Chiles Rellenos — poblano chiles stuffed with cheese and served with tomato sauce — a Mexican classic

A Classic Mexican Recipe

Chiles are the essence of Mexico. Vibrant in color and intense in flavor, they are found in many Mexican dishes. Chiles Rellenos a Mexican classic, feature poblano chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg, then fried golden and served in a shining pool of tomato sauce.

Chiles Rellenos
Makes 6

  • 6 thick-walled poblano chiles
  • 1/2 lb. (230 grams) cheese of your choice, cut into 6 wedges
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 lbs. (900 grams) fresh tomatoes (or canned tomatoes — see note)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
  • salt to taste
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • mild vegetable oil for frying

First, blister and peel the poblano chiles, following this link to instructions.

Mexican Potato Salad with Three Chiles 001

While poblanos are steaming, cut tomatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size, and squeeze out seeds. Strain seeds, saving the juice. Roughly chop onion and garlic.

Purée tomatoes, juice, onion and garlic in blender. Fry the sauce. (Yes, you read it right. “Fry” is the verb used in Mexican cookbooks to describe making a cooked salsa.) Bring 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a moderately high temperature in the  skillet, add the tomato mixture, and stand back — it will spatter and spit a bit, but will calm down as you stir it. Add dry Mexican oregano (not Greek oregano) and stir occasionally while simmering  for 15 minutes. Salt to taste, but don’t skimp on the salt. Too little will result in a flat-tasting sauce.

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While the sauce is simmering, peel and seed chiles and stuff with wedges of cheese. If the piece of cheese is not too large, you can slightly fold the flap of chile over the other side of the slit, sealing the cheese in. The cooked egg batter will hold this flap closed.

For egg coating: beat egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold in egg yolks, one at a time. This is the chile coating. There is no flour added.

Chiles Rellenos -- Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Cheese and Served with Tomato Sauce -- A Mexican Classic

Between the previous photo and the next, I have a pictorial gap. My fingers were so covered with egg that I couldn’t pick up the camera to document the steps between these two photos. But here is what you need to do to finish the Chiles Rellenos: holding the flap closed, roll each chile in flour, without getting flour inside the chile. (Mexican cocineras use a toothpick to hold the slit closed.) The idea is to completely cover it with flour so that the egg has something to stick to. Then dip each chile in the beaten egg to completely coat it.

Use enough oil in your skillet for a depth of 3/4″ – 1″. Heat oil to 350 deg. F. (180 C.). While cooking the chiles, keep the tomato sauce hot.

Cook only two at a time. If you try to do more, the first chile in the pan will start to burn while you are coating the others. (I learned this the hard way.) Turn the chiles over after 30-45 seconds in the oil, or until they are golden brown on all sides. Place on several layers of paper towels to absorb oil. Keep warm on a hot plate or in a 200 deg. F. (95 C.) oven while you batter and cook the remaining chiles.

When all are done, spoon hot tomato sauce into individual dishes or a large platter and arrange chiles rellenos on the sauce. Garnish with cilantro sprigs or chopped cilantro.

Notes:

~ Mexican cookbooks recommend a variety of cheeses for Chiles Rellenos, including Oaxaca string cheese, Mozzarella and Monterey Jack. A good cheddar is assertive enough to stand up to the flavorful chiles and tomato sauce. For this recipe, I used Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar from Costco and was very pleased with the flavor combination.

~ To make the preparation of this dish more manageable, make the sauce and blister and peel the chiles the day before.

~ Poblanos are generally a mild chile, but every now and then they veer off the heat scale. Have cold beer at the ready if you find yours are extra hot.

~ When selecting poblanos, look for those that are flat with two sides, rather than three sides. This shape allows for less cooking time when blistering and frying.

~ In the winter, it may be impossible to find fresh tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. If this is the case, you will do better using canned tomatoes, which usually have a good flavor.

~ There are no rules in cooking (baking is a different matter). If you want to fill your chile relleno with crab and mornay sauce, or well-seasoned black beans and shrimp, please invite me to dinner.

~ Leftover chiles rellenos, re-heated, make an excellent sandwich filling. In the market of a small town, we had tortas de chiles rellenos — bolillos, the common bread roll of Mexico, filled with cheese-stuffed poblanos. With this memory to prompt us, we had  left-over chiles rellenos in bolillos for lunch. Split the bolillo horizontally and pull out the soft center to make room for the chile. Spoon some hot tomato sauce onto both sides of the roll. Muy delicioso!

~ Today’s Spanish lesson: This dish is often misspelled as “Chile Rellenos”. If Chile is singular (without an “s”), so too is the descriptive word, “relleno”. Chile Relleno or Chiles Rellenos are the correct spellings.


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Mexican Ibarra Chocolate Brownies

Easy recipe for moist, nutty chocolate brownies
with ganache filling made with Mexican Ibarra Chocolate
Inspired by Rose Levy Beranbaum

The question: Can brownies be made with Mexican Ibarra chocolate, the chocolate used to make hot chocolate drinks? The answer: a decided yes! Brownies should be one of Mexico’s adopted desserts, right up there with national favorites flan and Tres Leches Cake, because of the ingredients which are grown in this country: chocolate, vanilla, even cane sugar.

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for Barcelona Brownies was my inspiration, but I substituted Ibarra chocolate for the bittersweet called for in Rose’s recipe. Because this chocolate is sweeter, I decreased the sugar in the recipe, added freshly ground cinnamon to remind the eater these are Mexican brownies, and I used Mexican crema (similar to France’s crème fraîche) in the ganache, which is also made with Ibarra chocolate. Note to self: next time, add Kahlua to the ganache for a greater mexicanismo effect.

Mexican Ibarra Chocolate Brownies
makes one 8″ square pan

  • 1 cup (4 oz./114 grams) toasted walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 14 tablespoons (7 oz./198 grams) butter, room temperature
  • 3 oz. (84 grams) Ibarra chocolate
  • 9 tablespoons (1.8 oz./50 grams) Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup (7 oz./200 grams) sugar
  • 3 large eggs (5.25 oz./150 grams, without shells)
  • 1 tablespoon (.5 oz./12 grams) vanilla
  • 3 oz. (85 grams) cream cheese, room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup (2.6 oz./75 grams) flour, white or sifted whole wheat
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Ganache

  • 3 oz. Ibarra chocolate
  • 1/2 cup crema (available in Mexico), crème fraîche or heavy cream

Read the recipe through completely. Assemble all ingredients, weigh or measure. Toast nuts. (See toasting note at bottom of page.)

Pre-heat the oven to 325 deg. F. (163 C.). Line an 8″ square pan with foil, leaving extra foil extending on two sides to serve as “handles” to lift brownies out of pan. Butter foil and dust with cocoa powder or use baking spray.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or in the micro-wave. (See note below.) There is no need to cut up chocolate, beyond cutting to the correct weight, as it melts quickly. When warm and melted, pour chocolate into the bowl of a standing mixer and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes to dissolve sugar in chocolate.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon together in a small bowl.

Add eggs and vanilla to chocolate mixture and beat 15 seconds on medium speed. Add cream cheese and beat until small bits remain. The cream cheese does not need to be fully incorporated.

Add dry ingredients and mix only until flour is no longer visible. Do not over-beat. Stir in the toasted nuts by hand. Using a spatula, scrape batter into a baking pan and smooth top, making sure batter fills the corners of the baking pan. Bake until the middle of the brownie springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, about 25 minutes.

While brownies are baking, mix ganache: melt chocolate in top of double boiler or in micro-wave. Add room temperature crema, crème fraîche or cream and stir vigorously to melt sugar in chocolate.

When brownies are done, press a buttered wooden chopstick or dowel into the brownies to form holes. I used a wooden dowel which was just over 1/4″ in diameter — it made holes big enough to fill easily with ganache. Don’t press dowel all the way through to the bottom of the pan, only about 3/4 of the depth, otherwise the ganache will pool on the bottom of the pan.

When brownies have cooled for 30 minutes, fill a small zip-lock bag with ganache, cut off a tiny corner, and squeeze ganache into holes. The warmth of the brownies will cause the ganache to be absorbed and the holes can be filled again.

When the brownies have completely cooled, and the ganache is cool enough to hold its shape, pipe decorative ganache over each hole, concealing a tunnel of ganache beneath each one. Cut into 16 squares.

Mexican Ibarra Chocolate Brownies
“Oh, my love is like a dark, dark brownie”, with apologies to Robert Burns



Notes:

To make these brownies muy mexicano, add a teaspoon or two of ancho chile powder or cayenne powder.  The amount to use depends on your personal chile toleration level.

I increased Rose’s recipe by 50%, as she used a “financier” silicone mold pan, and I used an 8″ square pan.

Nuts can be toasted in a micro-wave oven in increments of 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, for a total of 3-4 minutes.

Chocolate can be melted in a double boiler, or the micro-wave in increments of 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, for a total of 1 1/2 minutes.

Dutch-processed cocoa is not available in Mexico, so I used Hershey’s, which results in a lighter colored brownie that still has a pronounced chocolate flavor.

To learn more about cocoa powder, Dutched or natural, I recommend David Lebovitz’ recent post, Cocoa Powder FAQ.

If you are thinking about adding to your cookbook collection, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, the source of the recipe for Barcelona Brownies, would make an excellent choice. Her desserts are over the top in deliciousness and sheer visual impact.

Update: I made Mexican Ibarra Chocolate Brownies again, this time filling all the little holes with Walnutella, my new walnut “panache” (I can’t call it ganache because it doesn’t contain cream). The walnut flavor of the brownie was enhanced, countering the dominant chocolate flavor of the Ibarra.

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Pumpkin seed raisin cookies

Easy cookie recipe using favorite Mexican pumpkin seeds

We always try to be good in making our food choices, but there is often that little voice in the back saying, “Cookies, cookies, cookies.” This little voice is soft, but insistent, and continues until I finally make … Pumpkin Seed Cookies.

But these are good for us. Whole wheat flour, very little sugar, pumpkin seeds and raisins. An egg from a hen who knows what grass feels like under her feet as she chases a bug. Soft, chewy and not too sweet. The cookie, that is, not the bug. If you have a strong sweet tooth, these probably aren’t sweet enough for you, but you can always quadruple the sugar. Or make Toll House Cookies.

Pumpkin Seed Cookies makes 16

  • 1 3/4 cup (7 oz./200 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons (1.5 oz./42 grams) raw sugar or brown sugar, plus more for flattening the cookies
  • 3 oz. (85 grams) pumpkin seeds
  • 3 oz. (85 grams) raisins
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) avocado oil, or any mild oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml./60 grams) milk
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.). Read through recipe. Assemble and measure or weigh ingredients.
  2. Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Blend wet ingredients in a smaller bowl.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring by hand until everything is evenly mixed.
  5. Roll a large tablespoonful of dough between palms of hands briefly. Don’t worry about making perfect balls. Place on oiled cookie sheet. Dip a jar or glass with a flat bottom into raw sugar and flatten ball of dough. Bake 15-20 minutes.
  6. Cool on cake rack. Eat without guilt.

These cookies are sturdy, make no mistake. Perhaps I should call them good-for-you food discs. I offered Russ a plate of cookies, and I thought he would ask me if I had forgotten to add the sugar. Instead he said to take the plate away before he ate them all. He ate eight pumpkin seed cookies in one fell swoop.

Notes:

To spray PAM or other pan spray on a cookie sheet or cake pan, open the door to your dishwasher and place the pan on it. Any over-spray will be on the inside of the door, not on your counter, and will wash away the next time you run the dishwasher.

There is no need to wash the rack used for cooling cakes and cookies with soap and water. Just wipe it clean with a paper towel so that it retains a film of oil to rusting.

Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas in Spanish, are a common snack in Mexico and found in almost every store. Ground, they are used to thicken and season sauces, the most famous being Pipián Sauce.

Squash ( including pumpkins ) are one of the earliest foods in Mexico, consumed since the time of the Aztecs, and are one of the earliest plants domesticated in the New World.

More Reading:

Pepita Wikipedia

Pumpkin Seed Nutrition The World’s Healthiest Foods

Sopes on the Road and at Home

Freshly made tortillas filled with tender beef, pickled onions and picante salsa
Recipe for sopes — corn masa topped with
your favorite Mexican ingredients

Venturing off of our beaten track to Valle de Banderas (Nayarit, Mexico) brought an unexpected treat — sopes and tacos for breakfast at a no-name street eatery across from the plaza. Despite fluent Spanish, the waiter must have thought we were tourists (that’s what I get for carrying my camera around) and didn’t offer us the full menu. So we made our choices from the limited offer — tacos de res (beef tacos) pictured above, and quesadillas con carnitas (quesadillas with chopped pork) only to see customers at the next table enjoying sopes con lengua, a masa tortilla formed with a rim and filled with seasoned, chopped beef tongue. I was too full to order more, but Russ ordered a sope and gave me a taste. It was delicious.


Sope con lengua (tongue)
Note the plastic bag over the plastic plate. As many street-side eateries don’t have running water, they solve the dishwashing problem by giving each customer a new plastic bag over re-usable plates.


Chopping carnitas — tender pork — on a well-used cutting block


Wooden tortilla press with a bowl of masa

The memory of breakfast stayed with me after we returned home, inspiring sopes again for dinner. For quick meals, I try to keep on hand the Mexican kitchen basics — tortillas and sopes in the freezer, packaged re-fried beans, commerical salsa, cheese, and the vegetables of Mexico essential for traditional cooking — onion, garlic, tomatoes, fresh chiles, avocado, cabbage, lettuce, cilantro and radishes for garnish. With these basics, any number of dishes can be assembled easily with a minimum of time, such as tacos, quesadillas, tostados and sopes. (Often, the only difference in my kitchen between these is the base — a soft corn tortilla, flour tortilla, crisp corn tortilla or soft corn tortilla with a rim. Toppings and fillings vary according to what is in the fridge.) When there is time, it is worth making fresh salsa and homemade refried beans.  Just in case you are wondering, my fridge doesn’t usually contain beef tongue. But today it had a piece of left-over sirloin steak.

If you are fortunate enough to have a tortillaria a tortilla-making shop — in your town, you can buy ready-made masa and form your own sopes. Roll a ball of masa about 1 1/2 ” (3.8 cm.) across, and flatten it in a tortilla press or with a rolling pin until it is about 3-4″ (7.5-10 cm.) across. Cook lightly on a hot griddle or skillet for a few minutes, then turn and cook the other side, pinching up the edge of the cooked side to form a small rim all the way around. Cook thoroughly, about 5 minutes total.  Another option is to make corn tortillas or sopes with Maseca, a corn flour mix. Or simplest of all, just buy some tostadas or packaged corn tortillas. Your dinner can’t be called sopes anymore, but will be just as good.

Back to my dinner. I heated a package of refried beans, thawed a package of sopes, sliced the sirloin and crumbled queso añejo, a dry, salty cheese. Queso añejo is the traditional cheese used on many Mexican dishes. Feta cheese would come close if you need a substitution.



Sliced red onion, mushrooms, poblano chiles and minced garlic were quickly cooked in a bit of olive oil until tender.


Lastly, thinly slice lettuce or cabbage, mince cilantro and slice radishes for the garnish. Don’t forget to set out the salsa, the crowning touch to almost any Mexican meal.


Dinner is served. I wish you could join us!



Market day in Valle de Banderas

Mexican Kahlúa Truffles

Easy Recipe for Truffles made with Mexican Ibarra Chocolate

Dia de San Valentin is celebrated in Mexico with love and chocolate, as it is world-wide.  I always make truffles for Valentine’s Day, but this year I wanted to do something different, perhaps use the Mexican chocolate, Ibarra. It is a strong-tasting chocolate with coarse sugar granules that makes a very good cup of hot chocolate. There was no reason it couldn’t make a truffle with a Mexican touch. Adding Kahlúa, a coffee liqueur, and cinnamon, a spice found in many Mexican dishes, completed the theme of Mexican Kahlúa Truffles.

While making the truffles, I had an epiphany: there is no need to chop chocolate into pieces. It melts at body temperature, so how long can it take to melt in a double boiler over simmering water? I’m not in that much of a hurry. I did snap the bittersweet chocolate into pieces by hand, following the cut marks, but I couldn’t snap the Ibarra chocolate into smaller pieces, so I put the whole disc of chocolate in the top of the double boiler. It may take a little longer to melt, but there is always something to do while it is melting, like assembling and measuring the other ingredients.

Mexican Kahlúa Truffles

  • 8 oz. (227 grams) bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 oz. (227 grams) Ibarra chocolate
  • 1/2 cup  (4 oz./120 grams) crème fraiche, sour cream or heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz./56 grams) Kahlúa (or other liqueur)
  • 3 tablespoons (1.5 oz./43 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • optional 1/4 teaspoon of chile powder to spice things up

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water. Be careful not to get a single drop of water in the chocolate, as that may cause it to seize up and become lumpy.

When melted, spoon the chocolate into a blender and  blend for one minute. Scrape down the side of the jar with a spatula and blend for one minute more. Don’t be concerned if a few granules do not dissolve. The texture will add interest to the truffles. Remove half of the chocolate and return it to the upper pan of the double boiler (to coat the truffles later when they are formed and re-chilled). Add warm cream, warm Kahlúa and soft butter to the chocolate still in the blender. Blend for 30 seconds. When all is mixed, scrape into a shallow dish so that the chocolate is about one inch deep; chill in the refrigerator until it is firm.

When firm, use a melon baller to form into small balls. I spooned out a tablespoon’s worth of chocolate and formed a ball with the palms of my hands. If you use this method, the warmth of your hands will start to melt the chocolate, so work quickly. You may need to return the dish of chocolate to the refrigerator if it becomes too soft.  Or chill your hands in ice water if they are too warm.

Place the truffles on wax paper or parchment paper on a plate. Refrigerate the truffles while you prepare the dipping chocolate.


Re-warm the remaining chocolate in the top of the double boiler if it has cooled. Using two forks, dip each truffle into the chocolate to coat the balls. Don’t let the dipping chocolate become too warm, or it will start to melt the truffle ball.

Return the dipped truffles to the parchment paper and sprinkle with a light dusting of cinnamon.

Refrigerate until you are ready to present them to your Valentine. Like all chocolates, Kahlúa Truffles are best enjoyed at room temperature or cool, but not refrigerator-cold.

A Valentine treat for the cook: when you are finished, add a small cup of hot milk to the double boiler pot to melt and clean out the chocolate remnants. Then pour the hot milk into the blender jug and zizz for a few seconds so that no chocolate is lost. Enjoyed with a coconut macaroon, it makes a nice treat after your labor of love.

Note:

Avoid chocolate that comes from cocao beans harvested by child slaves in West Africa by buying organic chocolate. Chocolate classified as organic usually includes oversight of labor practices.

More Reading: Chocolate, Slavery and Our Collective Guilt (Cooking in Mexico)