The name of this classic Mexican dish translates into “stuffed peppers,” and one of the most popular versions involves stuffing poblano peppers (which are mildly hot) with a semi-soft, mild cheese, such as Monterey Jack. Often, chiles are dipped in an egg batter first, as in this recipe, but you can omit this step for a lighter dish. You can also bake them with a little olive oil instead of frying them. This makes enough batter to coat 8 large peppers; if yours are smaller, you can adjust the amount of batter accordingly.
Making chiles rellenos is neither a quick nor tidy process, but the result is a crowd-pleaser. I like them served with rice.
• 8 poblano or other mild-to-medium chile peppers
• 1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese
• 6 large eggs
• 1 cup whole-wheat flour
• 1 cup olive oil
• Coarse salt, to taste
• Tabasco sauce, to taste
1. Cut the stem ends off the peppers and, using your fingers, carefully pull out and discard their ribs and seeds. Wear gloves if the peppers are spicy. Then, peel the peppers by first exposing them to high heat to make them blister. Peeling will help the batter adhere, remove the bitterness that poblano skins sometimes have, and add a pleasant hint of charred flavor. You can blister them in various ways: by placing them on a grill and turning them often, by holding them with tongs over a gas stovetop flame, by searing them in a skillet with a little olive oil, or by placing them directly under a hot broiler. They’ll make a popping noise as the dark blisters appear. Take care that the flesh doesn’t burn. Place them immediately in a paper bag and close it tightly so the peppers will sweat. This will make them easier to peel, and will help soften them for stuffing.
2. After about 20 minutes, remove the peppers and rub the skins off. Rinsing will help remove the skin, but let the peppers dry a bit before stuffing. Don’t worry if some skin remains. Cut the cheese into small logs and insert some into each pepper through the hole in the top where you removed the stem end.
3. Separate the eggs. Beat the whites until stiff peaks form, and whisk the yolks. Fold the yolks gently into the whites, and then fold in the flour. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet big enough to hold 2 or 3 peppers. When it’s hot, dip the peppers in the batter — best done with your fingers — coating them as evenly as possible. Drop them into the hot fat in small batches and fry until golden-brown on both sides. Drain on parchment paper or a paper plate, and then arrange on a hot platter. Sprinkle with salt.
4. Serve hot, with Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce passed at the table.
More About Cucumbers and Peppers:
Barbara Damrosch and her husband, Eliot Coleman, own Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine. Preserved hot chile peppers keep their meals lively during Maine’s long winters. She is the author of The Garden Primer and, with Coleman, of The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.