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Traditional Chilies Relleno

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    Posted: 29 September 2015 at 19:43
Years ago, when there were wolves in Wales and snakes in Ireland I was introduced to Chile Relleno, that iconic Mexican dish of stuffed peppers in a spicy sauce.

Oddly enough, the lady who made them---a friend’s mother---wasn’t Mexican, but Ecuadoran. Go figure! Her version remains the best Chile Relleno I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve tried quite a few through the years, both in restaurants and at home.

Don’t get me wrong. Chiles Relleno are like sex and money. Even when they’re bad, they’re good. But none of the ones I’ve tried comes close. Another problem: Each of us has one or two (or more) cookery techniques that we just can’t master. For me, sealing the stuffed chili is one of them. No matter how I try, I wind up tearing the peppers, or extending the side-cuts beyond repair. But I keep trying.

Latest attempt was Rick Bayless’ recipe for Chiles Relleno de Picadillo en Caldillo de Jitomate. That mouthful translates as Pork Picadillo-Stuffed Whiles in Tomato Broth. It comes as close to my original experience to make no never mind; although the original were somewhat spicier---an easy enough problem to fix. In my case, because Friend Wife doesn’t do heat well, it was perfect.

Although time-consuming (which is my Mexican housewives usually reserve them for special occasions), nothing about them is hard. Except that dad-blasted sealing of the cut edge. I tried. Honestly I did. Neither toothpicks nor skewers did the job for me. Friend Wife suggested, only half facetiously, that I use a stapler.

In the end I made one major change. I split the chilies lengthwise, batter-dipped them, and fried them along. For service I poured some of the broth into each bowl, arranged a few of the fried pepper halves on the sauce, and topped them with the filling.

Didn’t look quite the same. But the flavors remained and textures were maintained.

If you’re used to the Tex/Mex versions, with their heavy breading and thick sauces, these will be a surprise. The batter is light, more like a tempura than a breading. And they swim in a broth, rather than a thick sauce. This is the way my friend’s mother made them

All in all, I’m happy with the results. But, dang it, I really would like to learn how to effect the side-seals. Maybe I can find a Mexican housewife willing to teach me?

At any rate, here is the recipe:

Chiles Relleno de Picadillo en Caldillo de Jitomate

3 tbls lard (preferred) or vegetable oil
2 medium onions in ¼-inch dice
2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes in juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups chicken or beef stock (I used beef for this dish)
½ cup slivered almonds
1 ½ pounds coarsely ground pork shoulder
½ cup raisins
1 tbls cider vinegar
Salt
Vegetable oil for frying
8 medium Poblano chilies, not twisted or deeply indented
8 6-inch wooden skewers or 16 toothpicks
6 large eggs, cold
2 tbls all-purpose flour plus about one cup for dredging the chilies
Sprigs of fresh cilantro, watercress, or flat-leaf parsley for garnish

For Broth Base and Filling:

In a medium large saucepan (4 quarts), heat the lard or oil over medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring regularly, until they are well browned, about 10 minutes. While they are cooking, puree the undrained tomatoes (a blender works better than a food processor for this).

When the onions are well browned, raise the heat to medium-high and add the cinnamon, pepper, and pureed tomatoes. Stir frequently as the mixture boils, reducing it to the consistency of a thick tomato sauce, about 25 minutes. Remove 2 cups of the tomato sauce and stir in the stock. Partially cover and let simmer 45 minutes while you prepare the filling and chilies.

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat Add the almonds and cook, stirring, until they’re a deep golden brown. Remove. Crumble the pork into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up any large chunks, until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. If there is excessive oil, drain it off. Stir in the reserved tomato mixture, the raisins, and vinegar. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture is very thick and homogeneous, about 20 minutes. Stir in the almonds, and season with salt. Let cool.

While the picadillo is cooking, pour one inch of oil into a deep, heavy skillet or pot and set over medium to medium-high. Heat to 350F. In batches, fry the chilies, turning them continually, for about 2 minutes until they are evenly blistered. Drain on paper towels. Remove the oil from the heat.*
When the chilies are cool enough to handle, rub off the blistered skins, they cut an incision in the side of each one, started ½ inch below the stem end and continuing to within ½ inch of the tip. One by one, work your index finger inside each chili and dislodge all the seeds clustered just below the stem. Quickly rinse the seeds from inside the chilies, being careful not to rip or tear the opening and wider; rinse off any stray bits of skin. Drain cut side down on paper towels.

Stuff each well-drained chili with about ½ cup of the filling, then slightly overlap the two sides of the incision and pin them back together with a skewer or 2 toothpicks. For the greatest ease in battering and frying, flatten the chilies slightly, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and freeze for about an hour to firm.

Reheat the oil to 350F; set up a tray lined with several layers of paper towels. Separate the eggs; whites into the bowl of an electric mixer, the yolks into a small bowl. Add ½ teaspoon salt to the whites and begin beating hem on medium speed. When they are beginning to look dry and hold a stiff peak but are not at all rigid, beat in the yolks two at a time until well incorporated. Lastly, beat in the 2 tablespoons flour. Spread the 1 cup flour on a plate.

One at a time, batter the first four chilies. Roll them in the flour, shake off any excess, pick up by the stem, dip into the batter and quickly pull straight up out of the batter, then lay into the hot oil. Once the first four chilies are in the oil, begin gently, gently basting them with spoonfuls of hot oil (this will help set the uncooked batter on top). When they’re richly golden on the bottom, about four minutes, use one small metal spatula underneath and another one (or a spoon) on top to gently turn the chilies over. Fry until the other side is richly golden, another 3 to 4 minutes. Using the metal spatula, remove the chilies to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining chilies.

Heat the oven to 400F. Once all the fried chilies have cooled for at least five minutes, pick them up by carefully rolling each one onto one hand, then transfer to a baking sheet (lined with parchment if you wish, for extra ease at serving time). Pull out the skewers by twisting the gently. Bake for 15 minutes to heat thoroughly, to render some of the absorbed oil, and to crisp slightly.
   
Meanwhile, bring the tomato broth to a boil and check the consistency. It should be similar to a brothy tomato soup. If it’s too thick, thin with a little water or stock; if too tin, boil rapidly until thickened slightly. Season it with salt, usually about ½ teaspoon.

Ladle about ½ cup of the broth into each of eight deep serving bowls. Nestle in one of the chilies, garnish with herbs, and get ready for a taste of real Mexico.

*Of all the ways to blister and peel chilies, frying is the slowest and most messy. I did it this way just to follow the recipe as closely as possible. But next time I’ll char them on a gas- or charcoal grill. I recommend you do the same.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2015 at 21:27
I cannot believe it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Even the local galvanized mexicans insist on saying and writing the dish as chili relleneos.
I have given up on explaining that the peppers are plural, not the stuffing.
Yes , getting the peppers to close up and stay closed is a continuing problem, however, the results are worth the effort.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 September 2015 at 21:42
I've had great success with Cowgirl's method.

"Either dip the bottoms of the peppers in the batter and lay in the hot oil OR spoon a pillow of batter into the pan and lay the peppers on top. Then spoon more batter over the top. This is a lot easier than dipping the whole pepper when they are stuffed. Also no need to use toothpicks with this method."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 September 2015 at 10:50
That might work with the more typical thick batters. But Bayless' version is light and airy. I don't think there's enough weight to sink down and enrobe the chili.

Think in terms of a tempura, rather than a real batter.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 September 2015 at 22:13
In Mexico there are other chilies relleno, many are canned, most are very large jalapenos stuffed with something, usually tuna, octopi and squid.
If you are in Mexico, go into a supermarket,( supermercado) and cruise the canned goods shelves.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 September 2015 at 23:53
Of course, chilies relleno merely means "stuffed chilies," or "stuffed peppers." What marks them as different is the side slit (as opposed to cutting off the crowns as is typical in Europe), and the boldly flavored sauce. The filling, itself, can be anything including pork, beef, fish & seafood, or cheese.

Although any chili could be used, Poblano is the traditional pod of choice throughout Mexico.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 06:38
This really looks good, Brook - there are a few ingredients that I wouldn't have expected, but that is the genius of Bayless, isn't it? I've always enjoyed watching or reading his work.

I really need to try this dish. Even a simplified, basic version would get my foot in the door. When I eat "real" Mexican food, this is one of my favourites to order.

Thanks for posting! Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 07:07
    I have never made chili rellenos that was cut down the side and then fried.  The few times I've done this dish I took off the chili top.

   I found a video of Bayless making chili relleno.  He runs through a some thoughts on chili relleno, then makes some shrimp stuffed chili's.  It's a good episode, but he ends up showing an open version, cooked in corn husks, that can easily be done at home.  It was nice to see, and sounds really good...but I was hoping he was going to show us his technique.  



  Here's the recipe, at Bayless's Frontera website.  I know in the distant past Bayless would answer questions posted on his website.  Perhaps a few words asking him what the trick is may be the trick.

  


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 09:28
Humm, sounds as though it is a cross bred tamale and something else.
There is no really right way to do Mexican food, but some are more traditional.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 10:26
So, not having a gas grill or stove, is there another easy way to char and skin the peppers, other than firing up my charcoal grill? Would the broiler in the oven work or do you really need open flame? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 12:13
A suggestion would be to buy a propane torch at the hardware store, It would have some other uses in the kitchen.
I have both a gas range and a propane grill so I do not feel the need for one.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 14:48
For small numbers of chilies and sweet peppers I use a torch, as Drinks suggests. Just a plain old propane torch, available at any hardware or home-goods store.

For larger amounts I prefer the grill, just in the interest of time. There's no reason the broiler wouldn't work, with one proviso: space. You want the peppers to be directly under the heating unit. Which means, depending on the size of your broiler and the number of pods, you might have to do them in batches.

They also have to be turned fairly often, as they char. And that could maybe get awkward using the broiler.

Worst comes to worse, use the frying method. It's only real drawback is that it's messy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 15:14
Thanks for the suggestions guys. While reading your replies I just realized I have an old coleman propane camping stove in the back of the shed somewhere. That should do the trick. Just need to make sure I have all the parts for it still. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2015 at 19:12
I have blistered chilies over a gas stove, on a charcoal bbq grill, thrown them directly on hot coals, under the broiler in my kitchen stove, with a MAP gas torch, and a weed burner.

The torch works well for blistering but it works so fast the chilies are not roasted when the process is complete.  This is not necessarily a bad thing. Just something to be aware of.

Placing chilies under the broiler in your kitchen stove works very well and it is my go to method when nothing else is readily available.  Or it's cold and rainy outside.  Or when I'm just plain lazy and there are a lot of chilies.  Just turn them as they blacken.
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