Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Joy of Cooking en Mexico

Roasted Poblano Chile stuffed with Garlic Potatoes and Cheddar Cheese in a Tomatillo Basil Cream Sauce, served over Hibiscus Rice

Oh the joy of cooking in Mexico! Wintertime in the Colorado mountains can be depressing when craving fresh fruits and vegetables. Soon, after arriving to the subtropical coast of Mexico, my taste buds were startled back to life. Mangos so sweet, with the perfect texture of creaminess tempt alongside fruits and vegetables of many colors and flavors. So many ingredients to experiment with, so many recipes to create, so many meals of pure indulgence that await.  It became apparent that a fully equipped kitchen and a garden patio to eat on was my number one priority of this Mexican vacation. I am busily creating and constantly thinking of what exciting kitchen fusion awaits my family and I for our next meal.

Last night, it was Poblanos. Poblanos are perhaps the most regal chile. They have a rich and dark intense flavor that no chile even comes close in comparison. Their fat flesh provides the perfect medium in which to stuff an infinity of fillings. I prefer a filling that is creamy and smooth in texture. Traditionally, Chile Rellenos are stuffed with meat or a heavy dose of cheese, then dipped into an egg batter, then deep fried. I forgo the egg batter and greasy frying and prefer to cook the poblanos in a savory sauce in a deep saute pan.
So here are the recipes from this amazing yet complicated meal. I am a complicated person within a complicated life within a complicated country, I suppose that will be reflected in my food. The kitchen is truly my center and grounding force in life. All problems and worries melt away when deeply entranced within cooking alchemy. Hence the need to cook: my solace, my respite, the healing that calms my soul....

The first step is to prepare the chiles, then the tomatillo sauce, and then the filling for the poblanos. I must say, the tomatillo basil cream sauce could be the most delectably delicious sauce I have made in a long time. The market fresh tomatillos are so naturally sweet and make an amazing companion to the plentiful basil that abounds here. A touch of sour cream into the sauce adds a tangy creaminess that complements the intense flavor of the poblanos rellenos. While the Poblanos are roasting, start the rice, boil the tomatillos, and boil the potatoes for the relleno filling.

Preparation of  Poblanos
 Place Chiles over a gas flame or on a BBQ grill and roast until the skin is burnt. Alternatively, chiles can be placed in an over or the broiler @ 450 degrees. Make sure to rotate chiles so all sides are roasted. Place in a plastic bag after roasting for 20 minutes or so which helps the skin to come off. The final step is to carefully peel off the skins. Doing this under running cold water is helpful and it is OK if all of the skin is not removed. Make a small slit in chile and clean out all seeds. Be very carefully when handling the chiles so as not to tear the chiles flesh. Leave the stems on them as well. Poblanos prepared correctly have on slit for stuffing the filling and no seeds and few skin left on the flesh.

Tomatillo Cream Sauce
This is an amazing sauce that can be used in various ways. It makes an excellent enchilada sauce or can be smothered over breakfast potatoes and eggs. It can be sauteed with vegetables and shrimp for a mexican fusion seafood dish served over rice.

15 tomatillos, husked and cleaned
2 cloves garlic
1 small spring onion with onion greens
1/4c each fresh basil and fresh cilantro
2t sea salt
2T sour cream

Cook tomatillos in boiling water for 5-7 minutes- just until they turn a lighter shade of green. Be careful to not let them overcook which turns them into a yellowish brown color. Place cooked tomatillos in blender with all other ingredients and puree. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes in small saucepan.

Garlic Mashed Potato Filling
A simple, yet versatile filling for more than just Poblanos Rellenos. Try as a filling for enchiladas or Flautas as well.

3 medium sized potatoes, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small spring onion and onion greens, minced
1T olive oil
2t sea salt
1/2t black pepper
2T sour cream

Boil or steam potatoes until mushy- about 20 minutes. In small saucepan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil  for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Turn off heat. Place potatoes, garlic, onions, sea salt, pepper and sour cream in a bowl and mash until creamy.

Hibiscus Rice
Ricardo, the father of my son (and much more...) gave me the idea for this recipe. We met in the U.S. about 8 years ago, and since then my cooking repetoir and techniques have expanded a lot. When we first started dating, I was making enchilada sauce from canned green chiles and beans from a can as well- gasp!!!! Ricardo is from central Mexico and quite the chef himself- there will be many more of his inspired recipes to follow in this blog. Hibiscus flowers turn everything they are in a deep magenta color. They turn this rice a gorgous purplish pink color and impart a special, slightly tangy flavor as well. You can find these flowers at your local herb shop or health food store, or check for them in the mexican sections of the grocery store. The spanish name is Jaimaica.

1.5T Coconut oil
1c white rice of choice
2c water
1/4 c dried hibiscus flowers 
1/2t sea salt

Heat oil and rice in small saucepan suitable for cooking rice. Saute together for a few minutes until rice is slightly cooked and glossy. Add water, hibiscus flowers, and salt and let mixture go to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, covered,  about 20 minutes or until rice is finished. Rice will continue cooking when taken off heat. NEVER stir rice while it is cooking. Rice can be fluffed after it is done cooking.

Poblanos Rellenos in a Tomatillo Cream Sauce
Here are the final steps to putting everything together to create this unique dish of global fusion flavors.

5oz sliced cheddar
1 recipe Mashed Garlic Potatoes
1 recipe Tomatillo Cream Sauce
5 roasted and prepared medium sized Poblano chiles

Very carefully, stuff Poblanos with cheddar cheese and about 1/2 cup of potato filling for each poblano. Put tomatillo cream sauce into a medium sized saucepan, then place poblanos, slit side up, into the saucepan. It is Ok if they are crowded together. Cook for 10 minutes, covered, over a medium low heat. Serve Poblanos over Hibiscus Rice with fresh Acocado and salad.


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