Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lost - Chile Rellenos with a Sweet Onion Tomato Sauce

In my life
I've felt so self-assured
But oh how all the seasons change
And now I'm not that strong

'cause I am lost
Living inside myself
Living inside this hell

I have an ear worm that I picked up while in Publix today.  Purely accidental, it happened while I was plugged into my iPhone, searching for egg roll wrappers and ginger root.  I was already feeling bad, especially when I realized the song expressed far too well my state of mind.  When I got home, I had mail from the state advising me I was being terminated.  I'm going to have to sort this out, as I have also applied for disability retirement, but I am going to have to appear at a hearing to address the termination and let's just say I am terrified and emotionally distraught.  I can't think straight, folks, and I hurt most of the time.  Apparently I may have seriously endangered my family's income and health insurance. Certainly it's as unintentional as when I forgot to file my CLE credits with the Florida Bar, and thus had to stop practicing law for a couple of days, but it is just as serious, and I don't know what I have to do to fix it.       

(Yeah, memory and cognition have been a problem for a while.  Quite a while.  Longer than I like to admit.) 

I did manage to make chile rellenos and I was quite pleased at the result.  They turned out to be a lot easier than tamales, and I will surely make them again.  I'm sorry I only made four of them - next time I'll double that number.  Once upon a time, I could prepare an international buffet for 50 guests; these chiles would have made a perfect component.  These days, I don't invite people over - too much stress. Too much pain. Much too much anxiety. I'm a small-batch home cook these days, and grateful I can still do that much.

Chile Rellenos

4 poblano chiles
1/2 a package of queso fresco (a Mexican cheese), about 6 ounces
1 package McCormick Golden Dipt All-Purpose Batter
Canola oil for fryingSweet Onion Tomato Sauce for serving (recipe below)

First, char the chiles on all sides under the broiler.  The skins should be darkened and blistered.  Move the chiles to a zip top plastic storage bag and let steam for around 10 minutes.

Remove the chiles from the bag; with your fingers, gently peel off the outer skin and discard.  Do not run water over the chiles to clean off the skin; if a small bit can't be dislodged, leave it alone - it won't spoil the overall dish.

Now comes the tricky part: cut one side of each chile from top almost to the bottom. Carefully remove all of the seeds and as much of the veins as you can without ripping the chile.  Take your time with this step - I used a small, sharp knife and a teaspoon - because if you don't get rid of the seeds, you are in for a mouthful of hurt.

Cut the queso fresco into 4 strips that will fit into the chiles.  Carefully stuff each chile with the cheese and then close the cut side with toothpicks.  At this point, I covered them and put them in the refrigerator overnight, but you can certainly finish them at this point without that step.

Prepare the Golden Dipt according to package directions, which calls for a two-step dip, first in wet batter (which is prepared with just water) and then in the remaining dry mix.  This is where I made it easy for myself, as most chile rellenos recipes call for a big, puffy batter which requires separating eggs and all that jazz.  That's how I've eaten it in restaurants, and sometimes the flavor of the poblano gets lost under all that deep-fried egginess.  

Heat about an inch of canola oil in a deep skillet.  Coat the chiles according to package direction and fry on both sides until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels while you prepare the tomato sauce:

Oil for frying - I used about 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
sugar, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste

Cook the onion and garlic in the hot oil for about 10 minutes, until soft and sweet.  Add all of the spices and herbs, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and bring the sauce to a low boil.  Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes.  

With tongs carefully remove the toothpicks from the stuffed chiles.  Spoon the tomato sauce into an ovenproof baking dish and then place the chiles on top of the sauce.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Serve with pride, and maybe some rice.

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