Chiles Rellenos for Fathers Day (and the Biggest Mess I ever Made)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

chile-rellenos-1b

First of all, I’d like to wish all the Dads out there a very Happy Father’s Day!  Then, I’d like to remind all the daughters out there who still have their Dads with them how lucky they are.  I lost my father three and a half years ago and I’d give anything to have just one more day with him.  He was a wonderful man and I miss him terribly. Cherish each moment with your loved ones. Time flies by so quickly and there are no “do overs”.

Now that I’ve thoroughly cheered you up, let me tell you about the special Father’s Day dinner I made for Mr. SGCC.  There’s a little Mexican place in town we like to go to called Mi Pueblo.  They have good, fresh food at reasonable prices. Plus, they have a cute old guy that walks around with his guitar, serenading the diners at each table.  It isn’t the Frontera Grill, but we like it.  Our favorite dish at Mi Pueblo is their chiles rellenos.  They make then with these humongous poblano peppers that are stuffed with lots of well-seasoned meat and cheese.  Mr. SGCC absolutely loves them!  I don’t do a lot of Mexican at home, but I decided to try to recreate them for him.

Since I had never made chiles rellenos before, I turned to the guru of Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless of the Frontera Grill, for guidance.  His chile rellenos are so popular that people line up outside the restaurant an hour before the doors open just to make sure they can get some.  In fact, the restaurant regularly sells out of them within the first twenty minutes!  I figured if Frontera Grill’s chiles rellenos were that hot, they must be good. So, that’s the recipe I decided to go with.  Little did I know at the time what I was in for!

First of all, the recipe is good – very good, in fact.  It is also, however, very long and time consuming as well.  There are four different components in this dish and each requires several steps.   None of the individual steps are particularly difficult, but there are a lot of them.  And be forewarned, you will probably need to hose down your kitchen after you’re finished! 

The first component you need to make is the tomato sauce which is used in both the meat filling and the serving sauce.  It’s an aromatic sauce flavored with onion, Serrano chiles, cinnamon and cloves.  If I had it to do over again, I would probably make this sauce a day or two ahead.  It keeps just fine in the fridge and doing do will cut a good an hour off of your prep time.

rellenos-collage-2

The next thing you have to do is make a tomato broth, which is served tableside with the finished chiles rellenos.  All this involves is simmering some of the previously made tomato sauce with some chicken or beef broth.  This is the easiest step in the recipe, but it does require at least forty-five minutes of cooking time.

After that, you need to make the meat filling for the rellenos.  Bayless calls it picadillo.  It’s made with ground pork shoulder, simmered with more of the tomato sauce, vinegar, raisins and almonds.  Very, very tasty!  Both the picadillo and the tomato broth can also be made ahead.

chile-rellenos-collage-1

Then, it’s time to prepare the peppers, themselves.  Here is where things get tricky.  Bayless says to roast the poblanos until their skins get blistered and blackened.  Then he says to cut a slit down the side of each, rinsing and removing the seeds as you go, taking care not to tear the peppers.  Have any of you ever tried this?  I’m sorry, but it’s impossible!

chile-rellenos-3a

My peppers looked perfect when they came out of the oven.  But, the minute I cut into them to remove the seeds, they started to disintegrate! As I tried to stuff them, they just fell apart. I felt like Dr. Kildare as I frantically tried to plug up the rips and holes by shoving in toothpicks everywhere!  By the time I got the peppers all stuffed, there were shreds of pepper skin, pepper seeds and blobs of picadillo smeared all over the place!  I just prayed that battering and frying them would hold them together at least enough so that we could eat them.  I had already given up any hope of getting a decent picture!

Oh, and that was the really fun part –  the battering and frying.  Bayless advises to freeze the stuffed peppers before attempting this step.  I did and it didn’t help me at all.  Plus, I lost another whole hour while my stuffed poblanos sat in the deep freeze!

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m scared of deep frying.  Boiling hot oil and I do not get along – and I have the scars to prove it!  I’m not ashamed of this. It is what it is. So, I really have to have a good reason to attempt it.  I guessed that Father’s Day was as good a reason as any, so I sucked it up and kept going.

I prepared the batter without any trouble. It was a nice, light and fluffy batter, by the way. Bayless says to hold the peppers by their stems, dip them into the batter and quickly pull them straight out  and into the hot oil. Is he kidding?!?! The moment I tried to dip the first pepper in by its stem, the stem broke off and the pepper sank straight to the bottom of the batter bowl.  I tried to fish it out using a fork, and that beautiful picadillo filling came squishing out of every orifice!  I finally just dug my hands in the bowl, grabbed the pepper and plopped it into the oil.   And, you know what?  The batter immediately started to puff up and turn a lovely shade of golden brown.  After a few minutes, instead of looking like a mutilated lump of mush, that pepper actually started to resemble a chile relleno!  That batter was like the Spanx of Mexican cooking! It smoothed out and covered almost every flaw.

chile-rellenos-4

I dipped (with my bare hands) and fried the rest of the peppers as fast as I could while I was still on a roll.  I didn’t dare stop for a second to take a picture. Then, I lined them up in a baking dish, doused them with sauce, smothered them with cheese and tossed them in the oven to bake. Both my kitchen and I were covered in picadillo guts, foamy batter and tomato sauce!  Bayless’s recipe doesn’t say to do all this, but I did it anyway. It was all about camouflage, baby!

Take a look.

chile-rellenos-2

Not bad, huh?  You have to admit that with all of that zesty tomato sauce and gooey, melted cheese on top, those chiles rellenos look pretty darn appetizing!  You’d never know what a mangled mess they were underneath!

And, OMG, were they delicious!  I hadn’t tasted Mexican food this good since…well… practically ever!  Not even when I was actually in Mexico last week.  Seriously. These chiles rellenos made Mi Pueblo’s version look like they came from Taco Bell!  Mr. SGCC was in chiles rellenos heaven!  He thinks I’m a goddess!  And, after having him heap mountains of praise on me for preparing such a fabulous feast for him, I stupidly replied with a shy smile, “Oh, it was nothing!”.  He believed me and is already bugging me to make them again.  Sigh….. The things we do for love.

Enjoy!

28 responses to Chiles Rellenos for Fathers Day (and the Biggest Mess I ever Made)

  1. On June 20, 2010 at 10:32pm, David A. M. Farris said...

    I’m glad I’m a father, didn’t cook today. If I had a sous chef I would do this dish myself, but since I’m in Chicago, I’ll get it next at Frontera, if I can get a reservation!

    • On June 21, 2010 at 9:55am, Susan said...

      Lucky you! :)

  2. On June 20, 2010 at 10:33pm, Theresa said...

    I recently fell in love with the chile rellenos at our local mexican restaurant and have been fantasizing about making them at home, despite the fact that I too avoid deep frying at all costs. Now that I’ve read your experience… well, I think I’ll leave it to the pros. Yours do look delicious smothered in all of that cheese though!

    • On June 21, 2010 at 9:57am, Susan said...

      Don’t let me deter you! These really were fabulous. Not something I would make on a regular basis, but I’m glad I did it once.

  3. On June 20, 2010 at 10:34pm, SMITH BITES said...

    oh dear god in heaven – i’m laughing sooooooooo hard i can barely finish reading the post!!!! oh dear Susan, I have made many a mess in the kitchen so I know exactly how you felt. ok, so I’ve caught my breath . . . well I’d say you’ve found your mojo and it’s back in full force!!! congrats to not giving up on those rellenos (which look AMAZING I might add!) just not sure I’m going to attempt it but am thrilled you did AND lived to write about the experience!! hugs!

    • On June 21, 2010 at 9:59am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Debra! I’m sure I’ll look back and laugh about this myself someday. Perhaps, after I finish scraping relleno schmutz off the walls! ;)

  4. On June 21, 2010 at 3:30am, Rosa said...

    I bet they were better than the Taco Bell Chile Rellenos! That is one fantastic dish. I am drooling! I love Tex-Mex food so much…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. On June 21, 2010 at 6:42am, Jessica @ How Sweet It Is said...

    I have never made chiles rellenos – they look incredible!

  6. On June 21, 2010 at 8:05am, bellini valli said...

    Mr. SGCC is a lucky man Susan. I was in the States over the weekend so we had to go to one of the local Mexican restairants. I didn’t have chiles rellenos but what I did have was served with plenty of refried beans and rice.

    • On June 21, 2010 at 10:01am, Susan said...

      Thanks! That’s what I keep telling him! ;)

  7. On June 21, 2010 at 8:09am, Ciaochowlinda said...

    Well I can see you definitely got your mojo back and thank goodness. They sound really tricky to make but your solutions worked out well. Love your sense of humor and writing style.

    • On June 21, 2010 at 10:04am, Susan said...

      Tricky, but worth trying at least once. :)

  8. On June 21, 2010 at 8:38am, Katrina said...

    My husband would LOVE this!

  9. On June 21, 2010 at 8:55am, Angela@spinachtiger said...

    You braved through the recipe. I have his book but never made anything yet. I’m not sure I like all that tomato sauce though. I’m sure there has to be a way to just get inspired by and shortcut. ALhtough, who am I to argue with Rick Bayless. He is the king of this type of cuisine ,

    I like your comment, “there are no do overs.” I miss my grandfather, father, stepfather, and uncle who was like a father to me. I also miss the father in law I never got to meet. (he died right before I met his family).

    • On June 21, 2010 at 10:08am, Susan said...

      I can definitely relate. We grow up thinking that our parents are invincible. Sadly, we often don’t realize they’re not until it’s too late.

  10. On June 21, 2010 at 10:04am, Joanne said...

    I truly hope i end up marrying someone who wants Mexican food on Father’s Day because I will take any excuse to make these! They look delicious. If you’re going to trust anyone with Mexican…it’s Bayless!

    • On June 21, 2010 at 10:09am, Susan said...

      Absolutely! :D

  11. On June 21, 2010 at 10:56am, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    LOL at the Spanx comment! These really do look delicious and perfect.

    Hope Mr. SGCC had a fantastic Father’s Day. You are so right. I was on FB yesterday and saw how many of my friends had lost their fathers. I realized how grateful I am that mine is still with me. We actually celebrated Father’s Day a week early in conjunction with my niece’s dance recital.

  12. On June 21, 2010 at 1:09pm, Karen@Mignardise said...

    Very funny post. Sounds like what happens to me quite often, We just keep going, hoping it will all taste good in the end. Glad they were delicious – you are such a good wife!

  13. On June 21, 2010 at 5:36pm, G said...

    :) i’m glad your back! you make me laugh. it sounds good and funny and frustrating all at the same time. he is a super lucky man :)

  14. On June 21, 2010 at 5:47pm, Eliana said...

    Loving everything about this dish. Looks so robust and colorful.

  15. On June 21, 2010 at 8:25pm, Michelle said...

    These look so amazing Susan! You’ve got a very lucky hubby! :)

  16. On June 24, 2010 at 12:24pm, Kevin (Closet Cooking) said...

    Those looks so amazingly good! The picadillo stuffing would be perfect in them!

  17. On June 24, 2010 at 5:58pm, Julie said...

    Bigger mess = more fabulous meal :) I will make these one day when I am feeling brave, it looks just wonderful.

  18. On June 29, 2010 at 8:27am, Tracey@Tangled Noodle said...

    “The batter is the Spanx of Mexican cooking!” LOL!! I would love to try this recipe but I was exhausted by the time I finished reading your trials and tribulations with. Thank you for beating the path for the rest of us, so that we know what we can expect – time to cover the kitchen floor to ceiling with a tarpaulin!

  19. On August 24, 2010 at 1:11am, Somethingducky said...

    My Mother’s technique for roasting peppers is to stick them right on top of a gas stove flame on high and turn them until charred. It’s a lot faster and less messy then the stick in the oven method and they hold up better when you try to stuff them.

  20. On August 17, 2012 at 9:19am, Lisa said...

    first time on your site and I love it, already saved to my fav’s. As I was drinking my morning coffee and reading your story about making the chile Rellenos and the struggle to fill, dip and fry, I had a thought, why not a casserole? Follow the recipe as is except for stuffing the chiles, instead slice them in halve, remove the seeds then dip in batter and deep fry. Layer the ingredients in a pan and bake. Doesn’t save steps or time but it will save the headach of stuffing and frying the whole chile. I can’t wait to try this recipe, I have a garden full of wonderful Pablono peppers ready to be used. Happy cooking!

  21. On July 18, 2014 at 10:32am, toronto stamped concrete said...

    Hello everyone, it’s my first go to see at this web site,
    and paragraph is in fact fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting
    such posts.

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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