Vol.1, No.9

Poblano hot chili pepper taste, cooking, recipes and preparation

Learn how to prepare poblano peppers, a flavorful staple of Mexican cuisine.

Poblano hot chilis
If you've ever eaten chiles rellenos at a Mexican restaurant, you've had poblano peppers. Poblanos are large, dark green peppers that are spicy but not extremely fiery. They look similar to bell peppers in that they are wide and dark green - sometimes almost black - and have a flavor like that of the bell pepper (except just a little hotter). Poblanos are also similar to the milder Anaheim pepper, so if poblanos are too spicy for your taste, consider substituting Anaheims in your recipes that call for poblanos.

Poblanos are also sold in dried form as "anchos", which means "wide", because the dried poblano chile pods are wide and heart-shaped. Ancho peppers are poblanos that are allowed to ripen to a dark red-brown before they are dried. They are then either sold whole, in dried form, or ground up to make commercially-available chili powder or mole sauces.

To prepare fresh poblanos, you will first need to roast and peel them. Hold each pepper by its stem over a stove eye - either electric or a gas stove flame - until the chile's skin blisters and turns black. Put the pepper in a paper bag and repeat until all peppers have been roasted and are cooling in the bag.

Once they have cooled, put on latex gloves and peel the chiles - the skin will come away pretty neatly, but the gloves are important because they will remind you not to put your hands anywhere near your eyes or nose until you are finished with the peppers. Once you are finished working with the peppers, remove the gloves carefully and wash your hands well.

The classic chiles rellenos (also sometimes called chiles poblanos) can be made with a stuffing of cheese, meat, or both, and are dipped in batter and fried. They are then usually served with a red sauce.

To prepare the poblanos for use as chiles rellenos, first make a slit in the roasted and peeled pepper and remove the seeds and membranes (be careful not to tear the pepper, however). Insert the filling - the easiest is strips of sharp cheddar cheese - and lay the pepper carefully down on a plate until all the peppers are stuffed and ready to be battered and fried.

The type of batter you use depends on whether you want a "fluffier" coating or a crispier one. To make a fluffy batter, whip 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold in beaten yolks with a little salt. (Be sure to have your oil hot and ready to fry the peppers once they've been battered.) For a crispier coating, dip peppers in beaten egg, then in cornmeal, then in the egg again, and then in the cornmeal one more time before frying. The corn meal flavor and crispy texture goes marvelously with the velvety cheese and the roasted peppers' smoky flavor.

Fry peppers in the oil on one side, then turn to fry the other side, and finally lay the finished peppers on a few absorbent paper towels. If you need to warm the peppers before serving, either place them in a skillet in a red sauce or warm them in the oven. They can also be served with a fresh pico de gallo made from fresh chopped tomatoes and onions; fresh chiles of your choosing; cilantro; and cumin, lime juice and salt to taste.