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Chile Relleno Magic

by Sandra Bowens

Most chile aficionados harbor a fondness for chile rellenos. Often a debate rages over whether they are best soft or crispy. Purists maintain they must be soft, enveloped in a fluffy egg batter of the traditional Mexican preparation. Those who are not such sticklers for tradition will say that the crispy variation provides more chile flavor.


The traditional preparation is exemplified in Diana Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking (Bantam Books, 1989). Ms. Kennedy roasts poblano chiles before stuffing with a variety of fillings that include Mexican cheeses, chorizo with potato and pork with raisins. After filling, she coats them in a batter made from eggs, salt and flour. The rellenos are then deep-fried and served in a light tomato broth. This is the real controversy: Served this way, the rellenos have absorbed quite a bit of the fat from frying and the broth makes them rather soggy.


In the crispy version, the chiles are encased in egg roll wrappers. These nearly translucent pasta squares cook quickly so very little oil is absorbed in the frying. The thinness of this coating allows the chile flavor to shine through rather than the overpowering egg batter that dominates in the traditional version. Crispy rellenos should be sauced at the last minute to maintain that crispness.


Just which chile to use is a source of contention, as well. Anaheim, also known as California, and Poblano are probably the two most popular. Deep green poblanos offer heat and a richer piquancy. The Anaheim, pale green, thin and long, are much milder, tasting more like a vegetable than a hot pepper. With either chile, roasting is a must before stuffing with the cheese, to bring out the intensity. The adventurous cook might even consider making mini rellenos with the fiery hot jalapeno.


Chile rellenos are often served in restaurants as an entree alongside the usual rice and beans. You can serve them this way or, for a lighter meal, accompany them with just a simple salad of lettuce, tomato, green onion and avocado.


If you enjoy these flavors but don’t want to bother with roasting and wrapping, whip up a Chile Relleno Quiche. This easy egg pie goes together quickly and can be prepared a day ahead. Store, covered, in the refrigerator then reheat in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes just before serving. Quiche makes any meal special.


Regardless of which combination you choose, bear in mind, these fabulous flavors may become habit forming.


Crispy Chile Rellenos


6 ounces Pepper-Jack cheese, at room temperature

12 Anaheim chiles, roasted

12 egg roll wrappers

Vegetable oil for frying

2 cups enchilada sauce


Slice cheese into 12 rectangles that are 1/2” thick and measure 1” by 2 1/2”.


To assemble rellenos, lay one chile out flat. Place one piece of cheese in center. Fold chile around to cover cheese. Now lay one egg roll wrapper out so that it is in a diamond shape. Brush a little water over the edges to serve as “glue” for the finished relleno. Place chile wrapped cheese into center of wrapper and fold up envelope style, beginning with pulling up the bottom part. Repeat with remaining ingredients to form 11 more chile rellenos.


To cook rellenos, heat 1” of oil in a heavy skillet until very hot but not smoking. Carefully place 3 chile rellenos into oil and cook for about 2 minutes or until crispy. Turn over with a wooden spoon and fry 2 minutes more or until both sides are crispy. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining rellenos.


To serve, place 3 chile rellenos on a plate and top with 1/2 cup warmed enchilada sauce.


Makes 4 servings



Chile Relleno Quiche


1 prebaked 9” pie shell

1 cup shredded Pepper-Jack cheese

1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


Place pie shell on a baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese evenly over bottom of pie shell. Spoon green chilies over cheese in an even layer. Whisk together eggs, cream, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour over cheese and chilies in pie shell (you may want to do this after placing baking sheet on oven rack). Bake for about 40 minutes or until center is set and top is beginning to brown. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.


Makes 4-6 servings



Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

South of the border classics in less than 30 minutes? We can count on Rick Bayless to give us a roadmap to good food, fast.

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