This is a repost, but I couldn’t resist. I saw the photo again and my stomach started yipping like a New Mexico coyote…
Weird, mouth-watering New Mexico
Back to New Mexico again, the unrivaled epicenter of wackiness in the U.S if not the entire planet, Ground Zero for the brilliant and bizarre, spectacular and spooky, and yes, you can “check out any time you want (me, 2001), but you can never leave.” So true – I’ve never fully left it, its landscapes, people, and the things that go bump in the night or hover over your car. Go there, stay awhile (more than a weekend), get out of Santa Fe or Albuquerque, leave your ego at home, have eyes and mind wide open, you never know what sipapu you might slip through or what vortex will sprinkle its glitter dust into your soul.
So I’ve extolled and marveled at New Mexico before in this blog, but haven’t really cast an eagle eye on one of its hidden, sneakily understated benefits to body and soul, which is what you eat — on those rare occasions when you’re not being healed or chanting in a kiva or teepee with other members of the Thursday Night Women’s Alliance for Light. For new-locals (mostly Anglos), food is secondary to Spirit, but to visitors and to the few financially-privileged in northern New Mexico it is its own Boulevard of Bliss. And seated at the main intersection with Joy Street is Joseph Wrede (pron. REED), founder of Joseph’s Table in Taos (now closed) and current proprietor of Joseph’s of Santa Fe, aka Santa Fe’s Culinary Pub. Gourmet and pricey, for sure, as one might expect from a man who can really cook.
And among the best he has to offer his own version of chiles rellenos – a perfect pick-me-up after the unending torment of a deep body massage and an hour in a Sweat Lodge.
Joseph’s Green Chiles Rellenos
If you like Southwest cooking, you already know that basic chiles rellenos are grilled de-seeded Anaheim peppers stuffed with cheese, dipped in batter and then fried, then topped with some sauce or other. Here’s Joseph’s just-a-bit-more-involved version – first, his video, then the full recipe for Green Chile Relleno with Red Chile and Green Rice.
All right, yum already. Here’s the “whole enchilada” of how to do it, for about 4 people.
Part 1: Chile Relleno
- 8 to 10 green chiles, Anaheims or those of similar heat value
- water in a bowl
- The filling: 1 1/2 cups Cotija cheese, 1/2 cup Asadero cheese, a bunch of cilantro
Right, you’re not going to find Cotija and Asadero cheese at every Hannaford. You can cheat and use cheddar or jack or similar, but real New Mexicans use the Cotija and Asadero, both from Mexico.
Now do these things:
- Grill the peppers till blackened and blistered – either on a grill or your electric stovetop.
- Place the chiles in a bowl of lukewarm water. Cover with plastic wrap so they steam a bit.
- When they’ve cooled, take them out, carefully peel off the skin, slit them on the side, and rinse them gently in water to remove the seeds. Joseph doesn’t use gloves in his video, but I think it’s a good idea. Even a stray Anaheim seed, mild as it is, can cause you trouble if you rub your eyes…
- Put the cheeses and cilantro in a food processor, and pulse until blended – but not liquefied or mushed.
- Spoon about 1/2 cup of this mixture into each chile, trying to keep the shape of the chile intact.
- Stick them in the fridge for a short while to firm up.
Part 2: Red Chile sauce
- 1 lb. red chile pods (mildly hot), de-stemmed and de-seeded (again, I’d wear gloves for this part…)
- 2 qts. water
- 1 white onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 tbsp. cooking oil (not olive oil)
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. coriander
- a little salt
And do these things:
- Boil the chile pods in the water for about 10 minutes.
- Drain and discard the water
- In a pan, saute the onion, garlic, cumin and coriander in the cooking oil until lightly browned.
- Combine the above with the chile pods in a food processor/blender until it’s all smooth and saucy, adding warm water as needed. For extra smoothness, press through a strainer. Add salt to taste, then set aside.
Part 3: Relleno batter, and finale
- 3 eggs, separated
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 tbsp. salt
And do these things:
- Beat the egg whites till stiff
- Beat the yolks until foamy, about 3 minutes
- Using a whisk, fold them in together with the flour and salt.
And finally —
- Preheat oven to 400. Coat a largish pan with cooking oil and heat over a medium flame.
- Remove the stuffed chiles from the fridge. Coat them in the batter. Place one or two battered chiles in the hot pan, and pour an additional 1/4 cup of batter over each. Cook for two minutes, then turn over and cook another two minutes.
- Place chiles in a baking pan and cook in the oven for 3 minutes.
- Pour a puddle of the red chile puree on a dish, place one or two chiles rellenos on the sauce, drizzle some sauce on top, and serve. It might look like this —
Yum. (photo courtesy of Joseph Wrede)
You may note I haven’t talked about the green rice yet, which sits unobtrusively on the bottom. If you want 2,000 of something (a la Mitch Hedberg) then you can have rice with this dish. I’m pretty well pooched just writing about everything else, so I’ll just quote Joseph’s rice recipe verbatim —
Place in blender ½ cup water, 1 bunch of cilantro, 1 bunch of parsley, ¼ cup of chopped chives, 1 garlic clove and 1 sliced jalapeño. Pulse in blender adding olive oil until it is emulsified. In a clean mixing bowl add two cups of Jasmine rice. Wash three times with cool water. Place rice in pot with cool water one finger knuckle above top of water. Bring to a boil. Place lid on top of pot, and over medium flame, cook rice for 8 minutes. Keep pot covered and turn off flame. Let stand for 15 minutes. Add green emulsion to rice until thoroughly integrated.
Okay, so this is a fair amount of work. You can skip the red chile sauce and instead use a quality, garden-fresh salsa. Heat some in a small saucepan, then pour onto the serving plate, add the rellenos, and drizzle more on top. You can also skip the rice. But do keep the relleno recipe intact, and you’ll have a terrific result.
I have a puzzle upcoming in The New York Times, Saturday, April 6. Yes, it’s a Saturday, meaning it’s (monstrously) challenging, but I think quite fun when you crack it. It’s puzzle #23 for me in the Times, and I have more in their queue but one must be patient since there are so many talented puzzle constructors out there doing great work. Thanks!