Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Burning Eyes, A Lot Like Home

I wouldn't say that I know everything about Mexican cooking because #1 - I was born in America and #2 - I haven't tried all the wonderful varieties of Mexican food. Each state is different; there's the eclectic avant-garde cuisine in Mexico City, the islandic inspired food from Veracruz and the rich mole from Oaxaca. The Mexican food I know ranges from the very loved burrito to (the stink up your house while preparing but turns out delicious) menudo. I decided when we moved from home that I would learn how to prepare Mexican food more often and more from scratch.

My little dream came to a crushing halt. The "authentic" part would have to wait because my ingredients in my town are lacking but no matter, I look to what I have available and go from there. I recently decided to cook a vegetarian gem of Mexican cuisine - the chile relleno. I cannot remember the last time I had one. But as I started to make it, I kicked myself for not trying to make it earlier, or at least learning to make it when I had an abundance of knowledge (my moms, aunts and Gramma) at my fingertips. Luckily, my aunt was able to help me over the phone.

The beauty of this dish is that it looks really fancy when done right and it's so simple to make. The spice factor varies from pepper to pepper but these were making my nose run.


The first thing you do is make the red chile sauce. It just makes everything easier. Now, char or blacken the poblano peppers. Do not remove the stem! You can do this by heating up your griddle or put them under the broiler. Both ways require babysitting. I put mine under the broiler and turned them every 3 minutes until all the sides were black and the peppers were soft. As I was doing this, the heat and steam would escape from the oven every time I opened the door. The spicy smell would go up my nose and sting my eyes. These peppers were hot, I just knew it. Once they are blackened on all sides, throw them in a ziploc bag or put them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. The steam will loosen the blackened skin making the clean up process very easy.

While waiting for the peppers, whip your egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form. In a separate dish, whip your egg yolks. Then, fold the egg yolks into the whites. Heat your oil in a pan. I used a good amount of oil because you'll be frying the peppers. Whenever I fry anything, I let the oil heat up slowly, so I would set the stove to medium hi. The peppers should be ready to clean. Under a steady stream of cold water, rinse the skin off of the very soft peppers. Be careful not to tear the pepper, if you do it's not a big deal. All of mine were torn. If you are perfect and have no tears in your peppers, make a small slit at the top of the pepper and add your cheese. Gently push cheese down into your pepper with a spoon. This would have been my plan if I didn't tear my peppers up. What I did was mad scientist work. I stuffed the cheese into the peppers, using the larger tear and secured it shut with toothpicks. Repeat for remaining peppers.

In a shallow dish, add 1/2 cup of flour. Dredge each pepper, and carefully shake off the excess; then dip the pepper into the egg mixture, and add to the oil. Preheat the oven to its lowest setting so you can keep your peppers warm and toasty. I had a little station set up: Stuffed peppers, flour, egg, hot oil. These babies brown up fast so have your tongs ready. Brown both sides.

The plating is key. Spoon your homemade red chile sauce onto a shallow dish. It should cover the bottom like a gravy. Lay your chile relleno on top. It is so beautiful. I'm so upset that I didn't take a picture of this beautiful dish. It's so tender, creamy and spicy all at the same time. Don't forget about the toothpicks if you used them, pull them out! I used a dab of sour cream to tone down the spice, it was delicious. The smell that filled my house was reminiscent of home. I know, I get homesick a lot. Try this dish, it's wonderful.

Happy Eating.

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