Monday, June 7, 2010

Recipe: Chiles Rellenos stuffed with Picadillo and Queso Fresco

There seems to be a lot of confusion over the proper terminology for the dish I'm about to describe. Is it chile relleno? Chiles relleno? Chiles rellenos? To tell the truth, I don't really know. My high school foreign language experience was limited to four years of German, so I'm far from an expert on proper Spanish conjugation. Mexican cooking, on the other hand, I can handle.

There are just as many variations for making chile rellenos as there are for spelling the name. I've had chile rellenos stuffed with beef, chicken, pork, or just cheese, and I've tasted batters ranging from a soft eggy coating to a crisp fish-and-chips style crust. I'm not a big fan of the fried-egg batter; I like my chiles rellenos to have a light coating with a just a little crunch. The recipe below has a light, crispy crust that comes from whisking the egg white separately, then combining with the yolk to make the traditional egg batter. Dipping the chiles into the flour twice gives you the desired crispiness, while the whipped egg whites keep it from being too heavy.

My favorite chiles rellenos are stuffed with picadillo, a stewed meat dish that usually includes nuts and raisins. I had canned pork from the meat locker in my pantry (occasionally my saving grace on busy weeknights), which I combined with homemade queso fresco, tomatoes, onions, garlic, golden raisins, walnuts, and spices.  You can stuff chiles rellenos with just cheese, but I like a more substantial filling if I'm making them as a main dish.

Recipe: Chiles Rellenos stuffed with Picadillo and Queso Fresco 4 large poblano peppers
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 of one onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb cooked, shredded pork
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
1 peeled, diced tomato
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne

For Batter:

1 cup corn masa flour (you can use all-purpose if you like, but corn flour tastes much better)
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, separated

For Salsa:

2 tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 of one onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 jalepenos
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Juice from 2 limes

Blacken the chiles and jalepenos by placing them directly on the burner of the stove, turning them frequently until the flesh is evenly charred and blistered. Place chiles in a plastic ziploc bag for 5-10 minutes - this will make the skin much easier to peel.

Once the chiles are cool, peel away the blistered skin and make an incision in each, starting just under the stem and ending about halfway down the length of the chile. Cut out the seeds and membrane from the inside with a paring knife, then scoop out any remaining seeds with a spoon. Be careful not to tear the chiles; they will be very delicate.

For salsa, toast 1 tsp cumin in saucepan until it begins to smoke, then add onion, 1 tbsp olive oil, and garlic. Cook until onion begins to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients except the jalepenos and simmer over low heat. Meanwhile, seed and chop the jalepenos. Add them to the pan and continue to simmer until salsa thickens slightly.

In a saute pan, toast walnuts with a little cumin until fragrant. Add the onion and garlic and cook for five minutes, or until the onion softens.

Stir in the shredded meat, tomatoes, raisins, nuts, and spices. Saute until meat mixture is dry, about 10-15 minutes, then remove from heat.

Stuff chiles with cheese, then with meat mixture.

Secure the slits with toothpicks - this will keep the filling inside the chiles while frying. You can remove the toothpicks before serving, so don't worry if this isn't very pretty!

Mix flour with salt and pepper. Dredge each chile in flour, then set aside on a plate.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, stir egg yolks just until combined. Gently fold yolks into whites, then transfer into a shallow container. Dip floured chiles into egg mixture, then into flour mixture again.

Keep all chiles on a plate until ready to fry.

Heat 1-2 inches of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. If you do this the non-scientific way like me, you can test the oil temperature by dipping a dry toothpick into the skillet - if the oil bubbles around the toothpick, it's ready.

Fry chiles two at a time, turning frequently, for a few minutes each. Chiles are done when the crust is flaky and golden brown.

Drain chiles on paper towels, then remove to a warm oven until all are finished frying.

Serve warm, topped with salsa and crumbled queso fresco.  Serves two as a main course, or four as an appetizer.


  1. Looks impressive! Were they hot?

  2. They weren't that spicy at all... The filling really cut down the heat, and you didn't get a spice flavor from the chiles. It really just had a meat-type of texture. Delicious!