Sometimes, you just need something different.
Something that’s a pleasant change from the everyday weeknight dinner rut. Something that’s maybe a little shouty, a little spicy. Like a pepper.
It should be noted right away that not all peppers are spicy. Some, especially when stripped of their seeds and pith, take on a much fruitier, greener flavor that’s more friendly to sensitive palates.
Take, for instance, the poblano. These hand-sized peppers, usually a dark green color, have a mild flavor that still bites enough to pair well with creamy cheese, as they do when prepared as chiles rellenos.
In that dish, in the U.S., poblanos or other mild chilies are usually stuffed with cheese, battered and fried until crisp and melty, then served with a salsa or tomato sauce.
The work involved in making rellenos means that, for most of us, they’re a restaurant-only dish. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and cutting the rellenos down to casserole size (and dropping the deep-frying) is one way to bring tasty, cheesy poblanos to the table.
Roasting the peppers is an extra step that’s well worth it. The outer skin, which can become tough and chewy, slips right off a roasted poblano and the tenderness imparted by the extra blast of heat makes them lay flat in the bottom of your pan. And it’s easy.
Put your peppers on a baking sheet and slip them under a broiler until the skin is blackened and blistered. Flip and repeat, then remove and put a kitchen towel over the peppers. When they’re cool, just rub the skin off with your fingers or a paper towel. Sometimes running them under cool water helps, too.
The first time I made this, I missed the crunch of fried batter in the original rellenos, so next time, I’m adding a layer of crumbled tortilla chips to the top.
And while this calls for chicken, you can do as many south Louisiana Mexican restaurants do and sub out shrimp and/or crab for a seafood version of the dish.
Beth Colvin is The Advocate’s assistant Food editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.