Chile Rellenos, or stuffed peppers, originated in Central Mexico. The common peppers found in the Federal district of Puebla were named after the capitol city, Puebla (akin to New York, NY), as Poblano chiles. These peppers are used to make chile rellenos. Two types of filling can be used: minced meat with spices and vegetables, or cheese. During Lent, the meat is omitted. Grandma likes to stuff her Poblano peppers with ground beef, carrot, potato, onion, tomato, garlic, and cumin. We forgot the onion in this batch, but it didn’t seem to matter in the end.
Earlier in the morning, Grandpa prepared the chiles by rubbing them with oil and warming them in a covered pan. The point is to remove the skins and leave the chiles whole, stem and all. The seeds should be removed as they can be bitter and spicy.
I helped grate the Chihuahua cheese. This cheese is similar to a white Cheddar or a Monterrey Jack. When the stuffed chile is cooked it slowly melts and stays inside the pepper. I feared it would run out into the pan and we would have empty shells. The best way to describe it is thick.
Eggs are beaten in stages. First the whites with some cream of tartar and salt. Beat until stiff then add the yolks and beat until stiff again. Use 1 egg per chile plus 1 or 2 more to be sure you have enough batter to cover every chile.
The mise en place is ready. A plate of seasoned flour. The egg batter. The stuffed chiles. We are warming a pan with canola oil, about a 1/4 cup, to fry the stuffed and battered chiles. Half the peppers are meat & veggie, the other half are Chihuahua cheese.
Here we go! Dust a stuffed pepper with the seasoned flour. Dunk this in the egg batter and gently scoop the foamy eggs over the pepper, be careful to keep the “seam” side up, this will reduce the chance of the filling ending up in the eggs or the oil in the pan.
A flat, straight-sided pan is not the ideal shape for this process. Grandma was looking for a concave pan, like a small wok, to make the flipping and turning part easier. We had to work with the pans I had in the kitchen. It doesn’t take long to fry each facet of the chile relleno. Transfer the finished chile to paper to drain. Repeat with the remaining peppers.
I tried my own chile relleno, sans batter and frying.
I roasted two pobalno peppers in the oven (350ºF for about 20 minutes, turning half way), then peeled off the skins. The filling was ground beef, onion, garlic, carrot, potato, cumin, and tomato sauce. Monterrey Jack cheese was used with the meat filling, then returned to the oven to melt the cheese.
A combination of both flavours Grandma made. Dare I say the merger was even tastier than the original separate stuffings? Yes. Yes, it was.
Peppers are good vessels for all sorts of stuffings. Use leftover rice, beans, breadcrumbs, or other vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and taste buds.