Chile rellenos are my favorite dish at Mexican restaurants. Everyone does them a little different, but the essence is the same: pablano pepper stuffed with deliciousness. While they seem to be mostly filled with cheese and/or chicken (and sometimes pork but I don’t eat pork so I don’t want to count those because I get sad), “chile relleno” literally means “stuffed chile.” They are usually battered and fried; a good chile relleno has just enough batter to add flavor but not so much that you can’t taste the chile.
Pablano chiles are great for stuffing. They are usually mild-medium in heat (although it is not uncommon to get a bite that has a little burn) and have a shape that just screams “FILL ME UP!” I spotted a few small pablanos at the Silver Spring farmers’ market; while I love using these peppers for other dishes (sauces, salsa, salad, other dishes that start with S), I had never tried to make my own chile rellenos.
I don’t deep fry things at home. While I am a strong supporter of deep fried things (namely Oreos), I prefer to leave that as a treat to be enjoyed on special occasions (namely the county fair). At home, I try to keep things on the healthier side so I can enjoy fried things when I’m out while still fitting into my pants. How do I prefer to cook things? We all know the answer to that. I grill.
I got my peppers home and introduced them to the others, mostly CSA items – corn, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, black beans, and barley. They got acquainted.
You do not need a recipe for this dish. You need to know what you think tastes good. You can do this however you want. Hopefully I’ve at least planted the seed for you to try stuffing some peppers with whatever you like and grill them to the point of deliciousness. Don’t like spicy food? Use green or red bell peppers. Same idea.
Start with the beans as they will take the longest to cook. Get them going and leave them alone. You can use canned beans, but I recommend fresh. If you use canned, don’t forget to rinse them to get all that sodium-filled liquid off of them. If you use fresh — soak for as long as you are able. I soaked for about an hour while I did other things in the kitchen — over night is best. Some beans require soaking, but you can get away with skipping this step with black beans. It is better if you can do it, though. Black beans cook at a 1:3 ratio – I made 1/2 cup of beans so I added 1 1/2 cups of water. See how that works? This is math that I can get behind. Cover and let them simmer for about an hour before you check on them. Depending on your preference and the beans, it could take an hour and a half.
I had a couple ears of corn left from my CSA box, so I threw those on the grill just to get some of those tasty brown grill marks.
While those grilled, I made some barley. Barley cooks at a 1:4 ratio — I made 1/2 cup of barley, so I added it to 2 cups of water. Cover it and cook for about 30 minutes before checking it. If it isn’t done yet, put the lid back on and don’t open it again until it has been a total of 40 minutes. Letting out that steam could cause your barely to stick to the pan. My husband, the one who does the dishes, does not like when that happens… as you can imagine.
I threw a few onion slices on the grill just to get some marks. I chopped a tomato and the grilled onion into a small dice. I also happened to have some freshly made chipotle tomato salsa; you use whatever kind of salsa you like. I chopped the cilantro — I love this stuff, so I used a lot. Your choice.
Cut the corn off the cob. Mix all of the ingredients — the corn, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, black beans, barley, and a little salsa (to your taste). This is your filling. Want cheese? Add it. Do whatever you want!
Slice the tops off the pablanos. You should be able to pop the stem right out of the cap. With a knife or your fingers, remove the core and seeds from the inside of the pepper. If these are fresh from the market, they are more likely to be a little hotter than ones you get from the super market. Be careful with the seeds! Wash your hands with dish soap often.
Fill the peppers with your filling. Put the cap back on and secure with a tooth pick. I recently got this really cool mesh roasting pan for the grill. It is cool because it is so open to the flame. Some grilling pans have so much surface area that I don’t think you get much grill flavor. These mesh pans tend to be way overpriced, in my opinion. BUT they are still on sale at Williams-Sonoma! (I am not paid to endorse Williams-Sonoma or their products, but would glad accept free goods. Thanks.) Anyway, put the stuffed peppers in some sort of pan — they’ll fall through if you put them right on the grates. If you don’t have a pan, you can use foil.
Grill them with the lid closed until the peppers get nice and charred on the bottom.
Remove. Add a dolop of sour cream and/or cheese and serve. These peppers were delicious — so fresh tasting! Some of the pablanos definitely had more heat than you would expect, but we were ok with that. The flavor is fantastic.