Thursday, August 18, 2005

Beer-Battered Chicken Chile Rellenos

I found some great poblano chiles at the Marion Square market over the weekend, and this is the dish I concocted to use them. I happened to have some leftover barbecued chicken (hickory smoked on the grill the night before) and corn, so that's what I used for the filling. But, you could substitute all kinds of ingredients and make an equally great meal. Here's my version, which used four poblanos (enough to serve two people):

First, make the batter, since it needs to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so before using. Mix 3/4 cup flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt, then pour in half a bottle of beer (the rest is for the chef) and stir until smooth. Refrigerate the batter while you do the rest.

The next step is to roast and peel the four poblano peppers. There are many ways to do this, but since I don't (alas) have a gas stove I use my oven's broiler. Place the peppers on a sheet of aluminum foil and put under the broiler. Broil them for a minute or two on each side until the skin is blistered, turning the peppers with tongs until they are roasted all over. Don't worry if the skin turns black in some places, as long as the pepper doesn't get totally charred. (Other ways to accomplish the blistering is to toast them marshmallow-style over a gas burner, toss them in a hot cast iron skillet, or roast them in a 375-degree oven.)

Once the skins are blackened and bubbly, wrap in damp paper towels and put in a plastic baggie (or, in a bowl covered with plastic wrap), and leave them there for 10 minutes or so. This steaming will make the skin easier to remove.

While the peppers are resting, mix up the filling. To follow my version, dice up a smoked chicken breast and mix it with about a 1/2 cup of corn kernels, 4 oz. of white cheese (white cheddar in my case, though queso blanco, Monterry Jack, or mozzarella would work, too), and 1/2 an onion diced small. (All sorts of ingredients would work well here--Ground beef, leftover beef, shrimp, rice, or blackbeans--though I would insist that there always be cheese in some form.)

To peel the peppers, make a long slit down the side, then pull out the seeds and other bits from the middle. The skin should be well bubbled away from the sides of the peppers by now, and you can just grab it with your fingers and peel it away. Stuff each pepper with the filling mixture, then close the opening with a toothpick or two.

To fry, heat a large pan over medium-high heat and, once hot, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom well. Roll each stuffed pepper in the batter until it is well coated, then place in the hot oil. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown, then allow to drain on paper towels.

You could serve these in a zillion ways. I surrounded mine with shredded lettuce and diced tomato, put a dollop of sour cream on top, and served with lime wedges for squeezing over the top. I think it was the combination of the smoky chicken with the crisp batter, but they were even better than I expected, and a great summertime meal.

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