Chiles Rellenos, High Speed Chases & Le Creuset

I was in kitchen, making dinner, when my 8-year-old son yelled from the family room. “Dad, car chase!”

Here in Los Angeles, we have our share of high-speed car chases — if you’re old enough to remember the O.J. Simpson murders, you’ll recall we even have slow-speed car chases. We’ve got a lot of cars, a lot of freeways, and a fair percentage of people doing things they shouldn’t be. I typically don’t pay much attention — it seems prurient, like staring at a car wreck or a topless woman on a European beach. But once in awhile, I get sucked in. Which is what happened the other night, as I cooked chiles rellenos.

I’m not sure how my wife and son stumbled upon it, but there it was on the big screen — a maroon Cadillac truck with dark tinted windows, racing along the surface streets of an L.A. suburb, five or six black-and-white patrol cars in hot pursuit. The action had already been unfolding for nearly an hour, all captured by news helicopters on every local channel you turned to, when we joined in.

The action back in the kitchen, meanwhile, involved my famous chiles rellenos — broiled forest-green poblano chilies, peeled and stuffed with colby jack and queso cotija cheeses, fried in egg merengue and topped with a pumpkin seed/cilantro cream sauce. At the exact moment I got the car chase call, the chilies were in the pan cooking on medium-low, while in a smaller Le Creuset saucepan, the sauce was thickening on medium heat. In the toaster oven was queso fundido with Spanish chorizo, getting all melty good. I sprung like a gazelle across the living room into the family room and watched as the Cadillac weaved through traffic, barely missing oncoming cars, making sudden left and right turns, trailed all the while by the cop cars and news helicopters. After one particularly daring maneuver that gained him some time and distance, he pulled over briefly and two passengers leapt out — a man and a woman — racing into the bushes pursued by police on foot. For some time, I stood there bug-eyed, unable to peel myself away.

And then I remembered my dinner.

An unhappy pan.

Back in the kitchen, the queso fundido timer had gone off and everything was okay there. The chilies were browner than I would’ve liked but still fine. The sauce, however… Oh, the sauce! The center ring of green — now the thickness of porridge — was surrounded on every side by a quarter inch of black char.

I transfered the un-burnt part of the sauce to a new saucepan, added more chicken broth and cream to thin, and all was well (in spite of a slight, unintended smokiness). The Le Creuset pan required an overnight soak and a good deal of scrubbing. The guy in the Cadillac turned a corner, jumped out of his truck, hopped a few fences and crossed a few backyards, and vanished from view.

As of this writing, they hadn’t yet found him.

*   *   *

Chiles rellenos with pepita cilantro salsa
serves 4

4 large poblano chilies (or Anaheim, if you can’t find poblanos)
4 2-oz slices of colby jack (or other cheddar or jack)
4 2-oz slices of queso cotija (or queso fresco)
2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste

Broil on a piece of foil, broil the peppers close to the heat in a toaster oven or regular oven, turning once or twice, until the skin is blackened and blistered. (Probably 15-25 minutes, depending on heat source. You could also grill them on a barbecue.) Remove from heat and place in a plastic grocery bag and twist the top closed. Let rest for 20 minutes. Remove from bag, peel off skin and discard. Carefully create an opening down the pepper with your hands or a knife, and scoop out as many seeds as you can. Rinse each pepper under cold water, washing out any remaining seeds. Drain on paper towels.

Fill each pepper with one slice colby, one slice queso cotija. Seal closed as best you can.

Place chicken broth, cream, pepitas and cilantro in a blend and puree for 1-2 minutes, until smooth. Remove to a small saucepan, and adjust seasoning with salt to taste.

Place egg whites in a shallow dish and beat either manually or with a hand mixer until you’ve created stiff merengue peaks. Carefully fold in the egg yolks. Place flour in a second shallow bowl. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Dredge each chili in the flour, then dip in the egg mixture to cover. Place in warm oil. Continue until all chilies are cooking, and lower heat to medium. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, and turn over for another 2-3 minutes.

While the chilies are cooking, put the small saucepan over medium heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes and turn off heat.

To plate: Place a chili on each of four plates. Drizzle liberally with sauce. Serve with rice and beans, if you choose.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thefatcook
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 14:43:08

    Making this tonight!


  2. Monica
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 16:24:18

    I will have to try your version. Chile rellenos is my favorite Mexican dish. I learned to make them from my grandmother who was a fabulous cook and teacher. I always make a couple dozen when I make them . I like to share 🙂


    • scolgin
      Sep 18, 2012 @ 16:29:51

      I need to learn everything your grandmother taught you! 😉 We’re going down to Mexico in a week or so, staying in a house that has a cook — an old Mexican gal. I’m hoping to pick up some wisdom…


  3. monicolgin
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 17:23:01

    Next time you burn the dish you should fill it with water put it back on the stove and bring it to a slow boil for about 5 minutes. Get a wooden spoon and swirl it around the bottom to loosen up all burnt bottom. Rinse and wash. Should come right off. No scrubbing required.


  4. Benjamin Thompson
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 21:52:31

    BTW, why Cotija. It’s basically Mexican parm so does it melt well?


    • scolgin
      Sep 18, 2012 @ 21:54:27

      You could use fresca. I like cotija, it sort of half-melts, which winds up giving the relleno a nice toothsomeness. (I like to use that word at any opportunity.)


  5. thefatcook
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 23:00:43

    Just went to market. Are Poblanos the same as Pasilla? Anyway, I’m using Poblanos. Picked up Queso Chihuahua and Queso Caribe. Subbing crema for the heavy cream because I already had some on hand and I think it’ll make the sauce thicker. Will follow up with you tomorrow. I eat this dish when I go out all the time but have never made it at home. (And as you can tell, I live around the corner from an honest to god Mexican/Puerto Rican grocery where the food is dirt cheap.)


    • scolgin
      Sep 18, 2012 @ 23:05:22

      Yeah, actually… pasillas are the dried version of poblano. I meant poblano, thanks for pointing that out (I just went back in and changed all references). Let me know how it turns out! I didn’t realize it was an actual thing, I thought I just sort of made it up. LOL


  6. thefatcook
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 23:03:42

    And as far as being “prurient” (!), when I got married my soon-to-be brothers-in-law were bored (I got married in Playa del Carmen) and I directed them to take a walk down the beach and count topless German and French women. They didn’t come back for two hours.


  7. Mom
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 23:31:28

    I simply don’t like cotija, I keep trying but haven’t got there.
    BTW the first time you were on a European beach at 10 You had a very difficult time not sneaking repeated peeks at the topless women.


  8. Benjamin Thompson
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 14:47:04

    Turned out well. Thanks for the inspiration. Served with refried beans. BTW, using sour cream worked out really well as the sauce thickens instantly, but I suspect it probably tastes a little richer by just using heavy cream.


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