Chile Rellenos with Tomato Sauce

This could have been a disaster. In fact, for a moment I thought it would be.

The poblano chiles were in the skillet. The oil didn’t seem hot enough, batter was falling off the chiles, and the slit in one of them looked like it would start oozing cheese.

I made this meal for Jeff’s father for a pre-Father’s Day celebration, and it turned out just fine. Actually, the chile rellenos turned out great. I’ll attribute my moment of panic to the fact I’d never made this before.

For starters, you char the chiles over the gas burner (or put them under the broiler, only ours is pretty gross so we rarely use it). The chiles go one at a time on the burner grates. You use tongs to turn them over the gas flame. I was a bit timid about this. The chiles crackled and popped, and I removed them early out of fear of catching something on fire. As a result, I didn’t char the first two enough. Trust me on this. Leave them on longer than I did. You won’t catch anything on fire. If they’re completely blackened, they’re easier to peel.

Then you peel them, slit each one down the side and carefully remove the ribs and the seed pod, taking care not to tear the pepper. And then you stuff each one with cheese. I ended up using toothpicks to close the slits. The next step is dusting the peppers with flour. Each gets dunked into a frothy egg batter and placed in the skillet.

Fortunately, Jeff acted as sous chef during the last step. After we’d fried the first two chiles, we understood the process better and the second two turned out beautifully. The chile rellenos wasn’t spicy at all, but melty and tangy.  A confession: I’d never had chile rellenos before. However, John, Jeff’s dad, is a chile rellenos connoisseur. If it’s any indication, he had seconds.

Chile Rellenos with Tomato Sauce
Gourmet Today

For Tomato Sauce
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped white onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons corn or other vegetable oil

For Chiles
4 large poblano chiles with stems (1 pound total) roasted and allowed to steam (see instructions at the bottom) If poblanos aren’t available, use annaheim or any large chile
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated

For Coating and Frying
About 2 cups corn or other vegetable oil
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Accompaniment: white rice

Make the tomato sauce

Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender and blend until smooth.

Heat oil in a deep heavy 12-inch skillet or shallow flameproof casserole over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully pour in sauce (it may spatter) and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes (sauce will still be thin). Remove from heat.

Peel and stuff the chiles

Peel off charred skin from chiles, leaving stems attached. Cut a lengthwise slit in each chile and carefully cut out seed pod, including attached ribs, with kitchen shears; be careful not to tear chile. Wipe chiles clean with a  paper towel if necessary.

Stuff each chile with one quarter of cheese, enclosing it by overlapping slit slightly if possible. [I used toothpicks.] Transfer them to a large plate.

Coat and fry the chiles

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat until hot but not smoking. Meanwhile, beat egg whites with 1/8 teaspoon salt with an electric mixer just until they hold stiff peaks. Whisk together yolks and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Gently fold whites into yolks.

Put flour in a fine-mesh sieve and dust chiles with flour, turning to lightly coat all sides.

Reheat sauce over low heat.

Coat and fry chiles in 2 batches. Holding 1 chile by the stem, dip in egg coating, using a rubber spatula to help coat chile completely, then transfer, still holding by stem, to oil. Increase heat to moderatly high, then coat and add another chile in same manner. Fry, turning once with a slotted spoon and basting sides with hot oil to brown evenly, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add chiles to sauce. [Instead, I poured sauce over chiles after plating.] Coat and fry second batch of chiles in same manner, adjusting heat as necessary.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

** The sauce can be made up to one day ahead. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered.
** The chiles can be stuffed, but not coated, up to one day ahead. Refrigerate, covered. Bring to room temperature before coating and frying.

To roast and peel poblano chiles:

If using a gas stove, lay the chiles on their sides on the burner grates and turn the flames on high. Char the chiles, turning them with tongs, until the skins are blackened on all sides, 3 to 8 minutes.

If using a preheated broiler, put the chiles on the rack of the broiler pan and broil about 2 inches from the heat, turning them frequently, until the skins are blistered and charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chiles to a bowl, cover tightly, and let them stand until they are cool enough to handle. Peel them and remove the seeds and ribs.


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