Monday, August 29, 2016

Chiles Rellenos Casserole

Paul and I were overjoyed to find fresh Hatch Chile Peppers from Hatch, New Mexico in our grocery store this week. If you have never tried a hatch chile and you don't mind a bit of heat, you must try to find some for they are simply incredible. With an undeniably robust flavor and an impressive level of heat, these chiles are fantastic roasted and added to just about everything, from a mix-in for guacamole to a topping for burgers. When Paul and I found them in stores, we bought way too many because ever since we tried a Hatch Chile Salsa last summer, we have been positively hooked! We have never been able to find them near us until this week! Thankfully, the chiles can be frozen so we plan to roast and peel a whole bunch of them this weekend and then carefully freeze them for use all year long. We might be Hatch Chile addicts.

Not a Hatch Chile addict. She's a candy addict.
The first dish we prepared with our treasured Hatch Chiles were these Green Chile Cheeseburgers. We savored every bite even as the tears streamed down our faces from the heat. After eating the burgers, I was already planning our next meal: my favorite Hispanic dish of all time, Chiles Rellenos. True, authentic Chiles Rellenos take quite a bit of time to make because each pepper is stuffed individually with cheese and meat (or just cheese if I had my preference) and then coated in an egg batter, fried, and served atop a spicy tomato-based sauce. As much as I love a good Chiles Rellenos, I'm also a bit lazy and busy with all the kids so if I have a casserole option for a dish I'm craving, I am more than willing to take that route.

I originally saw a recipe for Chiles Rellenos Casserole in an issue of Cook's Country about five years ago. At the time, I honestly thought, judging by the picture, that the dish looked kind of gross. However, while thinking about making Chiles Rellenos this week, the memory of that recipe popped back into my head, so I dugged the magazine out of my archives and decided to give it a try.

Boy, am I glad that I did.

Although it is an ugly dish a difficult to photograph, it is incredibly delicious and truly captures the flavor of an authentic Chiles Rellenos. My house smelled incredibly while I was preparing the meal and my eyes singed as I sauteed the peppers, onions, and beef together from all the spice flying back into my face. I should have broken out the old chemistry goggles when preparing this! I loved the flour, milk, and egg white batter that was poured over the top. After baking, it created a crispy shell that brilliantly mimics the crispy egg coating on an authenitic chile relleno. Very, very clever! I used a little less than half the meat called for in the recipe and I thought there was plenty. For me, the highlight of this dish are the fantastic peppers and the cheese!

If you can't find Hatch Chiles, substitute Poblanos or Anaheims! This will still be incredible!

And no, our kids are not adventurous enough to join us in our Hatch Chile-eating frenzy. They enjoyed plain cheese quesadillas for dinner and were more than happy with that. They think we are crazy for liking our spicy food. Matthew shook his head the entire time we were raving about our dinner and kept repeating: "Spicy peppers are not good for first-graders!"

Maybe not, but they are so, so good for grown-ups!

Chiles Rellenos Casserole
from Cook's Country

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
4 Hatch Chiles, seeded if desired and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (10oz) can Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained
10 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 1/2 cups), divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk (preferably skim)
2 large egg whites

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in beef, breaking up meat into small pieces, and cook until no longer pink, 8-10 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer beef mixture to paper towel lined plate.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.

Add chilies and cook over medium-high heat until browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in beef mixture, garlic, cumin, 3/4 teaspoon salt, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and cook until beef mixture is dry, about 1 minute.  Off heat, stir in 2 cups Monterey Jack.  Scrape mixture into 13 x 9 baking dish, pressing into an even layer.

Combine flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.  Slowly whisk milk into flour mixture until smooth: set aside.  Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip ell whites on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.  Whisk one-third whipped egg whites into batter then gently fold in remaining whites, 1 scoop at a time, until combined.

Pour batter over the beef mixture.  Bake until topping is light golden and puffed, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to try this one - sin carne - as my numerous attempts at chile rellenos are even uglier than the casserole. We got a bushel of roasted chiles last week to peel and freeze, easier since we're in New Mexico. It's certainly a favorite tradition!