One of my favorite college roomie memories comes from my sophomore year where I lived in a on-campus apartment. I had met my roommate, Gabby, during my first year of college at UCI in the dorm rooms. We were over the dorm life: the boring and typical dorm food, waking up at 3am to fire alarms set off by a future roomie, the never-ending pranks the boys played on the girls and mostly sharing a bathroom with 12 other girls. Dorm life was non-stop fun, but it had its unbearable moments, too.
Having our own apartment was a little step forward of grown-up life, too. It also meant cooking for yourself and eating whatever you wanted. One of the go-to meals that I remember Gabby prepared most often were her chile rellenos. I remember sitting at the kitchen table watching her char the chilies on the stove, and although I sometimes feared that she might set the fire alarm off – it never happened. Battered and lightly fried peppers stuffed with lots of cheese, always gooey and crispy from the egg batter. They were scrumptious in each bite, and more importantly it was one of the perfect inexpensive meals for us aka college students.
Although, I never got the original recipe from Gabby – I did find this one from my recent copy of Food Network magazine. It was pretty straight-forward to make, and included a foolproof step-by-step visual to help. I knew that I had to make the dish for Eric and I for our Meatless Monday dinners and also relish in those wonderful college memories, too. This would be a perfect dish to make for a Cinco de Mayo fiesta, have a batch of margaritas, side dish of lime-cilantro rice and a big bowl of guacamole and chips – simply delicious.
Adapted from Food Network Magazine May 2011 - Marcela Valladolid
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped finely
3 large egg whites plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
6 Poblano chile peppers
5 plum tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
½ small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Char the chilies on the gas burner on medium high heat until blackened all over. You will hear small sparks of peppers popping. Or you can char the chilies under the broiler. Place the chilies in a large Ziploc bag and close shut. Let stand for 10 minutes. This will let the chilies soften and become very easy to peel.
Place the chilies on a cutting board and gently rub the skin off using paper towels. Using a paring knife, make a slit across the top of the chile just below the stem, leaving the stem intact. Slice lengthwise down from the top to the bottom of the pepper. Open the chile and remove the seeds and inner membranes, use the paring knife if needed to loosen the seedpods. Repeat with remaining chilies.
In a blender, puree the tomatoes, onions, and garlic until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomato puree and simmer for 5 minutes, taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed. Keep warm.
In a small bowl, mix the shredded cheese and chopped fresh oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Fill each chile with ¼ cup cheese mixture, and gently fold the sides over and thread 2 toothpicks to form an X. If needed, add additional toothpicks to secure the filling. In the bowl of the stand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the egg yolk and beat for 3 minutes.
In a large deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat about 1 inch vegetable oil until ready (about 375 degrees). Place flour in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper. Place bowl of egg mixture next to dish. Dredge each chile pepper in the flour, and dip into the egg mixture to cover completely. Let excess batter fall off. Add the chilies to the pan and cook 1 to 2 at a time, flipping once until golden. Spoon hot oil over chilies for even browning. Remove chilies and place on a pepper towel to remove excess oil. Repeat with chilies.
Spoon tomato mixture onto place, and place a fried chile on top. Serve immediately.
Review: It’s a slightly tricky recipe to master because you have to be careful to not overcut the slits of the chile pepper or you can not seal it properly. I had 4 out of 6 decent chile peppers come out decent. The flour dipping and whipped egg batter process was a little bit messy, but the whipped egg batter is crucial to the crispiness of the chile. It needs that extra crunch and texture for this tasteful dish. I paired the chile rellenos with some veggies and lime-cilantro rice on the side.