Grilled Chile Rellenos ♯

The chile relleno (a.k.a. “stuffed” chile) is said to have originated in Puebla, Mexico, an undetermined age ago, by filling up a locally indigenous chile with minced meat, encasing it in an eggwhite batter, and frying it until golden. Since then, it has migrated into Hispanic restaurants everywhere; its ingredients and preparation have mutated far beyond its humble beginning. The cheese-filled variety is the form that is most frequently found in today’s Southwestern restaurants.

The recipe given below is in Santa Fe style, meaning it has been elevated to gourmet status, a thing of beauty to behold and a culinary experience to eat. It is essentially the same as that depicted and described in the New Mexico magazine of June, 2013, except that I have amended the ingredients to ones I commonly have on hand and I have added chorizo, as a reminder of its original form.

One strictly New Mexican touch here is its use of pine nuts, which are harvested from the piñon, the state tree of New Mexico. Piñons are widespread, often abundant, in the four-corners states (Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico).

My wife Camilla first prepared this recipe one evening when I was recovering from a strep throat infection. I remember particularly how its smooth texture and light piquancy produced a warming, soothing, and perhaps curative effect on my affliction as my dinner was ingested. The condition passed rather quickly thereafter, as I recall.

Cilantro Cream Sauce
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup nonfat half-and-half
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded, chopped
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp <salt>
  • ½ cup nonfat sour cream
The Cheese Chorizo Filling
  • 6 oz chorizo (or soyrizo)
  • 4 oz Muenster or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 4 oz nonfat cream cheese
  • ½ cup corn kernels (frozen, thawed)
  • ¼ cup piñon nuts
  • ¼ tsp powdered cumin
  • ¼ tsp summer savory
The Rest
  • 8 fat Poblano chiles
  • vegetable oil spray

Make the cilantro cream sauce first: Place all ingredients but the sour cream into a food processor and buzz on high until well blended. Add the sour cream and process at lower speed until uniformly incorporated. Refrigerate while preparing the rest.

Prepare the filling: Sauté the cho(soy)rizo until done, let it cool, and then add it to all other filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix until thoroughly incorporated with the cream cheese. Refrigerate.

Prepare the chiles: cut two slits in each pod, one around the top extending about halfway around, and the other from the midpoint of this cut down the length of the pepper toward the bottom. Carefully open the chile and remove the seeds. Place the chiles over an open flame on your range, or under the broiler. Use tongs to move the chiles around until they are thoroughly blackened and their skin begin to separate. Remove from the heat and quench into a bowl of ice water. When cooled, carefully remove, dry, and then peel the cellophane-like skin from the each pod.

Assemble the chiles rellenos: stuff each Poblano with an ample amount of the cooled filling mixture and secure each with toothpicks across the lengthwise slits. Place them on a greased broiler pan, cut-side up. Broil 10 minutes in a toaster oven.

Serve: Place one or two chiles rellenos on each plate, drizzle with cilantro cream sauce, and put the remaining sauce in a gravy boat for those who will want more.

Serves four to eight, depending on appetite.