One of Ursula’s favorite dishes is the chile relleno. You already know how to pronounce “chile,” but that second word may be new to you — ray-yay-no. The literal translation is “stuffed chile,” and it’s spicy heaven on the tongue. And our favorite chile rellenos came from a now defunct local restaurant that we discovered over thirty years ago—El Rancho Escondido. Fortunately, I was able to deduce the recipe many years ago through trial and error.
It wasn’t an easy process. I usually can duplicate a recipe in the first or second try. El Rancho Escondido’s chile rellenos, however, were much more trying because not only did I have to guess the ingredients, I also had to work out the technique used in the preparation. Technique is never something that is easily worked out in the blind. It took me half a dozen attempts to work it out.
But you’re in luck. You won’t have to work it out on your own, because today I’m going to reveal to you the secret to the perfect chile relleno:
What you’ll need:
A dozen or so green chiles: In El Paso that means green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico. If Hatch chiles aren’t in season, or you didn’t freeze any when they were, you can use Big Jims, Anaheims, or go with what I used for today’s blog—the poblano. Whatever you use, they must be fresh, firm, and meaty. Char the skins over high heat, place the still hot chiles into a plastic bag to sweat as they cool off, then scrape off the charred skin with a dull knife.
Monterrey Jack cheese: Cut into strips.
Half a dozen eggs, separated
½ Tbsp table salt
1 to 2 cups general purpose flour
Oil for frying: On this day I used extra light olive oil (not extra virgin—that smokes at too low a temperature)
The pictures and captions below pretty much tell the story. I would add that you must make sure the oil is hot enough to flash-fry the batter. The chiles should brown in just a minute or two per side. You can also wrap the chiles in paper towel as they come out of the frying pan so as to absorb some of the oil, but that’s optional.
Traditionally, chile rellenos are served with a red chile-based sauce, but we prefer ours “seco,” or dry. We eat them that way at home, and order them that way when dining out, as the sauce tends to undo the great texture of that batter coating by making it soggy.
So, here you go:
And here’s the secret technique: It’s all in the whipping of the whites, almost as if you’re making a meringue. Get this right and you’ll get the recipe right.
If you’ve been following my blog, then you know I nearly always offer a wine pairing to go with my recipes. Today’s recipe is inherently on the spicy side and, depending on your choice of chile, it might be very spicy. Spiciness should be offset with sweetness, as sweet helps to nullify the burning sensation on the tongue. But you don’t want to go too sweet, so be cautious.
Stay with a semi-sweet white, such as a German Riesling. Stay away from anything dry (Chardonnays; Sauvignon Blancs) or honeysuckle sweet (Muscats; late harvest Rieslings). If you want to be adventurous, you might want to go with a semi-sweet blush, such as a white Zinfandel. But whatever you do, don’t even think of trying this with a hearty red. I usually advocate for experimental pairings, but a dry red with this recipe would be disastrous.