Chiles Rellenos con Picadillo (Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Spiced Beef)

When I think of chiles relleno (literally “stuffed chile”), my imagination settles immediately on the image of buckets of molten cheese covering a massive terra cotta plate, still hot from the oven. Because really, isn’t that what most chile relleno is? It’s a thinly-veiled excuse to eat an entire plate full of molten monterey jack smothered in salsa, held together only by a deep-fried, mildly spicy poblano pepper. Work hard enough to justify your behavior, as I do every day, and you can even convince yourself that, because there’s not technically any meat in the dish, chiles relleno represents a healthy vegetarian option at a Mexican restaurant.

Not so with this version. Unlike its more common cheese-stuffed primo, these deep-fried poblanos are stuffed with picadillo, a spicy blend of ground beef, tomato, and jalapenos, studded with chopped raisins, almonds, and olives. It’s a heady, briney combination of flavors that take chiles relleno into hearty new territory. Of course, you can still sneak some extra cheese in there, if you’d like.

Chiles Rellenos con Picadillo

Chiles Rellenos con Picadillo (Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Spiced Beef)
Adapted from a recipe in Saveur; Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the picadillo:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large pimiento-stuffed green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup almonds, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup raisins, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pickled jalapeños, finely chopped
  • 1/2 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the chiles:

  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salsa roja, to serve
  • Crumbled cotija or feta and chopped cilantro, for garnish

Method:

Chiles Rellenos con Picadillo

For the picadillo:

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about five minutes.

Chiles Rellenos con Picadillo

Add ground beef and cook, stirring, until beef is brown and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add cinnamon, bay leaf, olives, almonds, raisins, jalapenos, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring until thickened, about five minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the chiles:

Chiles Rellenos con Picadillo

For gas stovetops: Place poblano chiles directly on burners over high heat. Use tongs to turn often until chiles blacken on all sides. For electric stovetops: Heat broiler to high. Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning as needed, until blackened all over, about 20 minutes. When chiles are blackened, transfer chiles to a bowl, cover, and let cool. Peel and discard skins and stems; cut a slit down the length of each chile. Remove and discard seeds and ribs, keeping chile intact. Stuff each chile with 1/4 of the picadillo, and press tightly to close. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Chiles Rellenos con Picadillo
Note: Not the most appealing photograph I’ve ever taken.

To finish: Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Set up your dredging station: Place flour on a shallow plate, and set aside. Beat egg whites in a bowl until soft peaks form; whisk in egg yolks, and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, dredge each chile in flour, shaking off excess, and then coat in egg batter. Place in oil, and fry, flipping once, until golden brown and filling is heated through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chiles to a wire rack to drain. Transfer to serving plates and drizzle with salsa roja; top with cheese and cilantro before serving.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the taco-centric blog "Eat More Tacos," and the junk food-centric "Spork & Barrel." His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

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