Monday, February 1, 2010

Chile Relleno, Carumba!

If you like chile relleno casserole (and you know who you are), give this a read.

Chile relleno casserole is a great dish to whip up when you are serving a crowd. Layered in a 9 inch square or a 9x13 dish, it is easy to prepare and when it’s done, you have a mellow, cheesy, nutritious meal with most of the food groups represented. But for the single, or the couple, it requires a commitment in the baking, with the amount of cheese to shred and the cooking time, and a commitment to how many days you plan on eating it until it’s gone. You may not know how easy, convenient, and really delectable the original chile relleno really is.

My mother used to make chile rellenos occasionally, though I had never tried to copy them myself. But I remembered what she did when I tried to make them myself the other day. You can make up exactly how many you want at a time. And you can also make extra—they are also nice heated up the next day.

First, you need Ortega chiles. (Ok ok, if you really wanted to do this right, you would buy fresh chiles and fire roast them over flame, sweat them in a bag and rub the blackened skin off. But we are going to live conveniently this time) I just buy the big can in the Mexican food aisle, use them in all kinds of things until the rest go bad and then toss them. I’d rather do that than use those dinky little cans. Pull how many you want out, pour out the liquid from the peppers and lay them on a paper towel to dry off a little. Don’t worry about seeds. When they prepare them for canning, most of the seeds are removed.

Next you need eggs, separated. Here is the best way to handle that. Separate them when they are cold, and then leave them out for a little while until they get closer to room temperature. Cold eggs don’t whip as nicely as tepid ones do. I used 3 eggs for 5 chiles, but you can change those proportions however you like. You can use a mixer, but I prefer to just use a whisk. It feels more homey and organic. Whip the whites until they are in soft peaks. Then whisk the yolks in another little bowl. Fold the yolks into the whites. One thing I like to do is also fold in about a tablespoon of masa flour or fine cornmeal.

Poke cheese into the chiles. Don’t worry if the sides split.

Heat up a well-seasoned cast iron skillet as if you were cooking an omelet. Spread in half the egg mixture; lay the stuffed chiles on the egg layer, and then spread the remainder of the egg mixture over the top.

My mother used to dip the chiles in the eggs and then put them in the skillet, but it’s just as easy to just lay it down in layers.

Cook at a low temperature. You might want to cover it for a little while if you are worried that the egg mixture won’t cook through and the cheese melt before it all gets too brown. When the bottom is lightly browned, flip them over, either all at once or a few at a time.

When you plate them, put a splash of warmed salsa across the middles.

They are sooo good!

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