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The Great Relleno Chile controversy...

Okay. I've been very vocal about how awful chile rellenos made with potblano chiles taste, but... A friend dropped by and made some for me as a surprise the other day. They'd have been cold if she'd cooked them at home. She brought both poblano and "Anaheim/Hatch" chiles because she'd heard me desparage poblanos. And to my great amazement, the poblanos DID have a much nicer flavor than the Anaheims! Whoda thunk it?

But this was also the very first time I've ever ever ever had them prepared properly! She broiled them until black and blistered, sweated them, peeled them, stuffed them, whipped the batter with a wire whisk because she says it tastes better than using an electric mixer (what an arm!), then fried them in peanut oil.

Now, I have had chiles rellenos in no less than five different Mexican restaurants since moving to Plano three years ago. And this is the FIRST time I've had poblano peppers properly prepped! (Peter Piper's Peppers have nothing on me!) EVERY stuffed poblano I have ever had in a restaurant in this area was closer to a stuffed rib of raw celery, they were that crunch and totally unprepped. I even called one restaurant before going to ask whether they charred and peeled their peppers before stuffing them and I was assured they ALWAYS do...! They lied to me. They lied to me big time.

So I'm making this public admission that I was wrong on this board just in case I have argued with anyone who would miss it on the Texas board. But it sure says a lot about the restaurants I've been going to, doesn't it? And they've been "better' restaurants, as opposed to holes-in-the-wall, that charged from nine to eleven bucks for ONE chile relleno, rice and beans on their LUNCH menu! Great to have friends who will go to such extremes to educate me. I'm a happy camper! Not about the area restaurants. About finally having delicious stuffed poblano peppers....! '-)

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  1. Wow. I've never had a relleno that wasn't toasted and peeled. I wonder if it is part of the weird trend in some restaurants to serve people undercooked vegetables. Either that, or they are too lazy to do the work.

    Welcome to the world of delicious, skinned poblanos!

    1. I've had the good fortune to have chiles rellenos prepared for me in several homes in Mexico and while I can't swear to the type of chiles they used (so many names of chiles differ seemingly almost from town to town) I can attest to having greatly enjoyed what I thought were poblanos. I even made them once with a Mexican friend in DF and we used a method very similar to the one you describe to achieve meltingly delicious results. No "bones ' in my chiles rellenos please, no matter what kind of chiles you use :-).

      1. For "company" I char peppers over a gas flame on the stovetop and remove the skin; and fry the rellenos. For myself, I don't skin and don't fry--but do them in the oven. The chiles get properly cooked and the result is much lighter. The batter should be beaten by hand, and not overbeaten.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Interesting! Thanks, Sam. Baking in the oven makes sense, even though I do like the smokiness that charring gives. I did bring one of the restaurant "celery" rellenos home with me (eleven dollars for the sucker!) and tried nuking it, but even though it got softer, it didn't taste better. But it may taste better when you cook it that way from scratch. But if it's me making them, it's either a hand mixer for the batter or the chiles get dipped in scrambled eggs! '-)

        2. Sorry to hear that restaurants in your area are so clueless about preparing poblanos.

          Do any of the restaurants stuff poblanos with picadillo or other non-cheese stuffings?
          The long green Anaheim/New Mexico chiles are not easy to stuff with anything but cheese.

          I can see charging more for chiles rellenos since they are labor intensive, but they don't have to be battered. Sam F. is right, oven baking/roasting will produce a decent if not optimal result.

          2 Replies
          1. re: DiveFan

            Yes! Lots of rellenos stuffed with picadillo and such, and a lot of rasins and nuts kind of things too. Some of the menus make them sound more like Christmas eve sweet tamales in a chile than what I think of as a chile re4lleno. My first preference is for cheese. I think it compliments the chile without overwhelmint it, or reducing it to a "natural casing" function. But to each his or her own! '-)

            1. re: DiveFan

              Non-cheese stuffings? I mentioned before that the last chiles relleno I had in Huatusco, Veracruz, were filled with pig's feet.

            2. Apology accepted. I defended the worthiness of poblanos in the earlier thread, and will until the vacas (cows) come come.
              Try including some seasoned sauteed shrimp pieces with the cheese filling. And we are only 2 months from chiles en nogada season! Buen provecho.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Veggo

                I also accept the apology... but I am now deeply saddened that it took you this long in life to enjoy a decent Chile Relleno. I think you really need to make a trip down the Central & Southern Mexico to erase decades of depravation.

                1. re: Veggo

                  Bravo for defending poblanos, but there is no defending the Dallas/Plano restaurants that serve them raw!

                  I Googled a recipe for chiles en nogada (http://tinyurl.com/4tnk2) and they look like mucho trabajo! Maybe if a restaurant near me... scratch that! Maybe a friend will take pity on me? Again! '-)

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Querida Caroline,: it's true that authentic chiles en nogada preparation is a day and a half labor of love. I hope I can speak in concert with Eat Nopal and other aggrieved, sensitive hounds whose injured hearts and souls are only beginning to mend after your full frontal assault on poblano peppers a few months ago.
                    We hope that you feel a sufficient sense of contrition and guilt that you will conclude, by way of your own clear thinking, that the best way to cleanse, purge, and revitalize a new beginning for yourself, is to invite us all for a dinner of your handcrafted chiles en nogada.

                    Respetamente, Veggo

                    P.S. -Eat Nopal, this probably won't work, but it's the best Tom Sawyerin' I could come up with :)

                    1. re: Veggo


                      Dear "Tom," Nopal, et al... If you guys are willing to travel all this way to have some poblanos with pomegranite seeds while I feast on Humble Pie, come onna my house, my house... I'm gonna feed you chiles and nuts and a pomegranite too!* '-)

                      * With apologies to George Clooney's Aunt Rosemary

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I understand she really hated that song.

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            here's a CR story: as a thank you to really gracious neighbors spend all day making them but use a too hot variety, don't remove all the seeds and when one guest (and rather heat adverse) starts waving and gasping, hand her the nearest glass of scotch on the rocks.

                            it WASN'T on purpose. I felt awful. it was just the closest glass.

                            it took a while to live that one down.

                            1. re: hill food

                              Oh, god. Did the neighbor ever forgive you? On the other hand, you can always write a comedy.

                              No matter what they claim in their chile "breeding" projects at New Mexico State University, I have never trusted a chile to be mild, no matter what their horticulturists claim. Seems to me that how hot a chile is is the plant's primary defense system for protecting itself, and it just stands to reason that when you try to disarm it, it's going to do its damndest to re-arm. (Sam, do you think I'm nuts? <g>)

                              When I make anything with chiles, I taste each and every one of them, especially when making rellenos! But even that isn't reliable. In our family it is long known that if my ex-husband or daughter claim a salsa is mild, it will scorch my son's and my mouth like gargling with napalm! And the reverse is also true. Trusting a chile to be mild is about as smart as going on a camping trip with Hannibal Lecter! '-)

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                One year I grew the hybrid Big Chili, which is sort of a New Mexico type. The heat varied all over the place. In one case two picked from the same plant the same day at the same stage of maturity varied from mild to moderately hot. You never knew what you were going to get with this cultivar.

                2. I want to state my opinion of what I expect, or like and people can correct me if they dare.
                  Being raised in Texas I've had mostly Tex-Mex. The rellenos I liked most were fried and had a crusty-crunchy exterior. The kind I don't like are the ones with sponge rubber exteriors. I can do the fluffy, thicker coatings but I've had some that were overly rubbery-tough, like there was too much yolk used and over battered. I think specifically of Pancho's Buffet (but I don't recommend that you go there to see for yourself)!
                  I do like the lighter coatings, as they hold the sauces better. I think rellenos should have the skin and seeds removed. I ate at a place in CT and their chile rellenos had seeds and skin in place and once were crunchy they were so undercooked. They had the batter coating I like. The owner said I did not know Mexican food!
                  I had them at other places where the seeds were left in. I want to say, (if there is a typical), moreso when I had the long Anaheims. (If authentic), is this (seeds or no seeds), another unsolvable riddle of regional variations in Mexico?
                  And how do the pros keep a relleno together (or closed), after they have stuffed them? I can see them, back in the kitchen, hunched over the rellenos with a curved needle and magical thread that dissolves at a high temperature.
                  That difficulty included, I have found chile rellenos to be incredibly labor intensive, hard to execute perfectly and not for the novice. When done well, they are heavenly!

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: Scargod

                    " I have found chile rellenos to be incredibly labor intensive, hard to execute perfectly and not for the novice. When done well, they are heavenly!"

                    They are very labour intensive! But so worth preparing at home. I have a feeling that chile rellenos need to be prepared from scratch to be really delicious. And they need to be fresh. My experience is that they are prepared in advance in most restaurants that I've eaten them at, and this affects the quality. My homemade chile rellenos, although somewhat amateur in execution, are way tastier than those I get in most restos. Please note that I do not have access to really great Mexican restaurants where I live, so there are probably other restos out there that make wonderful chile rellenos that would stomp all over mine.

                    Any thoughts from our experts out there? Am I mistaken that most restos pre-fry the chiles, then just warm them up? Because that it what it tastes like.

                    1. re: moh

                      I don't know that I'd classify myself as an "expert," but when you take into consideration my age, the frequency with which I order them, and the number of states in which I've eaten them, maybe I am. '-)

                      I argue that it depends entirely on the filling you're using that determines how labor intensive chile rellenos are. I don't particularly care for picadillo, so I don't order that kind of relleno. If you're stuffing it with cheese, then what you do with the cheese before you put it in the chile will determine how difficult that job is. I used to have a friend who grated her cheese before putting it in the chile, claiming it was the only way to get cheese throughout the relleno. No. The easiest way to do that is let it melt! While I do sometimes use fresh Mexican cheese, I find them fairly unreliable. They can turn grainy in the cooking/heating process. So most of othe time I simply use Monterey jack or Muenster. They are failrly bland and don't try to overcome the flavor of the chile. They are also easy to cut into long appropriate sized pieces. When the chiles are properly charred and peeled, it's a simple matter of cutting/pulling the stems off the chiles, then "milking" the seeds out. If necessary, they can be washed out under cold running water. I know. Everyone is probably going "Gasp! You leave the stems ON!" But the fact of the matter is that when you remove the stem, it is much much much easier to stuff the chile! Hey, ever tried to eat the damn stem? Pass the rocks! I am careful to remove as little chile with the stem as possible. Then it''s just a simple matter of pushing the chile into the cheese like putting on a sock! No toothpicks or "magic thread" required. And I make sure the cheese doesn't come all the way to the top of the chile, but maybe a quarter to a half inch below, then dip the entire chile in batter. The batter will clog the hole during frying.

                      I probably come closer to French frying my rellenos that frying in minimal fat. I rarely make one or two, but I do use one egg white for every two chiles, and one egg yolk to every four egg whites. Then only a little flour. Not making pancake batter! And three things I do not whip egg whites by hand for: angel food cake, meringue for pies or kisses, and chiles rellenos! But you do want soft peeks, not meringue.

                      I always have difficulty with the conept that chiles rellenos are so "labor intensive" when compared with other traditional Mexican or TexMex dishes. Don't know how often any of you make enchiladas Suisa from scratch, or even just plain old shredded chicken enchiladas, but to my way of thinking, boiling the chicken, pulling the meat, adding the onions and green chiles I use in the chicken filling, then frying each tortilla individually, dipping it in the enchilada sauce, stuffing and rolling and putting them in the casserole, then saucing and spreading cheese and/or sour cream and baking is one hell of a lot more work than chiles rellenos! And have any of you ever made mole from scratch? I have. ONCE! Took me a week and a half to gather the ingredients, then two days to make the saice that had something like 37 ingredients in it. THEN I had to cook whatever I was serving the mole over.

                      Nah. When it comes to labor intensive, chiles relleno are a walk in the park! So why do they cost more than enchiladas Suiza in a restaurant? Because people support the myth that they''re "labor intensive." Yeah. So is a taco. '-)

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        My last rellenos cost me a cold night in bed. We didn’t eat till after 9PM and I started about 6:30PM.
                        It took me forever to, get skins off the poblanos, prepare and chop all the ingredients and assemble the rellenos. I baked them. We liked them (a lot), but she was displeased with how late dinner was.

                        I used duck breast (I had previously smoked with apple wood), in all four. I used a soft Chilean artisan cheese that was quite soft for two of the four and stringy, Mexican mozzarella for the other two. We ate the first ones. Those had bacon, cilantro, currants, potatoes and fresh Oklahoma pecans. I did the flour dredge and whipped whites, egg bath. Very tasty. The other two were without currants and potatoes. I did a simple tomato sauce with Tuttorosso San Marzano tomato sauce. I made guacomole.

                        There is lots of Mexican that is very comlex and involved (that matches any cuisine's complexity). That is why, though I am Scargod, I humbly bow to E N. I'm enjoying the education here on CH.
                        Thanks Caroline for the stuff-through-the-end suggestion!

                        1. re: Scargod

                          Small stuff-through-the-end warning. If you overcook the chiles in the roasting process, or if you used canned whole chiles, they do have a tendency to split more easily than "just right" roasted chiles. '-)

                        2. re: Caroline1

                          Caroline... I don't know about Texas... but in California you can get a Chile Relleno for about $3, $6 if it comes with beans, sauce & tortilla... $8 or so if they serve you two. Maybe I am not the most acrobatic cook... but when I have made Chile Rellenos... between the roasting, peeling, egg beating etc., it would take me at least 30 minutes to make one from scratch to order... at an average $12 per hour fully burdened rate of labor (here in California)... that is $6 in cost! That is the reason its rare to get Rellenos made to order from scratch... you really have to go to nicer restaurant for that where its going to fetch "High End Pasta Prices" $15 to $20 (of course it will probably include some haute upgrades to justify the price to people who don't understand the higher costs relative to a bowl of pasta etc.,)

                          However... I think we can agree that almost all Mexican cooking is fairly labor intensive.... and that the average consumer doesn't quite appreciate that and not easily willing to pay accordingly.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            Nopal, I could get rellenos -- great rellenos -- in El Paso for those prices too. For the rest of Texas, I can only hope the high prices are exclusive to the Dallas area!

                            I agree with your assessment of the cost of making one relleno, but how many people make one? I disagree with your comment that "almost" all Mexicon cooking is fairly labor intensive. I don't know of any that isn't, unless you buy it ready made. Tortillas are labor intensive, even when you don't grind your own corn. If you include all of the prepping for "north of the Border" tacos, even they are labor intensive. In the little Mexican cooking I do (compared to a broad repetoired Mexican cook), the most labor intensive dish I've ever made was that one time shot at a from-scratch mole. Of all of the cooks I know who cook Mexican food, regardless of their personal ethnicity, I've only known two other people out or probably hundreds who have actually made mole from scratch. But...! When I go to a Mexican restaurant, enchiladas mole are rarely more than a few cents more than a chicken or beef enchilada, and often the same price. Which I take as a reflection of commercial mole not made in the kitchen from scratch.

                            I guess when you stop to think about it, most food is labor intensive and not just Mexican. Well, except for the fruit you steal off a neighbor's tree and eat without washing. And wouldn't it be great if everything tasted that good! '-)

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              "I agree with your assessment of the cost of making one relleno, but how many people make one? I disagree with your comment that "almost" all Mexicon cooking is fairly labor intensive. I don't know of any that isn't, unless you buy it ready made."

                              The coastal cuisines generally tend to be a little less labor intensive than that in the highlands... because they tend to feature more salads, ceviches, grilled meats & seafood etc.... preps that tend to have less steps, and less time consuming steps..... just in general... please don't come back with examples of how labor intensive Crab stuffed Chile Gueros are!

                        3. re: moh

                          "I have a feeling that chile rellenos need to be prepared from scratch to be really delicious."

                          That is absolutely true. The big problem NOB... is that most consumers aren't willing to pay a fair price for a Chile Relleno... even on CH... I have seen some people refer to them as peasant food, and easy to prepare. Unfortunately, most Mexican restaurants in the U.S. tend to race each other to bottom, rather than differentiate themselves (or rather places who try to differentiate themselves are regularly rewarded with confused diners, low traffic & kitchen full of unsold regional specialties)... as such shortcuts & reheating is common. Its what the market wants... your recent arrivals are here to earn & save as much money.. and are not going to sacrifice price for quality... and you average non-Mexican consumer doesn't know enough to demand differently... these two things tend to conspire to Rellenos that are typically vastly inferior to what I have eaten at diner chains like Sanborns & VIPs where they are made from scratch.

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            I can make 25 chiles relleno in an hour. More than twice that for 25 tamales!

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              True... but unless its a restaurant that only serves a set daily menu... where you know every diner is going to have a chile relleno, and thus you get the efficiencies of line manufacturing to order, and can spread the effort amongst 25 chile rellenos... let me ask you if you can 25 per hour, does that mean you can do 1 from scratch in 2 1/2 minutes?

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                Ha! No, not at all! It takes not that much more time to make 25 as it does five. Steps include: charring under the salamander, rinsing or wiping the skin char off, stuffing, prep and beat the whites/coating, and fry (or slam all in the oven in a casserole for even less time).

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  ok...for the gringo here.... at what point(s) in that process could they be frozen to be completed at a future time? After charring/wiping? after stuffing? i'm guessing the coating probably doesn't freeze well.

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    If I had to, I'd freeze the final product. The ideally light and fluffy egg batter coating wouldn't freeze all that well, however.

                            2. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Eat_Nopal, after making chile rellenos myself, I'd be very happy to pay fair price for good chile rellenos made from scratch and fresh from someone who knows what they are doing! Your explanation makes a lot of sense. Guess I'll have to practice and get more efficient at making them myself. But they are so good! I am hoping my pomegranate restrictions will be lifted soon, because now I have to make chiles en nogado!!!! I remember them from that movie "Like Water for Chocolate" but I was too intimidated to try them before. Now I believe I'm ready for the challenge...

                        4. We have grown peppers in our garden for chile rellenos from time to time. We usually grow "NuMex Big Jim" peppers. Anyone ever tried these? They are hot, but not ridiculously so,

                          1. Q for all: does anyone else think that peeling poblanos is a nice but not necessary step? I have had some wonderful rellenos with poblanos that still had a little bit of the non-overcooked vegetable "snap" and a firm texture to the pepper. The double-whammy of blistering the pepper in order to peel it, and then cooking the filled pepper sufficiently to heat it through, tends to make the poblano a flaccid pulp, often. But any batter tends to not adhere to an unpeeled poblano. Any why do we peel Hatch and poblanos, but not others? Thoughts?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Veggo

                              Best is to get young chiles with thin skins that reached a good size quickly.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                I suppose it's a matter of personal choce, but the skin of both poblanos and Anaheims turn into tough ribbons of cellulose I don't find particularly appetizing. For years I've used canned Hatch diced chiles, and now I'm looking for another brand, or I will start doing my own from scratch because lately they have too much peel left in them for my taste. It is possible that this is a case of the-more-you-cook-them-the-harder-they get. The only unpeeled chiles I've had in a relleno have been from area restaurants and I didn't like them at all. I find the charring and peeling truly enhances the flavor of the chiles. But it's a matter of personal preferences. Hey, I prefer natural casing hot dogs, but obviously I'm in the minority based on how many skinless dogs there are out there. So I pay at least $1.00 each per uncooked weiner. <sigh> And remember when I could buy dog, bun, mustard and all for 10¢! If only memory had some nutritional value, think how cheap eating would be!

                              2. I was inspired by a show on PBS (Barbecue University) that showed grilling chili rellenos. I modified the recipe by filling halved poblanos with a mix of fine diced mushrooms, red onions, some bread crumbs and mixed it with eggs until it was very wet. I grilled them on indirect heat for about 20 minutes and then put cheese on top for another 10 minutes. It was great. The original recipe can be found at: http://www.bbqu.net/season3/310_4.htm...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: NVJims

                                  Check the current thread on "General Chowhound Topics" , "poblano raja?"
                                  We think and eat alike- buen provecho!
                                  P.S. What type of cheese did you use?

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    I had some sharp cheddar cut it into 3/8x3/8" by 4" chunks and laid it on top.

                                2. The New Mexico style rellanos my in-laws made were cheese filled, my favorite, but I know of many more through travel through Mexico and that epicenter of Mexican cuisine, New England.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                    It may sound funny... but I can already imagine the one Mexican freezing his nalgas off in New England coming up with a Lobster Roll Chile Relleno... Lobster Meat & stale bread salad stuffed in a Poblano served with a mild Tomato-Mex Oregano sauce. =)

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      yeah but it would have to be queso fresco or even better sour cream and instead of a pepper smeared on a potato skin.

                                      actually that sounds good.

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        Jo no tengo cojones, solemente cubitios! There is a hole in the wall place near by (run by Guatamalans, of course) that makes excellent meat filled rellanos and..lobster quesidillas! Stuff that en su pipa and smoke it! But close your eyes and imagine driving 3 hours south to Portland just to buy queso fresco, chorizo or even decent corn tortillas! We had this pesky black bear rooting around the house again yesterday evening. Bear meat rellanos anyone?

                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                          Well if you are going to kill the bear... I think you have to dig out a pit and makes some Barbacoa... I guess you can use that for Rellenos.

                                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          Not chile rellenos, but I know that Mexicans working the crab harvest in Alaska make king crab tamales. If you can get good fresh chiles up there, I bet crab-stuffed chiles are to be found as well.

                                          1. re: tmso

                                            Yup... some of the more intesting - but very rustic - tamales are made with seafood. In Sinaloa they make imbed a whole shrimp, head & all in a tamal.... and in Mexico State they make Trout tamales with an entire fish (gutted & tail removed... but includes head & bones.... a mess to eat!)

                                            Crab Stuffed Jalapenos are a specialty of Veracruz, Crab Stuffed Chile Gueros are common in Sinaloa & Baja California.

                                            1. re: tmso

                                              Yup... some of the more intesting - but very rustic - tamales are made with seafood. In Sinaloa they make imbed a whole shrimp, head & all in a tamal.... and in Mexico State they make Trout tamales with an entire fish (gutted & tail removed... but includes head & bones.... a mess to eat!)