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Chiles Rellenos (GF & Vegetarian)

From Janice: Chiles Rellenos are one of those simple recipes that I am more likely to eat in a restaurant, but are so easy and good to make at home. I learned to make them from my high school boyfriend’s Aunt Henrietta, known as “Auntie Hank.” She carefully separated the egg whites from the yolks, thickened the yolks with a little flour; made a simple tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, a little broth, salsa and cheese soup (not a traditional Mexican sauce). Auntie Hank used whole canned Anaheim chiles, and after stuffing them with cheese, dipped them in the batter, then carefully fried what are essentially chile souffles. Served with some freshly made pinto beans, they make a lovely brunch or lunch, or even a dinner for meatless Monday.

I’ve found that it’s very easy, and far tastier, to use her basic egg recipe, but with fresh chiles. Fresh poblano chiles are the usual choice, though the long green, milder Anaheim chiles are used in parts of Mexico as well. I place them on top of the gas burner of my stove, and char the outsides until quite black, turning them to evenly roast them. You want a nice charred coating, not too deep, which you will peel off, revealing the tender cooked chile, which will then be stuffed with cheese.

For a quick and easy sauce, I use bottled or canned salsa, hot or mild, depending on your preference. Keep in mind that chile poblanos already have a little heat, especially near the stem. You can use a salsa verde or a salsa casera. I love the salsas from Herdez, which are made in Mexico, and are readily available in markets. Or if you have the time, make a simple fresh tomato sauce with onions and garlic for drizzling over your fresh chile rellenos.

Chiles Rellenos

Serves 4

4 fresh poblano chiles or 6 anaheim chiles

4 eggs, separated

2 Tbs. white rice flour (could sub for arrowroot starch or tapioca flour, too)

Dash of salt

Freshly ground pepper

12 oz. mild fresh cheese, such as jack, or a creamy Basque sheep’s cheese

Neutral oil such as avocado or safflower

Red or green salsa, such as Herdez – see note above.

Wash chiles, then place them on the grate of gas burner over a low flame. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you could broil them, turning several times.) Turn the chiles often, trying to get an even char all over. You don’t want to cook them so deeply that their juice weeps out.

When evenly roasted, remove from heat, and place in a paper bag to sweat for 15-30 minutes. After they’ve cooled, you simply rub off the char, revealing a beautifully cooked chile. Then make a slit in one side, and carefully scrape out the seeds and veins. Your chile is now ready to stuff with cheese.

While chiles are roasting, mix the egg yolks with the rice flour and salt and pepper. Cut the cheese into long batons about ½” thick and 4” long. (Alternatively, you could grate the cheese and mold it into batons, for easier melting.) After chiles are peeled, place a baton of cheese in each chile, and use a toothpick to close up the opening, if desired.

Lastly, beat the egg whites until just stiff, and gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place a stuffed chile into the batter until it is well coated. Place it in the oil. You can add a bit of the batter to the chile in the pan if necessary. Fry until lightly browned on one side, 3-5 minutes; turn over and fry the other side. Continue until all chiles are cooked, adding more oil if necessary. Don’t crowd the pan; it may take a couple of batches. You can keep them warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve, but don’t wait too long, they’re better fresh.

Serve with salsa drizzled over your chile rellenos, with beans or a shredded salad on the side.

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