Chilling Chilis Rellenos |

Chilling Chilis Rellenos

My freezer has been broken for two months. In my household, this qualifies as a crisis. Normally I spend the waning weeks of the summer harvest season cooking up tomato sauces and assembling casseroles like eggplant parmesan and lasagna to squirrel away in the ice box.

During the bleak days of winter, I pull one of these babies out and heat it up in the oven. As the aroma fills the kitchen, I shut my eyes and relive distant summer evenings. My daydream is a little sanitized: there are no mosquitoes, no Spare the Air days and no summer resort related traffic jams.

Similarly, reliving the succulent flavors of summer on an icy February evening is a luxury in itself. And it’s a lot cheaper than booking a vacation to a warm-weather holiday destination.

This week after a visit from the refrigerator repairman, I’m making chilis rellenos for hibernal enjoyment. This is an onerous exercise – I usually break it up into two days, but it is one of my favorite meals.

The cavities of roasted Anaheim or Poblano chiles are stuffed with cheese or other filling and then coated in a fluffy egg batter. These deep fried bundles, oozing with melted cheese, are typically served with a tomatoey broth. I always make a big batch – some for now and some for the freezer.

Below, I describe the process of making chiles rellenos. You can adapt it for however many chiles you want to make. If you’re investing the time, consider making extra to freeze for later.

Chili Poblano, with its varying spiciness, is the chili – or chile in Spanish – of choice. Anaheims, New Mexico and bell peppers may be substituted. To peel, char the skin of the peppers over gas flame or in broiler, turning occasionally with tongs until skin is blackened all over. Transfer to a paper bag and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers and discard peels, stems and seeds.

Make a small incision in each chile and cut out the interior seed pod just under the stem. Scoop out the seeds, being careful not to rip the chili.

For the cheese, select a melty one. At a Mexican grocery store you can ask for queso (which means cheese) ranchero or casero. I also like to use Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar. Cut the cheese in strips just smaller than the length of the pepper. Slip desired amount of the cheese strips through the slit in the chili and then close the opening with a toothpick.

Separate one egg for every large chili. Mix the yolks and beat the whites until stiff. Fold the yolks into the whites, along with one tablespoon of flour per egg.

In a large frying pan, heat cooking oil about 2″ deep about 375º F. Holding the chili by the stem end, dredge the chili in flour, shake off excess, and dip in batter, using a spatula to assist with coating if necessary. Fry until golden, approximately one to two minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

Christina Abuelo is market manager of the Foothill Farmers’ Market Association

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