Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chile Rellenos in Tomato Broth

My family loves to watch the Food Network. We don't do reality TV on other stations -- just the Food Network. We love watching Iron Chef America, especially Bobby Flay and Michael Simon (although Simon's laugh is really annoying!). My son and I also enjoyed watching the first season of Worst Cooks in America. Talk about funny! The cake cook-offs don't do much for me. There's just too many of them.

When the network launched a magazine, I was one of its first subscribers. The magazine started off strong, but in recent months, more pages have been dedicated to reality TV stars and useless gadgets than to the recipes and actual cooking. It's somewhat disappointing. I care more about food than what band Duff plays in when he's not at Charm City Cakes or what Bryan Boitano's kitchen remodel looks like. Regardless, there are some recipe gems in the magazine. The recipe below is one of them. My mother made chile rellenos a few times when I was a child. They were good enough to create a pleasant memory, but not enough to try them on my own ... until last week. Like usual, I had to tweak the recipe to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand since we were snowed in and the grocery stores were closed! Thank goodness I got the last few poblanos at the grocery store in anticipation of this recipe. Though somewhat time intensive, the results were stellar ... even with my substitutions.

Chile Rellenos in Tomato Broth

8 poblano chile peppers (4 1/2 to 5 inches long)
12 ounces muenster cheese, cut into 8 sticks (about 3 1/2 by 1 inch)
2 14.6 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole cloves
7 black peppercorns
2 small bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for frying
6 large eggs, separated
All-purpose flour, for dredging

1. Preheat the broiler. Place the chiles on a foil-lined broiler pan; broil, turning, until the skins char, about 8-10 minutes. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool, about 10 minutes.

2. While chiles are cooling, puree tomatoes, onion and garlic in blender until smooth. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until almost smoking.  Add the tomato puree, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cilantro sprig and fry, stirring, until thick, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the broth, reduce the heat and simmer until thickened but still brothy, 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Peel the chiles. Slice each open lengthwise, about 1/2 inch from the top to 1 inch from the bottom. Remove the seedpod, then rinse to flush out any remaining seeds. Blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Carefully stuff each chile with a stick of cheese.

4. Season the tomato broth with salt. Strain, discarding solids, and keep warm.

5. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat 1 to 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 360. Beat the egg whites, 2 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon salt with a mixer until stiff but not dry. Beat the yolks in a separate bowl until combined, then gently fold them into the whites.

6. Overlap the sides of the slit in the chiles to enclose the cheese, then dredge in flour. (Coat any tears with flour.) Using tongs, dip and roll the chiles in the egg mixture to coat. Fry in the hot oil until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer with a large skimmer or 2 spatulas to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, letting the excess oil drip back into the pot. Repeat with the remaining chiles and egg mixture. Place in the oven on the lined baking sheet to cook off any excess oil, about 5 minutes.

7. Ladle the tomato broth into 4 shallow bowls; place 2 chiles in each. Garnish with cilantro.

Substitution Suggestions: The original recipe called for fresh tomatoes. I think the canned ones worked just as well. For a veggie version, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. The cheese can be substituted as well. Traditional rellenos call for Monterey Jack. I would not use cheddar. It doesn't melt the same as Monterey Jack or Muenster. I actually used sliced Muenster instead of the bricked version. It's what I had in the fridge so I went with it.

Lessons Learned: The chiles take longer to roast than the originally suggested 8 minutes. Make sure you turn them ever few minutes or else you'll set off your smoke alarm! They tore easily as I seeded them. Perhaps they would have seeded better if I had cut into the skin to extract the seed pod before I roasted and peeled them. I'll try that next time. I worried that they would split open when I fried them. They didn't.

I only had five poblanos (remember, I bought everything the store had), so I halved the amount of tomatoes and broth. And, I only used three eggs instead of five and had plenty of that left over, too. So, I think you can safely cut down on the number of eggs used, even if you make the full recipe.

The rellenos have a nice heat -- strong enough to taste it but mild enough that the flavors still come through nicely over the heat. The egg coating remained surprisingly crisp even after it was placed in the tomato broth, which, by the way, is worth the time necessary to make it. I definitely look forward to making this recipe again in the very near future.

No comments: