Chiles Rellenos con Queso

In early August we had a mini-family reunion and chose Rancho Cooking as a theme for our meal, inspired by my mom’s new California Rancho Cooking cookbook. It was especially fun because Rancho Cooking, which fuses Spanish and Mexican food traditions, is rooted in the very place I live. The cookbook author, Jacqueline Higuera McMahan, tells stories of her great-uncle coaxing the coals of the fire to perfection or her great-grandmother making tortillas so they could make meals such as this one–and all just 30 miles from my home.

For our barbecue, we made the chiles rellenos con queso, which were a favorite at the party. Though the preparation can be tedious, the ingredients are few and the finished chiles taste delicious. We did not make the crusty chiles variation but opted for simplicity as this was a side dish. We used Monterey Jack cheese and uncooked flour tortillas, which we cooked briefly on the grill. A surefire party pleaser!

Ingredients

1 to 8 Anaheim, New Mexican or poblano chiles

½ cup grated cheese per chile, such as Monterey Jack, Italian Fontina, or Mexican Chihuahua

1 to 8 flour tortillas, warm (optional)

Method

Char each chile over a flame or on a grill and place under wet paper towels to steam for at least 10 minutes. Use a paper towel to help wipe off the charred skin. Leave bits of charred skin on for flavor.

Slit the chile down the side and shake out the seeds, or pull out the heavier seed pod of the pobalno if using that. Fill the chile with grated cheese. Place the chile on a dry griddle and cook until the cheese melts. Eat as is or wrapped in a tortilla, if desired.


Serves 1 to 8.


Variation: Crusty Chiles. Dip each cheese-filled chile in 2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water. Spread ¼ cup bread crumbs per chile on a piece of waxed paper and place the chiles on top. Press the crumbs into the chiles. Place the chiles on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle each chile with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil or melted butter Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until golden, about 15 minutes.

Note: Place 4 to 5 slices of day-old French or Italian bread into a food processor. Add 2 sprigs parsley, 1 clove of garlic, and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Grind bread into fluffy crumbs.

From California Rancho Cooking by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan (Sasquatch Books 2001).

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