Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chili Rellenos

Chili Relleno with Breadcrumb Coating
This is a favorite at our house. It’s probably the item I order most at Mexican restaurants. Unfortunately, as tasty as it is, a chili relleno dinner at a restaurant contains too much salt for anyone monitoring their sodium intake. There’s the relleno batter, cheese stuffing, and sauce. Add to that cheese-topped refried beans and flavored rice. And, of course, there’s the ubiquitous basket of fried & salted corn tortilla chips along with the house salsa. Excess sodium, to be sure.

One option is to just order a relleno al a carte along with some plain corn tortillas when at a restaurant. Another option is to make your own rellenos. They’re a bit labor intensive but worth it.

I’ve made them coated in breadcrumbs & fried. Coated in breadcrumbs & baked. Dredged in masa meal and fried. And dipped in the traditional egg batter. I’ve topped them with homemade salsa and also with homemade ranchero sauce. But no matter how I’ve prepared them, they’ve always been good. Best of all, we’ve enjoyed them without any worries about sodium overload.

Chili rellenos have four basic parts: the chilies, the stuffing, the coating, and the finishing sauce.

The chilies are poblanos. I try to find nice big ones that are shiny & firm. I wash them, place them on a broiler pan with a rack, and broil them until the skin is quite blackened and blistered on one side. Then I turn them over to get the other sides charred. (This can also be done on a grill or a gas stove burner.) I put the chilies in a bowl, cover them, and let them steam as they cool. Then I peel off the skins and slit one side to remove the seeds inside. (I make a “T” near the top and use a grapefruit spoon to remove the seeds.) I try my best to keep the stems attached. Most of the time, I’m successful.

Broiled, Peeled, Cut, & Ready to Stuff
I use fresh mozzarella for the stuffing. Usually Bel Giosioa brand or Trader Joe's Ovoline. I cut it into cubes or strips and stuff the chilies. I try not to overstuff the peppers, but, at the same, time, I want to use up all the cheese. I wrap the fresh mozz cubes in paper towels and give a squeeze to remove excess moisture.

No matter what coating I’m using, I dredge the stuffed chilies in flour first and refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes. The flour gets moist and acts like a paste to hold the cheese inside the slit portion of the chilies. The cold stuffed chilies hold up better when frying. I’ve found that it also helps if I fry the cut side first. If I’m using breadcrumbs, I’ll dip the stuffed & floured chilies in an egg wash before coating with crumbs. Same with using masa meal. For the egg batter, I just make sure the whipped egg whites are pretty stiff.

Stuffed, Dredged, & Ready for Batter
My favorite Mexican restaurant serves its rellenos with a delicious ranchero sauce, and that’s what I try to duplicate at home. But sometimes, I opt for homemade One Can Salsa.

As with many things I cook, making chili rellenos is more of a method rather than an exact recipe. Here’s a general guideline for using the traditional egg batter :

Chili Rellenos
(Printable Recipe)

4 large poblano peppers
1 8-oz. package fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes or strips
Flour for dredging stuffed chilies

Egg Batter:
About 1 egg for every two peppers; separate yolks from whites

Prepare chilies and stuff with approximately 2 oz. cheese. Line a plate with plastic wrap and coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Dredge peppers in flour, place on prepared plate, cover lightly, and refrigerate. Some people have good luck holding the cut chilies together with toothpicks.

Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl; set aside. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the egg yolks to the beaten whites. Fold in gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Be careful to not deflate the egg whites; set aside.

Pour enough oil into a frying pan to make at least a ⅓ - ½ inch layer. Heat to medium-high. Make sure the oil is hot.

Breaded Relleno Frying
Using tongs, dip the peppers into the egg mixture to coat both sides. Gently lay the coated peppers into the hot oil. Spoon any leftover egg mixture on chilies while the first side is frying. Fry peppers on each side until golden brown and the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately or hold in 325 degree oven. Serve with salsa or ranchero sauce.

Egg Batter Relleno with Ranchero Sauce

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