Friday, March 12, 2010

From Puebla With Love.........

There was a special on Poblano Chiles at our local Mexican market and I couldn't resist buying a big bag of these smoky, mild chiles that are so versatile and you can make them in so so many ways I'm sure one of these is sure to win favor with your family.

Of all the chiles in Mexico that are used for cooking, many are only suitable for salsas since they don't translate well into other presentations but the Poblano Chile can be turned into all of these dishes: (and more....)
  • Chiles Rellenos en Frio (Stuffed Poblanos served cold)
  • Chiles Rellenos Capeados (Stuffed Poblanos Breaded, hot)
  • Chilen en Nogada (can be with or without breading, stuffed and with almond sauce, cold)
  • Rajas en Escabeche (Chile strips in vinaigrete)
  • Rajas con Crema (Chile Strips in Cream)
  • Crema de Rajas con Elote (A soup of rajas, corn and cream...)
  • Tamales Poblanos (Tamales from Puebla)
  • Tamales de Rajas con Queso (Rajas and cheese tamales)
  • Salsa Poblana (Poblano Salsa)
  • Enchiladas Poblanas (Poblano Enchiladas)
  • Guisados (Casseroles or One Dish Meals)
  • Ensaladas (Salads)
The Poblano Chiles are usually mild with very little heat to them, but when you roast, peel and remove the seeds and veins you make doubly sure they will stay mild. It's believed that the darker chiles are the milder more flavorful ones and the bright green one's need maturing and might be spicier. These are also found dried in which case they are called "Ancho" and you get another full gamut of preparation choices for these too like in Mole. They are also dried and ground into a powder and used as a spice.

As you can see the Poblano is very flexible in its use. A very Mexican ingredient which brings all sorts of national memories to us who relate it to holidays throughout the year when it is served. Originating in Puebla, Mexico which is in the heart of the country and an area well known for it's exquisite culinary traditions, it comes with a royal bloodline which we can use to our advantage once we know how to use them.

My favorite way to have these is roasted and then stuffed. You can roast them over a flame (on top of the stove for instance), turning them until they blister and darken (but not too much or they will char), then you place them in a plastic bag to "sweat" and cool; you peel them, open them carefully to remove the seeds and veins and they're ready for use. You can also fry then lightly in oil if you don't have a gas stove and some people fry them in the oven under the broiler too. NOTE: People like to rinse them under the faucet when cleaning them BUT DON'T, you remove the essential oils with water and discard flavor along with the peel and seeds. So if you're interested in major flavor, NO WATER!

Once they're cleaned, you can cut them into strips, leave whole and stuff or turn them into a sauce or salsa. Here are some suggestions that came from last night's dinner:

Carne de Puerco con Rajas.- A Poblano dish direct from Puebla which reminds us of our home there. Easy and a one-dish meal too!

2 lbs pork cut into squares or strips
4 Poblano chiles, roasted, cleaned, deveined and cut into strips about 2-3 inches
4 potatoes, medium- cut into squares
1 large onion, cut into slices
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped or from a garlic press
1 cup corn kernels
salt and pepper to taste

Salt and pepper the meat lightly. In a large pan with 1-2 tbl of oil or lard, sear the meat over high heat, then add the chiles, potatoes, onion, garlic and corn. Mix well. Add enough water to cover and lower the flame to med and allow to simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 20-30 min.

Taste to adjust seasonings and to insure the liquid has turned into a gravy. Serve.
NOTE: This makes a great "guisado" or taco filling. Top with some sour cream and Cotija cheese or you could add some Jack Cheese and turn it into Quesadillas. You can also use chicken or any other meat instead or leave as a vegetarian dish.

Enchiladas Poblanas.- Another memory of Puebla with my own twist. Wonderfully tasty and can be used in almost anything!

4 Poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, deveined, tops cut off
1/2 med onion
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 Serrano peppers, tops cut off (optional)
1 tsp Chicken Consome Powder (optional)
3 tbl Cilantro leaves
salt & pepper

Put everything in a blender and mix until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Should be a smooth and heavy sauce.
NOTE: If you're unsure if you want it spicy, make it without the Serrano's and taste, then add 1 Serrano and blend, taste again, then you will know exactly what you like.

For the enchiladas:
2 cups chicken, shredded or pork or cheese or vegetables or shrimp (pick your filling)
Corn tortillas, softened in hot oil, lightly to make them flexible
1 cup shredded cheese (pick your favorite)
Sour Cream

Soften the tortillas and fill. Roll up and place on a plate (for a serving) or in a baking dish.
Cover with the sauce, cheese and heat dish in microwave or bake the dish. Top with sour cream.
NOTE: These are the basic enchiladas, but you can see how you could vary the fillings and toppings to suit your taste, right?

Rajas en Escabeche.- Chile strips in a vinaigrete, how could you go wrong....

Poblano rajas, prepared as detailed above
1/2 med onion
1-2 cloves garlic
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
oil and vinegar (your choice but white vinegar and olive oil are fine)
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Put the chile strips into a container with a tight fitting lid, add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and mix your favorite vinaigrete recipe and add the Dijon mustard and mix really well. Add salt and pepper. Pour on top of the chiles, cover and refrigerate overnight (at least) before serving.
NOTE: Once they have "cured", you can use them for almost anything and the dressing that is left is fantastic over salad. You could also add scalded carrots, jicama, pearl onions, etc. for a more substantial mix and you could use as a snack. Or in an omelete with the Poblano sauce on top; quesadillas, tacos, etc.

Roasted Chile Salad with Poblano Vinaigrete.- One of my all time favorites!

Prepare the Rajas en Escabeche as detailed above
1 head of lettuce, washed and cut into pieces
1 tomato, sliced
1 small Jicama, peeled and cut into strips
2 green onions, cut into fine slivers
1/2 cup Cotija Cheese, grated
1/2 cup Sour Cream
salt and pepper to taste

Place lettuce on plate. Add the tomato, jicama, onions and top with the Rajas that you've cured.
Drizzle the Poblano vinegar from the rajas onto the salad. Top with the Cotija cheese, sour cream and salt and pepper. Serve.
NOTE: You could add cooked, cold meats to this salad which would make it into a main dish while still being a cool entree over the summer. I've used cold tongue, chicken, turkey, smoked fish, shrimp and sliced eye of round. It's fabulous!

This of course only touches the tip of the many uses for Poblano Peppers. Their taste lends itself well to any kind of dish you'd like to make. Experiment and see how many more uses you can find for these, you'll be surprised what a great flavor it adds to your regular menu. Plus it's a tasty way to add green vegetables to your diet while you're at it..... Enjoy!

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