One summer, my older sister and I decided it would be a good idea to try to make the real, deep-fried chile rellenos ourselves. We were feeling ambitious. This was going to be our first foray into the deep-frying world, and we were going to go all out. We roasted the poblanos, peeled away the blackened skin, stuffed them with cheese, tooth-picked them together, dipped them in batter, and then plunged the first one in a pot of oil with bated breath, ready for it to puff up to a spectacular golden brown. What we got was a blackened blob and an apartment full of smoke. Her husband walked in at about this same time and despite the door being fifteen feet from the kitchen, we could not see him and he could not see us. The oil was clearly too hot and the pepper had completely incinerated, and we were bowled over in tears- partially from the smoke and partially from laughing so hard at our failed attempt. With all windows and doors opened and a new pot of oil, we tried again, this time doing a little batter fry-test before wasting another precious pepper. The end result was pretty delicious, but it was an afternoon's worth of work for what is essentially some deep-fried cheese disguised in a pretty green pepper.
These stuffed peppers are just as comforting, but lighter and even more flavorful than Mexican chile rellenos. And they are most definitely easier. You do have to have a cooked grain on hand (I used millet), but you could certainly use leftover rice or even quinoa. Another fantastic option would be leftover grits or polenta. Yum. I mixed in some black beans and a sharp cheddar, but if you have pepper jack on hand or tossed in some feta, you could jazz it up a little more.
Poblano peppers are everywhere at the farmers' market right now, and because their flesh is much thinner, they cook right in the oven without any parboiling needed. Another win. But the real winner here is the sauce. It is based on a sauce that I often use when I make enchilada casserole. I sometimes use different chili powders or add a little cayenne and maybe a little smoked paprika, but this is the base I riff off of. I have made some delicious sauces with dried chilies, soaking and pureeing them or toasting them and grinding them with other spices, but this sauce is way more flavorful than its ingredients suggest and much friendlier for a busy cook. Feel free to double the sauce and use it on just about anything. It also freezes well if you are the make-ahead type.
I garnished everything with a drizzle of local goat yogurt from Shellbark Hollow Farm. Most goats' milk yogurts contain a number of stabilizers, but this one does not so it is quite runny- prefect for drizzling. It gives the most subtle tang which works so well on these peppers, but sour cream or another yogurt would pair nicely with this, too. Enjoy!
Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Millet and Black Beans
4 poblano peppers, washed, sliced in half lengthwise, and seeds removed
1 1/2 cups cooked millet or other grain
1/2 cup cooked black beans, drained
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, divided (I used Cabot extra sharp cheddar)
handful of cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnishing
yogurt or sour cream for garnishing (I used a local goat's milk yogurt which is a bit runnier but delicious!)
Mexican Spiced Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder (I used a mix of chipotle and regular chili powder)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
Prepare sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic cloves, and cook for 5-8 minutes or until softened and slightly golden. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt, and stir and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add tomato sauce and water. Stir to incorporate and turn heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare filling. In a medium bowl, stir together cooked millet, cooked black beans, 1/2 cup grated cheese, and handful of chopped cilantro. Spoon mixture into poblano pepper halves. Extra filling will probably remain, so just spoon it around the pepper halves after placing them in the sauce.
When the sauce is done, layer 1/2 of the sauce in the bottom of oven-proof dish. Nestle pepper halves in the sauce (sauce should come up half-way up the sides). Spoon a little sauce over the top of each pepper half and sprinkle peppers with remaining grated cheese. Cover pan with foil and place in oven to cook for 30 minutes.
Remove foil from pan after 30 minutes, turn broil to high and broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is a little toasty. Remove from oven, top with yogurt or sour cream and additional cilantro. Enjoy! Serves 4.