Chiles Rellenos and Cheap Rose

I made some fabulous chiles rellenos the other night. Now, I’m sure that most of you know that chiles rellenos translates literally into stuffed chiles, which opens the dish up to a myriad of stuffings, batters and even sauces. However, when I was growing up it was just cheese, egg batter and a simple tomato sauce. I actually didn’t know there was another option until I was probably in my 20’s.  And the chiles we used?  Canned Anaheims or, as we called them, Ortega Chiles because that was the brand name on the can.  In those innocent culinary days of the 70’s we had never heard of poblanos and especially not how to prepare them.  (I must say, although I never used canned chiles for my chiles rellenosthese days it was far easier just taking the suckers out of the can, drying them off and stuffing them than it is to roast, peel and seed  poblanos, all the time trying to keep them intact. Last week I peeled a whole batch of poblanos at my ridiculous job for which I’m grossly qualified and my hands were still burning the next morning.)  

 Although our chiles rellenos were quite simple they were indeed succulent. The recipe was very easy. It was adapted from a Sunset Magazine recipe.  Basically you just take the aforementioned chiles, stuff them with a piece of Monterey Jack Cheese, cut to fit, separate some eggs (1 egg for each chile), beat the yolks with flour (1 tbsp. per yolk), beat the whites until stiff, fold the yolks into the whites, dip the chiles in the batter and pan fry until golden brown on each side.  The sauce was basically canned diced tomatoes cooked with a little sauteed onion, garlic and spices.  Spread a thin layer of that in a baking dish, place the chiles on top of it, cover with a bit more sauce and bake for about 20 minutes.  Voila!   Heaven.  Serve with beans and salad.

Now although the dish is easy to make there are a few drawbacks.  One is that they are extremely fattening and the second is that they are very messy to make.  By the time you’re finished, you’ve usually got egg whites all up your arm and strewn across your counter and little pools of oil on your stove-top from trying to flip them big, fat suckers– and you can’t get that old oil smell out of your kitchen for days.  So, we kind of stopped making them for awhile there.  I did used to make them with my students each year and talk about a mess!  I finally stopped doing that too.

So, since I no longer made chiles rellenos  at home I began to order them at Mexican restaurants on a fairly regular basis.  (That, by the way, is how I judge the quality of a Mexican restaurant:  their chiles rellenos and their mole.)  This is when I discovered that chiles rellenos can be stuffed with something other than cheese and that the batters vary widely.  I had one once that was seriously just an omelette with a chile stuck in it.  It was disgusting.

Now, I must say, I didn’t really like the fancy vegetarian stuffings or the classic piccadillo or the ones with raisins or nuts (except for the Chiles en Walnut Sauce that my mom picked up from a cooking class that she took.  However, that is QUITE the production.)   Until Frank and I wandered into this little Mexican restaurant right on Highway 71 a couple of years ago.  The place is great.  You’re sitting out front at a cheap, metal table under an awning whose fans never work, literally, right in front of a very hot, dusty highway surrounded by a Mesquite fence and a few scraggly cacti.  It feels just like Baja.  Anyway, they have this dish called Dos Amigos which is basically two roasted poblano chiles stuffed with shredded beef and topped with lots of melted cheddar cheese.  That’s it!  But it is so good!!  That’s when I started branching out a bit with my chiles rellenos.  I realized, first of all, that you don’t even need a batter!  Or a sauce for that matter!  If the chiles are good enough and the stuffing also, that’s all you need.

Which brings us to the present.  Due to some unforseen financial troubles I’ve been trying to keep myself on a strict 20.00 a day budget for food.  And me, being me, that of course includes alcohol.  Luckily it’s hotter than hell here which means lots of cold, cheap rose.  I actually quite love roses and usually like to spend around $10.00 to $15.00 a bottle, but as I mentioned, money is tight.  My favorite cheap rose ($7.99 at my local grocery store) is the Marques de Caceres from Spain. It’s nothing to write home about but it’s nice and dry, low in alcohol, goes well with almost any kind of food and fits nicely into my budget.  And…screw cap!

I decided to make this batch of chiles rellenos this last week for a few reasons.  1.  I happened to have a lot of stuff in my fridge that would go nicely in them 2.  The poblanos right now are gorgeous 3. They fit in with my budget and, the most importatn reason, 4.  I had some left-over pork that I needed to use up.  Oh yeah, and 5.  With the extra money I saved I could buy not one, but actually two bottles of Marques de Caceres

But really, the main reason I decided to make them was to somehow use up this pork.  I’d had this pork chop that i’d brined and barbecued in the fridge for about a week because Frank and I just couldn’t stand to eat any more pork!  I know, that does not sound like a person on the verge of poverty.  Here I am complaining that I’ve got this succulent 2″ pork chop in my fridge but here’s the thing:  this was some of Winston (see My love Affair with Pork) that had been in the freezer for about a year and a half now.  It was vacuumed sealed so perfectly good but the problem is that the chops were a 4 pack and we’d already plowed our way through three of them and were just tired of pork!!  When I had this same problem the week before, I had cubed up one of them and put it in tacos and it was delicious so I thought to do the same thing with the rellenos.

So, here are  my fabulous cheap and nutritious chiles rellenos:  I sauteed some onions and garlic with a fresh corn of cob I happen to have in the fridge, added a can of rinsed black beans, a half a tomato I had laying around, some oregano and cumin, some cooked quinoa (I’ve been on a bit of a quinoa kick lately-that and Israeli couscous.  I LOVE Israeli couscous) and some grated cheddar cheese.  I lightly oiled a baking dish, placed my laboriously roasted, peeled and seeded poblanos in them and stuffed them with the mixture. 

Feeling quite proud of myself, I asked Frank when he wanted to eat.  He said, “What are we having?” I started to describe the dish to him and that’s when I realized, I forgot the pork!  The was the main reason for making the damn things and I forgot to put it in!  Luckily it wasn’t too late.  I cubed it, fried it up as planned and poked it down into the stuffed chiles mixture.  A little more cheese on top, pop in the oven for about 20 minutes and it was done!  Quite delicious, cheap and enough for left-overs for the next day.

Oh yes, the rose went quite nicely with it as well.

One day, perhaps, I will go out to a restaurant again worthy of a review but for now it’s home cooking for me, baby!  Tonight it’s a little seared steak topped with sauteed crimini mushrooms, shallots, thyme and rosemary from my garden and finished with Marsala.  ($8.00 for two).  I had enough in my budget to splurge on a Kenwood Cab.


5 Responses to “Chiles Rellenos and Cheap Rose”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    two things:

    1. i once had a chilles rellenos that were filled with goat cheese…soooo good (but you know how i feel about goat cheese). and just fyi, you can get a log of silver goat at trader joes for like….$5.

    2. coincidental, my roommate and i just bought a bottle of that rose. $12.99. NYC man! its nutty!

  2. Robert Says:

    My local tacquira has a chile relleno for $9.50. I haven’t felt rich enough to order it yet. But, boy do they have the best carnitas. Mexicans fill the place. Always a good sign. Great tacos. The best chile relleno I ever had was at Cafe del Sol in Montecito. I’m ging to make yours for camping with Mara and the girls. Russian River. I made the wings on father’s day and they were a huge hit. I used Trader Joe’s Red Currey Sauce and it was fabulous. Thanks.

  3. Robert Says:

    Oh, and I wanted to recommend Rose D’Aimee Tavel French Rose. Love it!

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