Chilies rellenos are milder than you might suppose

ASK THE CHEF

February 10, 2002|By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan | Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan,Knight Ridder / Tribune

Q. I love chilies rellenos and have always wanted to make them. Do I need to use a particular chili pepper for this dish, and can I stuff them with anything I want?

A. Chilies rellenos does indeed translate to "stuffed peppers," and poblano peppers are traditionally used. If you are worried that these Mexican peppers are too hot and spicy, you can wipe that sweat off your brow right now. In fact, if you don't use spicy ingredients in the stuffing or sauce, chilies rellenos are mild enough to serve at a retirement home bingo dinner.

Since the peppers are so mild, the stuffing is what gives this dish its character. My personal favorite starts with a mixture of about a pound of goat cheese and an equal amount of Monterey jack cheese. Fold a diced tomato and a minced clove of garlic into the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Fill the cavities of 4 to 6 roasted, skinned and seeded poblano peppers with the stuffing, and skewer the peppers closed with toothpicks. Dredge them in some flour and roll them in a couple of lightly beaten eggs.

Place them in a frying pan with hot oil and fry until they are brown on the bottom. Turn over and brown on the other side.

You can use a variety of sauces: a spicy tomato sauce if you're daring, a cheese sauce, or (if you're feeling really crazy) a green chili sauce.

Try cooking chilies rellenos my way first. After you see how easy it is, you can stuff them with anything you like.

Jim Coleman is executive chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, a cookbook author and host of television and radio cooking shows. Candace Hagan is a food writer and cookbook author.

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