In an effort to be supportive of my nephew’s new low-carb diet, we have been avoiding many of our usual lunch and dinner go-to meals. No pizza, no sandwiches, no pasta of any kind, no joy left in the universe. I know that eating healthy doesn’t have to be torturous, but it just started to feel like every meal was a slab of meat with a side of green vegetables. While my veggie options have certainly expanded since starting this blog, it still got to be a little monotonous.
Not one to simply grin and bear it for the greater good, I started looking for recipe ideas that would satisfy my craving for new flavors without sabotaging his weight loss. Stir-fry was a possibility, but I like mine with rice or noodles. Indian food isn’t the same without any buttery naan to go with it. Everything Mexican has some kind of tortilla–except CHILE RELLENOS! I was struck dumb by my own brilliance! Not only are chiles rellenos delicious AND low-carb, but I had also never made them before!
For those whose Mexican food experience is limited to Taco Bell, chile rellenos are cheese-stuffed peppers which are lightly battered and deep fried. Poblanos are the most popular pepper because 1) they’re mild enough for the general population, and 2) they’re relatively easy to stuff. I say relatively because it still wasn’t easy. Poblanos are also fairly common and usually available at most large chain grocery stores.
After studying a few online recipes, I decided to try one from IsabelEats.com. Her instructions were informative, thorough, and well-illustrated. However, our final product did not turn out as beautiful as hers. I say “our” because I enlisted the aid of my nephew as temporary sous chef. I figure he owed it to me since I was accommodating his special diet, and if it worked out, he’d have another semi-healthy recipe in his repertoire. (I’m pretty sure deep frying cancels out any nutritional benefit from the peppers, but at least it was low-carb!)
We started by charring the peppers directly over the gas burner on the stove. They didn’t exactly like to sit flat on every side, so we had to keep turning them with the tongs to get an even blistered blackness. The next step is to let them steam for a bit, but I missed that part. Steaming makes the skins slide right off. Instead, we plucked crumbling ash off each burning hot pepper one tiny flake at a time. Steaming would have also made the peppers more pliable. We had no trouble slicing them open, scooping out the seeds, and stuffing them with cheese, but sewing them back together with toothpicks was tricky because they were still a little stiff.
The sexy sizzle of chile rellenos is the batter, but it is NOT your regular coating. First of all, you dip the peppers in flour before the egg. Secondly, the egg white is separated and whipped to stiff peaks, then the foam is folded back into the scrambled yolks. Since the foam bubbles do pop eventually, the first few chiles get a better batter texture than the last one that is dunked in the dregs. Still, tastewise, they were all fantastic.
Actually, here is where I should insert the caution that the sauce you serve them with makes a BIG difference. I used an unknown red enchilada sauce and was sorely disappointed with the flavor. My recommendation is to settle on a salsa verde or enchilada sauce you love before you go to all this effort.
Also, be mindful of your batch sizes. If you’re planning to make enough to eat two meals, it’s probably better to batter and fry only half each night. They do keep in the fridge, but reheated rellenos are kind of limp. You’ll be much happier with crispy chiles, trust me.
Still, for a first effort, I would qualify ours as a success. Now that we know all the tips and tricks, the next time will be even better!