  2. Small peppers. A cold blitzed fondue mix. You can taste the wine, which helps to keep the whole recipe fresh and tasty. This sauce oozes from the chillies in a gorgeous pool. It needs a little help to become perfectly smooth – but this happens naturally with a couple twists of a fork. The sauce is cooled in the fridge after blitzing allowing the moulding of a chilli-shaped lump of cheese which makes filling the chilli easy and satisfying. See the recipe at chilli rellenos (small peppers)
  3. Poblano chillies. A pre-cooked cheese sauce blitzed and cooled in the fridge. This tastes of a beautiful cheese sauce. As it is not so intense it makes sense to use this in a larger portion for a larger chilli such as the poblano. The sauce is smooth and unctuous and will not split however much it is over-cooked. The sauce is cooled in the fridge after blitzing allowing the moulding of a chilli-shaped lump of cheese which make filling the chilli easy and satisfying. See the recipe below.

To make the chilli rellenos

To make the chipotle and tomato sauce

  1. Chop the onion and garlic finely, pour a good glug of virgin olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan with lid and sweat the onions for 5 minutes then add the garlic and sweat for another 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, oregano, chipotles en adobo and vinegar,  stir and fry for a minute to break up the chipotles. Then add the stock and bring to a boil, stir and then add the tomatoes bring back to a boil and stir. Put the lid ajar on the pan and reduce the heat to lowest setting so that the sauce gently simmers. Cook for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and cool the sauce slightly. Using a stick blender or standard blender blitz the sauce and then strain back into the pan. Set aside until ready to serve.

To make the peppers and cheese fillings

  1. Grate the cheese with the fine side of a box grater. Spread on a plate and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to dry a little.
  2. Grill the chillies or peppers under a grill, turning each to blacken and blister evenly. It is not necessary to completely blacken the chillies and they should not cook so much that they are fragile and floppy. A bit of firmness will help things later on. Put them all in a bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to steam for 30 minutes. Then carefully peel the skin from the pepper, and then make a single cut down the length of the pepper with a sharp knife from just below the top to just before the tip. Using a spoon carefully scoop out the seeds trying to keep the chilli/pepper intact. Drain the chillies/peppers and put aside.
  3. Put the cheese in a bowl and add the corn flour. Toss the cheese to coat with the cornflour, then put the cheese into a strainer and shake to remove any excess cornflour. Pour the milk into a sauce pan heat until hot but not boiling. Add the cheese and stir slowly, then add the breadcrumbs. Continue to heat and stir until the sauce combines bringing up to a very low simmer then cool. Put the cheese into a small chopper or food processor (or use a stick blender in the pan), add the lime juice and epazote, if using, and blitz to make a smooth sauce. Put the cheese mix in a bowl, cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm. NB: If using a small chopper, it may be necessary to make the sauce in two stages. If using green peppers, trim the top off the jalapenos and then cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and the pith and chop finely. Transfer the cheese mix to a bowl and stir in the chillies, cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm.
  4. To fill the chillies take about 60g of cheese mix (or more depending on your chillies/peppers) and mould it into a chilli/pepper shape. (Any leftover cheese can be used for more chilli rellenos or for cheese rarebits!). Carefully insert the cheese inside the chilli/pepper, ensuring the cut edges come together. Set aside and continue with the others.

To prepare the frying oil and make the batter

  1. Fill a high-sided saute pan or chef’s pan or flat-bottomed wok with about 750ml of oil. Heat slowly whilst making the batter below. Try to get the batter ready just as the oil is coming up to temperature (175C-180C).
  2. Separate the eggs with the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Add a pinch of salt to the whites and a level tablespoon of flour to the yolks. Beat the egg whites to stiff peak stage and then beat the yolks until thickened and pale. Scrape the yolks into the whites and beat for just a moment or two until mixed. Do not make the batter before you are ready to cook the peppers.

To cook the peppers

  1. Pour some flour into a wide shallow bowl and dust all the cillies/peppers to coat evenly.
  2. Using forks dip a pepper in the batter and roll to coat evenly. Pull it out of the batter using your implements (not fingers) and carefully place in the oil. Do this with no more two chillies/peppers at a time. Allow the chillies to cook a while before attempting to turn. You will find that most – if not all – are resistant to turning so it is best to use a small ladle to pour hot over the top. Brown the chillies all over – each should not take more than about 5 minutes. Drain well on paper towels. Continue with the others, topping up the oil if necessary. The peppers can be kept warm on a wire rack in a low oven – or they can be cooled and re-heated in the oven just before serving.
  3. To serve, re-heat the chipotle and tomato sauce. For each person, place a chilli or pepper on a large pool of hot sauce and garnish with coriander or parsley.
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