During my childhood years in Southern California, Mexican food was something we ate only at restaurants. Sure, we’d occasionally have burrito night at home, but there was nothing authentic or traditional about those overstuffed and rolled tortillas.
It wasn’t until I moved to Philadelphia and became friends with a woman who had lived in Mexico until the age of 14 that I discovered how truly approachable this cuisine was. Thanks to Angie, I learned to make authentic tamales and carne asada. She even shared her grandmother’s recipe for mole with me.
In recent days, it’s been harder to find a chance to get into the kitchen with Angie. She has twin toddlers and so keeping them out of trouble is her primary focus. Still, I want to keep nurturing my still-nascent Mexican cookery skills, so last weekend I went in search of a new recipe to try.
What I found was Melissa d’Arabian’s version of Chiles Rellenos. Though labor intensive, this dish was a huge winner in terms of flavor. It was just the thing for a lazy Sunday meal and The Weekender.
Before you start broiling your peppers, here are a few things you should know:
– Position your rack so that the peppers are as close as possible to the broiler. The goal is to blister the skins quickly without overcooking the peppers. If you have a gas stove, consider using the technique of blistering the peppers directly on the flame.
– I recommend getting a couple extra peppers to blister and peel. I had one or two that nearly shredded when I removed the skin, making it tricky to keep the cheese inside the peppers.
– Melissa’s suggestion to pop the filled peppers into the freezer to firm up is a very good one. It’s the only reason my peppers stayed together in the pan.
– Don’t whisk your egg batter together until just before you’re ready to fry the stuffed peppers. If left out too long, it will separate.
– When frying, keep the heat at medium-high. Too much flame and the coating will burn before the interior cheese melts.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.