The title is kind of a guffaw, actually, and the reason I grin-and-bare that is that when hubby and I first moved to south Texas, and specifically the little town that we’re in, there wasn’t a chili relleno to be had on a single menu; not in a single restaurant in our town. And when I asked for “green chili” on an omelet for the first time I was met with a puzzled look and a question, “Do you mean Tomatillo sauce?” Um, no.
Needless to say, we were terribly disappointed, and bewildered. How could this be? Is it that green chilies only migrated north and west from New Mexico and not east? Maybe they aren’t a Mexican food at all? Perhaps it was my ignorance that green chilies and Tex-Mex were synonymous? 😞
I’m happy to report that just a couple of years later Hatch green chilies started making an appearance in these parts, and when they did, they made a big appearance. There are still no Chili Rellenos on the menus in our town, but at least this girl can get the ingredients in our local grocery to make them now, and that’s really all that matters.
And in all fairness, not all of South Texas is a dry Rellenos area; we’ve had them in a few San Antonio restaurants, even though they only barely resemble the authentic Rellenos that first stole my heart.
And, please pardon if I don’t make mine like you do. This is the way I personally like them. I’m sure I would love yours, unless you make them with ground beef filling, and then I’ll have to reserve my judgement until I’ve tasted them. Husband likes the beef filled rellenos, but I dream about cheese filled rellenos and am content to eat those for the rest of my days.
I got my Ranchera Sauce recipe from a gal I stopped in the middle of HEB not long back. She works in a local restaurant, so I knew she would steer me straight, at least as much of it as I could remember as she rattled her recipe off to me in the midst of my gathering ingredients. Ha! I hope I’m making it right. It’s sure tasty, so I’m sticking with it. 😆
First we start with the Ranchera Sauce
Place a stick of butter into a heavy pan and on medium high heat begin melting. As soon as it is melted add one whole large chopped onion (white or yellow). Saute the onion until it is translucent, turn heat down to medium and continue sautéing until the onions are caramelized. This will take quite a while.
Chop 2 jalapenos (stems discarded), and about 6 large plum tomatoes into chunks. Add them to the caramelized onions and let them cook until softened. Add a 14-oz can of tomato sauce to the mixture, stir, place a lid, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook until you are ready to batter and fry the rellenos. I have had the Ranchera sauce served to me chunky several times, so I presume that is the authentic way, but I use a Braun Wand blender tool to whirl the Ranchera into a smooth sauce with no large chunks.
Now, the preparation of the green chilies…
Pick the largest, firmest ones you can find at your grocery. Bring them home and wash them, and then dry them. I like the spicy ones. You might prefer the milder ones.
Move an oven rack up to the highest level of your oven. Preheat your oven broiler (you can do them on the grill, or use a propane flame torch outdoors, which is a thousand times more efficient…but if you don’t have one the oven might be more convenient for you). Place your washed chilies on a cookie sheet and slide them onto that top rack in the oven.
Close the oven door (I prop my door open slightly with a wooden spoon – I like to hear my chilies popping and crackling).
Let the chilies broil on one side long enough for them to become charred and blistered.
Use tongs to roll them a quarter turn and return to broiler. Check them often for doneness. Continue turning and broiling until the chilies skins are blistered and charred all the way around.
Quickly remove them from the cookie sheet and place them into a large Ziploc freezer bag, and seal it.
Allow chilies to steam inside the bag for several minutes, while you prepare the rest of the meal.
NOTE: I like to serve my Rellenos with homemade refried beans and a cheesy green chili rice. See those recipes below, and it would be a great time to start making them now. This is also a good time to blend your Ranchera sauce and make is smooth. Keep it simmering on a back burner until ready to serve.
Start about 2 inches of oil getting hot in a deep sided frying pan (…just hot enough that a droplet of water makes it pop and fizzle. Not hot enough to be smoking. If you are seeing streaks/waves in your oil, it may be too hot. Either drop your heat, or add a little more oil to cool it down a bit before adding your chilies). The pan you use should be large enough that two chilies will fit without touching the sides or each other.
As soon as the green chilies have cooled enough to handle take them to the sink and begin removing the skins. They should slide right off easily. If not, be careful not to tear the chili, as it will be hard to keep the filling inside while you are battering it.
Once the chilies are skinned, make a slight slit along the side near the top stem of each.
Only make it big enough to slide the pieces of cheese inside. If you wish to remove some of the seeds you may do that also. I push the seeds out through the slit. I don’t mind a few seeds in my rellenos though. I use Pepper-Jack Cheese. For 8 to 10 chilies you will need about 1 1/2 8-oz blocks, which I cut into quarter-inch slices and then into quarter inch strips.
Begin stuffing your chilies with strips of cheese, about 5 or so strips per chili. Dust the outsides with flour and lay them on a paper towel as you prepare them. Once all the chilies have been stuffed and floured, you are ready to make your batter.
I beat two eggs and add about a cup of water to them…
…and then I whisk in some seasoned beer batter mix (part of one bag) until the consistency is about that of thin pancake batter. The batter should stick to your chilies, but just leave a fairly thin film. Hold the chili by the stem and dip it into the batter. Use a fork to sweep batter over the top of the chili and then gently lift the chili out of the batter, with the fork. Slide it into the hot oil and let it begin frying. Add another chili and let the two fry together.
Allow the chilies to fry for a few minutes and then use tongs to turn. The batter should turn a golden color. Scoop the chilies out of the oil and place on paper towels for a moment to absorb the oil. Quickly plate them and cover them with simmering Ranchera Sauce.
Oh my how I love them!!!!! Now if I could figure out how to feed a crowd all at the same time I’d be in business. I only know how to make Rellenos for one person at a time. Hot and fresh.
Mama’s Refried Beans
If you’ve made a pot of pinto beans and have leftovers, by all means use them for this. If not, look for these varieties at your local grocery store. I used 2 cans of Charro and 1 can of Barracho (which means drunken – notice that they use Shiner beer for this).
First I drained my beans of all the liquid (don’t rinse them). I melted about 2 Tablespoons of rendered pork fat (lard), actually I used some bacon fat I had on hand, in a sauce pan on the stove, and then added my beans. I let them just bubble and cook on medium low heat until I was almost ready to serve my meal. Moments before I was ready to serve I took a potato masher and mashed the beans until they were the desired consistence. They may be served with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and some chopped green onion.
NOTE: This also makes a wonderful bean dip, if you like that with tortilla chips for a snack.
Cheesy Green Chili Rice
First I sautéed my rice in about 1/2 a stick of butter in a small sauce pot, on high heat. After about a minute of continuous stirring, I added 2 cups of hot chicken broth, 1 can of diced green chilies, and a grind of sea salt. When the liquid boils, place a lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Lift the lid and lay several slices of pepper jack cheese on top of the rice. Replace the lid and leave until cheese is melted. Lift lid and fluff rice with a fork, incorporating the cheese throughout. If you like it just a little creamier, you may add a splash of Crema, or heavy cream, and a sprinkle of cayenne.
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” Acts 2:46