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"All 'chile relleno' really means is a stuffed pepper. It's traditionally stuffed with cheese; you can use whatever easy-melting cheese you like, such as mozzarella or Monterey Jack. I like a mix of Oaxaca cheese and a little bit of pepper Jack, and serve the peppers in a sauce that's basically a warm salsa. [Once you cut the vegetables,] the oven does all the work. I know this recipe looks intimidating, but it's not. It really is simple and straightforward." —Rach
This is a hearty meal, but if you want to add to it, cook up canned pinto beans with onion, jalapeño, garlic, cumin and lime and some Mexican-style rice with carrot, peas and tomato. Or try these Refried Beans.
Pro Tip from Rach: Be delicate when handling the peppers because you want to keep them intact so they envelop the cheese.
For the pickled red onions, combine ingredients in small bowl and let stand 30 to 60 minutes.
Preheat broiler with rack at center of oven.
For the warm charred salsa rosa, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and parchment. Arrange tomatoes with garlic at center of tray, add onions and jalapeño pepper and tuck in bay leaves. Season with salt, oregano, cumin, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon or smoked cinnamon, spray with EVOO and char-roast 12 to 15 minutes, until tomatoes are slumped and charred at the edges. Remove bay leaves, add to high-power blender or food processor, add cilantro and agave or honey and process until smooth. Place in small pot to keep warm over low simmer until ready to serve.
If making the optional crema chicken filling, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, salt, bay, cumin and coriander, soften a couple of minutes, then add ½ cup water and let it fully evaporate and cook into the onions. Add crema, stock and the chicken and simmer 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool a bit to handle before filling the peppers.
For the chile rellenos, broil peppers or char on open flame and cool in a covered bowl.
Cut cheese or cheeses into sticks about 4 inches long and no more than ½ inch squared/wide.
Peel peppers and carefully split the length on one side. Remove seeds and fill with 2 cheese sticks or, if using optional crema chicken filling, 1 cheese stick and chicken. Secure with toothpicks as needed.
Heat a few inches of oil in large cast-iron frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.
Separate eggs into two bowls and combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. With a hand mixer, beat whites until frothy and soft-medium peaks form, add the yolks one at a time to combine on medium-low speed, then add flour mixture on low or fold in to combine.
Carefully coat the rellenos in batter and fry two at a time 6 to 7 minutes, 4 minutes on first side. Drain on wire rack set inside a sheet tray lined with foil and continue. Remove toothpicks.
Serve warm salsa on dinner plates topped with two chile rellenos, garnishes of choice and pickled red onions with pinto beans and rice on the side (optional).