If you haven’t noticed, we like Mexican food and chiles. Baby Lady is from El Paso, so she grew up with it. I spent time in Mexico as a young boy and loved the food. Also, Mexican food was always available in Texas. Much of it, however, was Tex-Mex. This relleno is more of a traditional Mexican dish and it is delicious.
I love chile rellenos. In fact, we have 4 different chile relleno recipes posted on the blog: 1) Stuffed Roasted Red Chile a la Richard (the very first post on the blog); 2) Cinco de Mayo Rellenos de Camarones; 3) Cheese Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped, Grilled Jalapeños; and 4) Herb Seasoned Ricotta Cheese Chile Relleno in Red Wine Escabeche. Most people, however, would not consider these rellenos, especially the Cheese Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped, Grilled Jalapeños, which we all know are a grilled, not fried, jalapeño poppers. That’s because they believe a chile relleno is a poblano chile stuffed with a ground beef, chicken or cheese filling, battered in an egg batter and deep fried. As I explained in Herb Seasoned Ricotta Cheese Chile Relleno in Red Wine Escabeche, that is one type of chile relleno. There are numerous types of chile rellenos. Relleno comes from the word “rellenar” meaning to refill, to stuff. Hence, a chile relleno is nothing more than a stuffed chile. You have appetizer rellenos, i.e. Cheese Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped, Grilled Jalapeños, and Herb Seasoned Ricotta Cheese Chile Relleno in Red Wine Escabeche. You have main entree rellenos, i.e. Stuffed Roasted Red Chile a la Richard. You even have dessert rellenos, coming to a PC soon. Some rellenos are roasted chiles. Some, like this relleno, are rehydrated dried chiles. Others are battered and fried. A battered and fried chile relleno is called capeado, which (not surprisingly) translates battered. There is a debate among many over more than one relleno as to whether it should be done capeado or not, most notably Chile Relleno Nogada, another post coming in the near future. While I like rellenos made capeado, we try to minimize the fats and unnecessary carbs. As such, most of the rellenos you will find on the blog will be roasted fresh chiles or rehydrated dried chiles. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a capeado relleno because I will post one in the near future (perhaps Chile Relleno Nogada). It just means, like beef, you won’t find many recipes for battered rellenos on the blog (right now there aren’t any).
Because of my love for rellenos, I recently purchased the bi-lingual version of Los Chiles Rellenos en Mexico Antologia de Recetas (Stuffed Chiles of Mexico, an Anthology of Recipes) by renowned Mexico City Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita.
If you want to learn about traditional Mexican chile rellenos, this is a wonderful book. I love that it is bi-lingual because it allows me to work on my Spanish while not leaving me guessing or in bewilderment at literal translation. My only real complaint is the publisher, for some unexplainable reason, put the English in ORANGE color. Not that I mind orange but it is very difficult to read. Perhaps the publisher was a Tennessee grad. Nonetheless, Los Chiles Rellenos en Mexico is a wonderful read. It’s not long but gives yo a nice insight into the world of rellenos, where they come from and where they are going. This is one of the recipes from the book. You see, if you haven’t noticed, I like red chiles, especially the dried red chiles. Because red chiles are ripened chiles there is a little added natural sweetness. Also, the flavor matures and their is a deeper flavor profile. When they are dried, that flavor profile intensifies. Now, I can’t say I like red chiles more than green chiles because green chiles have their own flavors and characteristics. They can take an ordinary recipe and kick it up a notch and not just because of the added heat you may get. It’s the flavor profile from the green chile. It’s just that you see more green chile recipes than red chile recipes. There’s just not enough love going around for red chiles. This is my contribution to the love the red chile society (if there is one). 😉
Ancho chiles are a ripened, dried poblano chile. They are a deep, reddish brown to black color and their texture is wrinkled. In various parts of the US they are called pasilla chiles because they are wrinkled and look like a raisin. This causes some great confucion because the actual pasilla chile, also called chile negro, is a completely different chile. Baby Lady knows the ancho chile as a pasilla chile and had never heard of them called ancho chiles until she met me. 😮 I, of course, had never heard them called pasilla chiles. It was a very humorous discussion until we realized we were talking about completely different chiles.
Now, ancho chiles have a beautiful, mild fruity flavor with undertones of plum, raisin, tobacco and a slight earthy bitterness. It is a mild chile registering only 1,000-2,000 Scoville units. It is a heart shaped, dried chile about 3 – 4” wide at the shoulder, 4 – 6” in length and tapers to a point. There are 4 classifications of ancho chiles. Primera or First class ancho chiles should be clean, pilable, untorn and aromatic with a smell that is a bit like prunes. Segunda or Second Class ancho chiles are 2 – 2/12 inches wide at the shoulders and 4 – 4/12 inches in length with some tears and discoloration. Tercera or Third Class ancho chiles are of different sizes with discoloration, damage and tears. Rezaga or the remainders are of all sizes with discoloration, major damage, tears and may even be broken into pieces. Rezaga ancho chiles are suitable only for grinding into chile powders, made into pastes or salsas. Unless you live in Mexico or grow and dry your own poblano chiles, good luck finding primera ancho chiles. The most common at US grocery stores (if you can even find fresh dried poblanos at all) are segundo. They will vary in size between a primera and sugunda but will have some discoloration and tears. Oh well, you have to play the cards dealt to you.
This is my version of Chiles Ancho Relleonos de Queso in Caldillo de Crema y Cilantro. It is somewhat modified, not that I wanted to but because Primera Anchos are generally unavailable in DFW and Chihuahua cheese is unheard of. I find it baffling that we don’t get Mexican cheese in DFW. Texas has a high Hispanic population and Mexico is only a 6-1/2 drive from my house. We get various French cheeses, Italian cheeses, Danish cheeses, etc. We even get a quality Haloumi cheese. Sadly, we get very little Mexican cheese. As such, I substituted a blend of Cheddar and Monterrey Jack for this recipe. This is a really nice dish, especially if you like red chiles and rellenos. We hope you give this a try.
For the relleno
- 6 ancho chiles
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 springs of thyme
- 4 sprigs oregano
- 1 qt water
- 2 Tbsp oil
For the caldillo
- 2 cups onions, sliced
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 Tbsp garlic
- 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups crema
For the caldillo
Melt the butter in a chef’s pan and add onions.
Cook onions until golden brown.
While the onions are sautéing add the tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, and water to a blender.
Puree until smooth.
When onions are golden brown, add mixture to onions.
Cook sauce for roughy 15 minutes over medium heat. Add crema and cook another 1 minute.
While the caldillo is being made, start the rellenos.
For the relleno
Add the water, bay leaves, oregano and thyme to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
While bringing the water to a boil, toast the chiles on a comal (or a heavy skillet)
Put chiles in a large bowl. Pour the water over the top of the chiles.
Weight chiles down with saucepan of plate and let sit in water 5 minutes. Remove from water, slice and seed chiles leaving stems intact.
Stuff the chiles with cheese.
Add oil to a heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat. Dredge chile through oil sufficiently to melt cheese.
Spoon some caldillo on the bottom a plate and place a relleno atop the sauce. Serve & enjoy.