From daybreak until late afternoon, my mother-in-law’s kitchen in Mexico City was a steaming miasma of spice and sweetness. Although she didn’t do a lot of the actual cooking, she supervised the elaborate meals and taught her cooks exactly how everything should look, taste and smell. She also taught me the basics of Mexican cuisine, and every time we visited she would make one or more of our favorite dishes while I stood by or helped with preparation.
Chiles Rellenos is still one of my favorite Mexican dishes, and after years of making it, my recipe definitely has Consuelo’s “sazon”. The secret to really great Mexican food is time…letting things simmer, reduce and meld. One of the foundations of “comida casera” is a rich tomato paste that is used in sauces, soups, Spanish rice and other dishes.
SALSA DE JITOMATE
1 pound ripe tomatoes, preferably Roma type
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
½ cup water
4 Tbsp. canola oil
Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and water in food processor and mill gently. Heat oil to high but not smoking. Strain the vegetable puree through a food mill or sieve, to remove seeds and skins, directly into hot oil. Cook on medium heat until mixture is reduced by half. Lower heat to simmer and reduce until the oil is the only liquid in the pan. At this stage the paste should be watched closely. Add oil, if needed, to prevent scorching
Note: I triple or quadruple this recipe when tomatoes are abundant and freeze small containers of the tomato paste.
It may seem silly, but now we are going to add liquid BACK to the paste to create a soupy sauce for the Chiles Rellenos. In a large covered skillet, sauté 1 onion, sliced in thin half moons and 1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and sliced, until slightly softened. Add tomato paste and stir to coat vegetables. Add 4 cups chicken broth and simmer for half an hour.
4 large poblano chiles
4 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup flour
1 cup Cotija cheese
1/2 pound Oaxaca cheese (you can also use String Cheese or Mozarella)
1 cup canola oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
When roasting is finished, start with first chile off the grill and, under cold water, slip the skins, trying to leave the pepper intact. Next, make a slit down one side of the chile and carefully reach in and remove the seeds and veins. This is easier to do under running water. Pat dry and stuff each chile with cheese. Be careful not to overstuff as they will leak. I like to leave a little overlap. Close and fasten with toothpicks and set aside.
To make the batter, start by separating eggs and lightly beating egg yolks. In stand mixer, whip egg whites on high speed to soft peaks. Gently fold in egg yolks.
In small bowl dust chiles with flour, then dip in egg batter and place in medium hot oil. (I usually do two chiles at a time, as they must be watched to prevent burning.) Turn chiles once so they are golden on both sides and then place them in the sauce and cover.
Cover and simmer chiles in sauce for 30 minutes, add cilantro and mix in. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with rice, beans and tortillas.
Since I had harvested the last of my poblanos from the vegetable garden I roasted them all. I used the remainder of them to make pickled pepper and onion…another traditional side dish. Remove the chile tops, tear into strips and slice white onion in thin rounds. Add ½ cup cider vinegar and salt to vegetables. Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
We will be visiting Consuelo in Veracruz in January and I am really looking forward to getting a tune-up on my sauce and chile relleno recipes. Gracias, Suegrita!