Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chile Relleno Nirvana

Mexican food has been one of my favorite cuisines for most of my life.  I can still picture in my mind the way my mom would "set up" tacos at our house.  Little bowls lined up on the counter with diced tomato, cheddar, shredded lettuce, olives, and taco meat, of course.  As we aged, our Mexican repertoire grew.  This was helped along by the fact that one of our good friends, who happened to be Mexican, opened a restaurant near our house.  Now, it was easy to get our hands on enchiladas, tamales, panchitos, quesadillas, carne asada and chile relleno. 

Relleno is hands down my favorite Mexican dish.  But, it's not always made the same way.  Some restaurants serve a plate of gobs of melted cheese under which you discover a slice of pepper draped over some hamburger meat.  This is not relleno. You may be saying, "But, Elizabeth, it's a Mexican restaurant. Surely they know what a relleno is."  Here's my retort:  just because you own a restaurant doesn't mean you're a good cook. Some restaurants get closer by actually serving a stuffed poblano, but they don't call it relleno, but the otherwise catchy title of "stuffed poblano."  Crafty little diablos.  I've had some that are pretty darn good: crispy, spicy, cheesy, saucy.  And others who can't even be appreciated because they are so eggy you'd think you got slipped an omelet instead.

A few days ago, Neil returned from Atlanta with a plethora of beautiful stuff from the Farmer's Market.  In addition to a bag of Scotch Bonnets, a fresh cut bunch of bananas, 4 giant mangoes, 2 pineapples, there were 5 gorgeous poblano peppers.  I am a huge fan of poblanos.  Whenever I make corn chowder, I use roasted poblano to give it depth.  But looking at these beauties, I knew we had to make chile relleno!

Right off the flame getting ready to be sealed up in the paper bag to steam
Ready to slip that skin right off

 I have spent the last couple of days searching for the right recipe.  I've made this dish in the past, but never landed on a preparation that I thought was right on.  But today, I struck gold!  I used this recipe but I deviated by browning some ground beef with onion and mixing that into my cheese mixture. Also, I didn't have any Monterrey Jack, so I used mozzarella and cheddar only. Well, I'm sure you know what I'm gonna say next...why would I be writing this anyway?

This is the perfect relleno recipe. In fact, after my first bite I told Neil I thought this was better than any I've had in a restaurant. The exterior was perfectly light yet crunchy, the filling I used was just right, the batter held together and kept my filling from leaking out and the sauce was simply divine.  You know that feeling when you cook something that you, as the cook, feel is so good that you get that elation, total satisfaction, almost to the point of a high?  Well, that's what happened to me tonight.  Everything about the dish was exactly what I wanted: roasty poblano flavor, cheese, and the cinnamon in the sauce added a depth that I can't really find the words to describe. 

Finished product. I ended up eating two!
This is me diggin' the result!

I will sleep well tonight knowing that I've finally unlocked the secret to a perfect relleno.  What's really cool is knowing that now this can be a regular feature here at home and will be fun to make for friends!

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