Cheese & Peppers!

Years ago, early in our marriage, I made a largely Americanized version of Chile Rellenos. It was in casserole form from my Bridal Edition of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that we had received upon our marriage. I distinctly recall it being such a hit with my husband (and a milder version for a family with a new baby) that I broke one of my own traditions and made it more than once at the behest of my sweet husband.

Back then, with no access to Poblanos (as is the traditional pepper used), I was left with no choice but to use Anaheims or even Bells. The casseroles turned out very well. None was wasted, ever. However, when the real deal is available, I like to work with it. And work with Poblanos I did this week.

This time it wasn’t a casserole, but a more classic recipe from my copy of Irma Rombauer‘s Joy of Cooking. Chile Rellenos is such a simple dish that a “recipe” is not really terribly necessary, but the technique is a little different than we’re accustomed her in America. Stuffed peppers aren’t anything novel to us, but we rarely (of ever) blister and steam the skins off beforehand as in this instance.

The glossy, verdant peppers are broiled in the oven (or on the grill if one prefers) and placed in a heat-safe bowl. They’re then covered and allowed to steam for a time to make the skins all the easier to peel away. A gentle slice down one side to extract the seeds deftly while maintaining the integrity of the pepper’s flesh. Typically, the stem is left for posterity presumably, but when cleaning the peppers, I discovered it was easier for me to seed them by twisting loose the stem first.

The peppers are then stuffed with a personal mixture of cheeses, meats, seeds, fruits, etc prior to cooking. In this instance, Joy called for either queso fresco, Monterrey Jack, or mild Cheddar. If you’ve been a steady reader at all, you’ll already ascertain that I used a combination of all three and the effect was marvelous! The varied flavors of the cheeses combined with finely-chopped green onions offered more than just one note in which to challenge the palate and entertain the senses.

After baking the peppers to warm, cheesy goodness, we served them with a panoply of supporting cast members. Refried black beans, thick slices of applewood jalapeño bacon, a fresh green salad topped with crumbles more salty queso fresco, and a littering of chopped fresh cilantro. The whole meal felt crisp and animated using fresh ingredients and one for which I’m tempted to break with tradition again…

What are some of your favorite stuffed pepper dishes?

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