I am convinced that stuffed peppers, like soup, are a true leftover invention, and that’s just what I stuffed my poblano peppers with for these chile rellenos. In most cases the preferred grain would be rice, but since I had some potatoes I used them along with some leftover chicken. I’ve also come to suspect that most anything when stuffed inside a smoky, roasted poblano pepper will taste good — that is, if you like smoky, roasted poblano peppers.
Therefore, what may look like an intimidating dish to prepare at first comes down to earth once you give it a smack of your own what-have-you. Omit the meat for a great vegetarian alternative.
Although I hear queso fresco is the traditional cheese to stuff these with, I blended a little shredded monterey jack in my stuffing and dusted the top with grated cotija cheese. Cotija is a great just for that — dusting. On black beans, grilled corn, salads, pretty much everything. It’s a crumbly, hard aged Mexican cheese similar to parmesan but a little more salty and less complex in flavor, I’d say. It’s my favorite way to dust the apartment, basically.
Chile Rellenos con Pollo y Patata (Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Chicken and Potato)
(makes 2 main course servings)
2 poblano peppers
1/2 – 1 cup diced cooked chicken
1/2 – 1 cup diced potato (cooked, or steamed in microwave with plastic wrap and a little water for 2-3 minutes until soft)
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese, or queso fresco
1/2 cup cornmeal or flour for dredging
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp tabasco or cayenne pepper
1-2 Tb oil
Side of black beans and roasted tomato salsa (recipe below) for serving
1-2 Tb grated cojita cheese for dusting
Broil peppers whole for about 5 minutes on each side until skin begins to blacken (you can also roast the tomato for the salsa at the same time). Let cool, then peel off cracked skin and remove stem and core by cutting around the stem and pulling its base out. Remove seeds to desired spiciness — poblanos aren’t very hot so some seeds remaining would make it mildly hot. Combine cooked chicken, potato and spices in a bowl. Add shredded cheese. Stuff mixture inside the poblano pepper. Don’t worry if the pepper tears too much; if it does, just dredge and fry it gingerly and it will congeal a bit while cooking.
Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a pan. Lightly dredge the peppers in the cornmeal or flour first, then the egg, then the cornmeal/flour again. Fry for a few minutes on each side until nicely browned. Top with salsa and cojita cheese. Optional: serve with a side of cooked black beans (I sauteed 1 can with liquid, a splash of water and dash of spices for 5-10 minutes).
Roasted Tomato Salsa
(makes enough to top 2 servings of chile rellenos)
1 medium ripe firm tomato, such as plum
2 Tb diced onion
1 garlic clove
Dash of chipotle sauce or tabasco to taste
Dash of salt
Broil tomato for about 10 minutes, turning it once or twice until well blistered. Remove from baking dish and let cool. Core and chop tomato and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse mixture in a food processor for a minute or two, then cover and chill until serving.
Combined Cost Calculator
(for 2 servings)
2 poblano peppers (at $3.99/lb): $2.25
1/2 – 1 cooked chicken (albeit leftovers): $1.50
1 cup cooked potato (about half a medium potato): $0.40
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack: $0.50
1 egg (at $2.39/12): $0.20
Flour/cornmeal, spices, salt and oil: $0.25
2 Tb grated cojita (at $2.99/lb): $0.30
1 medium plum tomato (at $1.99/lb): $0.75
2 Tb diced onion and 1 garlic clove: $0.20
1 can black beans (optional): $0.69
Six brownie points — topping a really rich, greasy fried thing with a really fresh, greaseless sauce is a beautiful compromise, if I say so myself. The roasted tomato and fresh garlic and onion flavors will stay on your palette much longer than the fried pepper grease will, too, helping you forget that you had just gone there.