I promised you a chili relleno recipe, not a rose garden. If I could provide both you better believe I would. Until they create a smelly flower widget for the interweb you’ll have to image just that while cooking up this recipe for filling, very rich but totally worth it comfort food this weekend or whenever you have a million hours to spare cooking.
I had all good intentions about posting this yesterday but I was dragging through my day, recovering from the most truly evilest night ever of The Blackest of the Black Tour. I only caught the tale end of Norwegian carnival-in-Mordor rockers Dimmu Borgir but my intentions were to see the little angry one himself Danzig, who I think I’ve been waiting since senior year high school to finally catch. It was a little sad because his crooney-Elvis voice seemed stricken with sickness and/or touring. It was downright painful to hear him speak, but he could still belt it out at the all the right moments when need be. The show wasn’t even really that late, but due to crappy subway antics our train took an extra half hour to get home. All I can say is that these old bones can’t party like they used to. At least it makes me totally sympathetic with Danzig’s bald spot.
But I digress. This recipe admittedly is still in the works, but it received rave reviews from all that tried it. Like I’ve mentioned this is stick-to-your ribs eating, at least hearty enough for the meat n’ potatoes (at it does have potatoes covered) crowd. I’m toying with turning the chili batter into a rightful beer batter, but then again there are plenty of elements in this recipe to keep one occupied. And besides rather than eating that beer wouldn’t you rather drink it cold after a long bout with frying on the stove?
Chilies Rellenos con Papas y Alemdras
Serves 8-4, depending on size of chilies and portions served
There are a few schools of thought regarding chili relleno batter, including those veering toward thin and crisp and something that’s more like a puffy omelet. For obvious reasons we’re not going near the omelet incarnation, but this batter is somewhere in between those two, a puffy tender texture with a little crispness on the edges.
Depending on the size of your poblanos you may have leftover filling. If those chilies seem a bit small pick up a few extra to stuff.
8 poblano chilies, average about 4-5 inches long
1 lb waxy yellow potato, such as Yukon Gold
1 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup corn kernels, frozen or fresh
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste
Cornstarch for dusting (about 1/3 cup or more)
1 cup soy milk
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Peanut oil for shallow frying
Shallow Frying Tip: I like to do my frying in a cast iron pan, as the thick metal provides even heat conduction, not to mention the heavy pan lessens the worry of accidentally tipping a skillet full of hot oil.
For ease with frying the battered chilies have handy 2 separate sets of long handled tongs and a metal slotted spatula. Use one of the tongs just for dipping and to coat chili with batter and use the other to maneuver the frying chili in the pan. The metal slotted spatula is essential for gently flipping the frying chili. To flip, make sure to gently slide it under the chili to minimize any tearing of the cooking crust. I find that using the frying tongs and spatula together when turning chilies over ensure that each side of the chili is cooked to perfection. Try it out and see what works for you.
Prep cook’s tip: Because this dish can murder you with all of the prep work I do not recommend attacking the whole thing from scratch all at once, especially on a week night. The easiest thing to do in advance is to roast, skin, seed and prepare the chilies for filling up to 2 days in advance. Just store prepped chilies in a tightly covered glass or plastic container.
The filling can be made also in advance, but be sure to warm it (in the microwave with a sprinkling of water if it seems a bit dry). This ensures that the dense interior will be just as warm as the quickly cooking fried exterior.
Now for the recipe!
Roast the poblano chilies first. For the sake of trimming down this post use whatever method you prefer. I’m a on-the-gas-stove kind of girl (see pic) After chilies are cool enough to handle, remove charred skin and with a sharp paring knife make an incision running down 3/4 of the way from stem to bottom. Remove seeds. Set aside and prepare potato filling.
Have ready at least 2 quarts of cold water in a large heavy pot. Peel and chop potatoes into 1 inch chunks, place in water and bring to a boil, cooking 8-10 minutes till very soft and tender. Remove from heat, reserve about 1/3 cup cooking water, drain chunks and set aside.
In a heavy large skilled heat over medium heat olive oil and chopped garlic. When garlic starts to sizzle and become fragrant add sliced almonds, stirring till almonds just start to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook another 2 minutes. Add cooked potato, cumin and oregano, stirring and mashing potato a little for 2-3 minutes. If mixture seems very dry add 1 tablespoon of reserved potato cooking water a time till mixture appears moist and chunky but not as creamy as regular mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper and nutritional yeast. Taste mixture and adjust with more salt, pepper and lime juice if needed. Allow potatoes to cool to touch.
With a small spoon or your finger very gently push potato mixture into each of the chilies. Be generous and with a little gentle pressure you’ll find that the filling can coalesce into a nice firm mass inside the chilies. I like to leave a little space near the opening so that it’s easy to overlap just a little the two sides of opening on the chili. Use one or two sharp toothpicks to secure the chili flaps, weaving the toothpick in and out of the chili flesh. Remember where those toothpicks are though as you’ll need to find them later on a thickly battered and fried chili relleno!
While you’re stuffing your chilies it’s a good idea to start heating up the frying oil. Use a heavy bottom skillet and fill with enough peanut oil to have at least 2 inches. The oil is ready when a small chunk of potato rapidly fries and starts to turn golden within 30 seconds of hitting the oil.
Prepare the batter. In a large bowl pour soy milk then sift in corn meal, flour, cumin, baking soda and salt. Whisk till a thick batter forms.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees (or any “keep warm” setting) and have ready a baking sheet inside.
Dust stuffed chilies with a little cornstarch on both sides. With one pair of tongs carefully dredge chili in batter, turning to coat all sides. Carefully lower in hot oil. See frying tips above. Depending on the size of your pan and the filled chilies, stick to frying no more than 2 chilies at a time, as they should have plenty of room to be turned without touching one another. Fry till all sides of the chili are golden, which should take less than 4-5 minutes in total. Keep them warm in that pre-heated oven until ready to serve. Remember to remove toothpicks from finished chilies!
Serve with warmed salsa (if you’re not going to cook anymore) or chili sauce, rice, guacamole and a simple tomato and lettuce/cabbage salad. A small side of refried beans wouldn’t hurt either.