Cooking Like A Mexican

Chiles rellenos

Chiles rellenos are the quintessential Mexican mom meal; it’s comfort food at its best. And, it’s one of those dishes where the recipes are handed down from generation to generation. Not only is the family recipe highly valued, it’s also super secret.

Chiles rellenos are simple to make, but the steps take time and require lots of paying attention and patience. The dish consists of roasted poblano chiles stuffed with loads of cheese, battered with a fluffy egg coating and fried until crispy. Fillings can range from ground or stewed meats and seafood to vegetables and refried beans, but this recipe sticks to classic cheese. And it’s the best because it’s my mom’s and grandmom’s.

chilesrellenos.JPGThe roasted tomato salsa is the perfect topping, and white rice and sour cream on top are a chile rellenos best friend. Even though the main ingredient here is chiles it is not a spicy dish, depending on which chile you use. 

Before I continue, here are my mother-in-law’s cooking tips: Separate the eggs while they’re still cold, which makes them easier to handle, then let them come to room temperature. And don’t get careless, make sure there are no traces of yolk in the whites, or the whites will not whip properly.

Removing the seeds and veins from the peppers is easier before roasting and keeps the peppers from tearing while you’re stuffing in the cheese. Roasting them over a gas flame keeps the peppers’ shape and texture intact during frying.


For the salsa:

1 lb. of tomatoes, halved and seeded

1/2 medium white onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 medium serrano chile, stemmed (optional for heat)

Salt and pepper to taste

For the chiles rellenos:

4 medium poblano chiles (about 1 pound)

3 cups Oaxaca shredded cheese (you can get creative here and use a mix of cheeses, and maybe even try with goat cheese)

4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste


For the salsa:

1. Place the tomato halves skin-side up on a flat skillet or griddle over high heat. Scatter the onion, garlic, and serrano around the tomatoes. Cook until the tomato skins start to blacken and blister, about seven minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a blender, add salt and blend into a smooth and runny salsa. Taste and season with additional salt as needed.

2. Transfer to a small saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

For the chiles rellenos:

1. Lay one chile on a work surface so that it sits flat naturally without rolling. Using a paring knife, make two cuts that form a “T”, first slicing down the middle of the chile lengthwise from stem to tip, then making a second cut perpendicular to the first about a 1/2 inch from the stem, slicing only halfway through the chile (be careful not to cut off the stem end completely). Carefully open the flaps to expose the interior of the chile and, using the paring knife, carefully cut out and remove the core. Scrape the inside of the chile with a small spoon to remove the seeds, ribs, and any remaining core. Repeat with the remaining peppers.

2. Turn on the gas on your stove to a medium-high heat. Place one chile directly on each burner and roast, turning occasionally with tongs, until blackened and blistered on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Place chiles in a plastic bag so they “sweat,” letting the chiles steam until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. With your hands, scrape away and discard the chile skins, being careful not to tear the chiles; set the chiles aside. If you think the chiles smell too spicy, you can soak them in milk for a little bit.

4. Stuff each chile, being careful not to tear them, with a quarter of the cheese (about a heaping 2/3 cup) and close the flaps over the cheese. Set the chiles aside.

5. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until lightened in color and frothy, about 2 minutes.

6. Place the egg whites and a pinch of salt in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about one and a half minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, add the egg yolks and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined (do not deflate the egg whites). Set aside.

7. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high until hot, about four minutes. Working with one chile at a time, carefully dip the stuffed chiles in your egg batter, making sure they are fully covered. Very carefully drop them the hot oil. Cook without disturbing until the bottom of the chile relleno is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a flat spatula and a fork, carefully flip the chile relleno over and cook until the other side is golden brown, another 2 to 3 minutes. (If the sides of the chile are not brown, use a spatula or tongs to turn it onto each side to brown.)

8. Serve on a plate, cover with the warm salsa and top with some sour cream. I recommend serving these with white rice and letting the salsa soak the rice. Warm some tortillas, too.

Pro tip: you will have some bits and pieces of egg and chile and some grains of rice swimming in the salsa. When you’re done eating, grab a quarter of a tortilla and scrape the plate. Damn, my mouth is watering!