While I was living in Denver, Colorado, I learned to love Mexican food. My favorite place to eat was Benny’s Cantina. A tiny hole in the wall, you usually had to stand in line to get a table and it was worth every minute of the wait. They tended to smother everything in wonderfully spicy green chili that was to die for (a bucket list recipe if ever there was one!). Aside from that, they made the best chile rellenos I have ever tasted. You had to go early if you wanted them because they almost always ran out. To this day I have never found a restaurant that can make them as well – and believe me, I have tried.
Because of this phenomenal dish, and every other restaurant’s utter failure to measure up, I’ve been a little afraid to try to make these. After all, if it was easy, everybody would do it well, right?
So…armed with a couple of recipes for inspiration and a few ideas of my own, I set out to tackle the chile relleno monster. First let me say, there are probably some tricks to making these that I don’t know. I did it, and they turned out well, but I’m not sure I accomplished this with my usual grace, and I managed to totally trash my kitchen in the process. But, they were tasty, and I have a few ideas for next time! Oh yes, there will be a next time! Until then, Benny’s still reigns supreme.
Chile Rellenos and Spanish Rice
8 poblano chiles
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 ball of Queso fresco or mozzarella cheese, cut into strips
1 cup flour (plus more for dredging)
1/2 cup masa flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
12 oz. beer
1 beaten egg
Salsa (click here for my recipe or use your favorite)
Preheat the broiler. Place all the peppers on a cookie sheet and put under the broiler. Broil until black on both sides. Put in a paper or plastic bag to steam and cool. When they are cool, peel off the skin. Make a slit and carefully remove the seeds. Try not to mangle the pepper too much in the process. Saute the mushrooms a bit in a little olive oil. Stuff each pepper with some cheese and a few mushrooms. Thread skewer or long toothpick through opening to “sew” shut.
Making Chile Rellenos
In a bowl, mix flour, masa, baking powder, cumin, salt and beer. Whisk until smooth. Now here’s where (for me) it got a little messy. This could have something to do with my kitchen configuration or just me being messy. In a skillet or pot heat canola oil for frying. I used a frying pan so I just used about an inch of oil, and flipped the peppers to do the other side. If you use a deeper pan, you won’t have to flip. Dip stuffed pepper into beaten egg and dredge in flour (this is supposed to seal up any little tears in the pepper – yeah right). Then carefully dip into beer batter. If your pepper is falling apart, you might have to kind of coat it with your fingers instead of dipping. Ease it into the hot oil. Just do a few peppers at a time. Fry until golden brown on both sides (flipping if necessary to cook both sides). Drain on paper towels.
This is what mine looked like when they were done. If you deep fry rather than pan-fry, they probably won’t be as flat, but even flattened it was delicious!
Top with salsa or green chile and serve hot. I served mine with my quickie version of spanish rice and chips.
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups rice
1 can crushed tomatoes (large or small can depending on how tomatoey you like it)
2-3 cups of chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. pepper
Saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add rice and continue to cook and stir for a minute or two. Put tomatoes in a large measuring cup and add chicken broth until you have 4 cups total. Add to pan with rice and onions. Add seasonings. Bring to a boil. Turn down, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork before serving.