I had no idea what Chiles Rellenos were before I moved to Albuquerque. My first tangential experience with Mexican food was in college, at the restaurant across the street from campus where tan men with heavy pomade in their hair and bright smiles would greet us ceremoniously and escort us to our tables. In the strip mall across from campus there were three places of note: a grocery store, a Starbucks, and the Mexican restaurant. For the unfortunate ones who lacked transportation, these were our three options for off-campus entertainment. We hit the Mexican restaurant when either (a) we had just cashed in on our measly student-employees salary, or (b) it was 2-for-1-Margarita night. To be honest, I don't really remember what their food tasted like - but the Margaritas sure were potent stuff.
In New Mexico, we don't care for folks calling our food "Mexican." Because it's not. The way we smother our dishes in green or red chile, our insatiable taste for roasted chiles, and the undeniable influence of the Native-American Pueblo cuisine, all surely set us apart from the stencil of "Mexican food" as known in the rest of America. Food is one of the best things about New Mexico, in addition to the mountains and the 362 days of sun every year. So don't be calling our food "Mexican," entiende?
While I love Chiles Rellenos, I don't tolerate cheese very well and I know that many people have this problem. So I've elaborated a variation of the recipe using a mushroom-goat cheese stuffing. And since I continue to be devoted to the rules of the Beauty Detox Solution (no protein with starch!), I've skipped the bread crumbs and the frying for an extra-healthy alternative: baked, and topped with delicious creamy tomato sauce. Remember to use gloves when cleaning the chiles, and make sure to get all the seeds out because these suckers can be very spicy. I used Hatch chiles, and if you can get your hands on some they are ideal for this dish.
Baked chiles rellenos with goat cheese
~ makes 4 servings
8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
5 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cups shredded goat cheddar
Creamy tomato sauce for topping
~ makes 3 cups
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 to 3 jalapeño chiles, chopped (with gloves)
1 26-oz carton of Pomi chopped tomatoes (or use any other brand of BPA-free packaged tomatoes)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup broth
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Roast chiles in a cast-iron pan over a gas or electric stove, turning them with tongs.
Cut a slit in each chile starting at the stem end and going about half-way down the chile. Gently remove as many seeds as you can from each chile and set aside. Make sure to use gloves in this undertaking - it's for your own good! As you can see I didn't, and I suffered immensely for a full 6 hours, during which I kept my hands submerged in ice water. Use gloves, people!
Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add oil, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.Transfer cooked onions, garlic and mushrooms to a large bowl, let cool off slightly and then toss with the grated cheese. Stuff chiles with the cheese and mushroom mixture. Lay in a lightly oiled baking pan and bake until chiles are soft and filling is hot, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Add all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Then cook until it turns a deeper red, about 10 minutes. Add broth, or skip it if your potion is too liquid. Season with salt.
Remove the chiles from the oven and serve topped with sauce. Bring extra sauce to the table. Buen provecho!
Recipe adapted from About.com.