Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chiles Rellenos de Elvira

World's least attractive chile relleno photo.
One of my maestras de espanol, Elvira, was sweet enough to invite me over to learn how to make chiles rellenos.  I'm guessing she has students over quite often, in addition to those private lessons she holds in her home.  I don't think she was as prepared for me to be as hands on as I was, but hey, if you let me start doing stuff from the beginning, you can't think I'm going to stand by and watch later!!  I totally should've taken photos along the way, but I didn't.  Sorry.  I'm sure someone else has though.
It was the weirdest thing - as I ate the first one, I thought, "this tastes like Christmas."  I can't put my finger on why as the recipe features only a minute amount of cinnamon, but guess what kids?  I sense a new Christmas tradition in the Romo household.

Elvira's Chiles Rellenos
poblano chiles with nice long stems (I'm guessing we used about a million - okay, maybe only 10)
harina (flour - we used whole wheat.. South Beach!)
jitomates (red tomatoes - the ratio is about 1 tomato to every pepper, but may need to be adjusted based on the tomatoes)
juevos (we ended up using about 8, in two batches - separated)
queso ranchero, tipo casero (make your own!  yeah right; or see below for an online resource if you can't find it in your store, however if you have a decent sized Mexican population in your area, you'll find this somewhere)
aceite (oil)
pimienta (whole peppercorns - about 1 tbsp)
canela (whole stick cinnamon - about 3")
cebolla (onion - we used one small white onion sliced into rings, but I may up that amount at home)
ajo (garlic - we did NOT use garlic, but I betcha I'm gonna)
sal (salt - to taste)
azucar (sugar - to taste; we didn't use any)

First things first - Open your windows and turn on a fan.  Unless of course you want your home to smell like fried food for the next few days.  If this is for a dinner party, you might want to do this before you're wearing your party clothes because you're gonna smell like Colonel Sanders.

Put the tomatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them; put to high heat and allow to boil.
Roast the chiles over your burners if you have a gas stove, or under the broiler if you don't.  Once the skin is blistered and bubbly, put them in a plastic bag and close it up.  Allow the chiles to sit in the bag for 10-15 minutes.
By now your tomatoes should be boiling; turn off the heat, and remove the tomatoes from the water.  Set aside.
Once your chiles are ready to peel, remove them from the bag and begin rubbing the blackened skin off; it should come away easily.  Make a small slit in the chile with your finger - 3-4 inches or so; you don't want to slit the entire length of the chili like I did.  Reach in to pull out the seeds; use running water to help you get them out and remove any last bits of skin from the outside.

** helpful hint: LOOK AWAY!!!!  Omg, I was sneezing and coughing and holy crap, it's easy to forget that just because they're not spicy they're still chiles.  The running water also helps with this.

** helpful hint #2: they are chiles.  Don't rub your eyes.  If you have cuts on your hands, you might want to wear gloves because it may not burn right then, but it will.  Oh, it will.  Again, don't rub your eyes.  Please don't rub your eyes.

Slice the queso thinly (as it comes in a large round) or crumble in your hand to make it easier to stuff the chiles without tearing them.  We stuffed an insane amount of cheese into each chile - you decide how much you want.  Once stuffed, set aside on a clean towel to hang out.

Put your tomatoes into a food processor or blender (it's the Mexican way!) and liquify.  You can do this in batches.  However, in one of these batches, you want to add your bit of cinnamon, your pepper, and a good tablespoon or two of salt and puree that up as well.
If your tomatoes aren't offering up a lot of liquid, you can use some of the water you used to boil them.
Now it's up to you whether you strain the sauce of the seeds, skin, etc., or if you just use it as is.  Totally up to you.  We did strain it, and I think I'll stick to that when I make these at home.

In a large pot, put a couple of tablespoons of oil and sautee the onions  I'm considering putting the onions into the blender with the tomatoes, maybe roasting them first, but it's also fine to just sautee them here (with the garlic that you're probably going to use even though the recipe doesn't call for it because garlic is delicious).  Once they're translucent, add the tomato sauce and stir, then taste for seasoning.  Now is the time to tweak the levels of salt, sugar and acid by adding salt, sugar or vinegar as needed.  We only added salt.  Allow to come to a boil then turn off heat.

In another large pan (or handy dandy deep fryer if you have one - lucky), put about half a liter of oil to fry up the chiles.  Heat over medium high.  The oil is ready when a drop of batter bubbles and starts to turn golden brown.  Pour some flour into a dish or onto a large plate.

While the oil is heating and the sauce is coming to a boil, separate your egg yolks from your egg whites; don't throw anything away, you need both yolks and whites (la clara).Now get someone started on whisking the whites - your boyfriend or your husband Francsico.  Because your student has weak little girl arms and this is hard.  I think I'll use a mixer thanks.  You need to whip the whites until they form stiff peaks.  Then you can gently mix the yolks into the whites.

By now your sauce should've come to a boil and your oil should be ready.  Take the sauce off the heat and be careful of the oil; if it's smoking already it's too hot).

For the following steps an assembly line and a helper if you can get one seem helpful:
Squeeze any excess liquid out of your peppers using a kitchen towel - you want to squeeze firmly, but you don't want to tear your pepper. Then cover the pepper in a thin layer of flour.  Don't mess with it too much here - too much handling heats up the pepper and can cause it to tear.
Put the pepper into the whipped eggs to cover.  Don't lift the pepper up out of the batter, take the whole shebang over to the oil so you don't have to worry about your pepper ripping under the weight.  You can grab it by the stem if it has nice long ones, or use a fork or spoon to lift it out.

CAREFULLY lay the pepper into the oil, starting with the tip and laying it down AWAY from yourself in case it spatters.  It should begin bubbling and sizzling right away - if it doesn't, your oil is too cold; if it smokes your oil is too hot and this pepper might not come out very well.  Total first pancake syndrome.  You can test your oil first if you're unsure.
Once you've got the pepper in the oil, you want to gently splash some oil on top of the pepper to help get the batter on top a little bit cooked so it doesn't fall apart.  Sound dangerous?  Yes.  You might want to consider using a spoon instead of flicking hot oil around as Elvira did.  Flip once ready to do so.

Once the chiles are golden brown on all sides, remove from the oil and set aside - either on a cooking rack or on some kitchen towel/paper towel to hang out.  At this point, the chiles can be refrigerated for up to a week until you're ready to use them.  If that time is now, put the sauce back onto the heat and plunk your chiles into it.  If you're doing a large batch, you may not be able to do this all at once.  Another option is to put the sauce and chiles into a baking dish and heat them up in the oven - probably a great option when you're reheating or using cold chiles.

Once the chile is heated through, eat the heck out of it - nom.

1 comment:

Quinn said...

I'm expecting an invite to Christmas dinner!