Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stuffed Poblanos

I love traditional (or at least, tex-mex) chiles rellenos, and I have fond memories of eating them in Texas.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the dish, it's basically a poblano pepper that has been seeded, stuffed with cheese and/or meat, breaded, and deep fried until delicious.  But from where I stand, there are two problems with chiles rellenos:  First, up here in Vermont - and from what I've experienced, New England as a whole - they seem to be coated in a fluffy batter somewhere between tempura and a beer batter.  After a little Google-based research, I think the batter is a mixture of egg white and flour.  I prefer a chile breaded with a mix of flour and a little fine corn meal, which creates a crunchy outer shell to contain all that cheesy goodness.

But that brings me to my second point:  All that cheese!  And all that deep frying!  It's certainly delicious, but it's not an everyday food.  I set out to satisfy my craving with a healthier take on the stuffed pepper.  I took my cues from the burrito and the stuffed bell pepper, and came up with this little beauty.  I roasted a poblano and stuffed it with a mixture of brown rice, black beans, salsa, seasonings, and a little bit of cheese.  It's certainly not the chiles rellenos that I grew up with, but it's a quick and tasty alternative, and vegetarian too.

Stuffed Poblanos
6 servings

2 cups whole-grain brown rice
6 poblano chile peppers
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
2/3 c. salsa (homemade or your favorite store brand)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 c. grated cheese (Monterey Jack or Cheddar)
1/4 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 t. black pepper
Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Begin cooking brown rice according to package directions; but be sure to remove from heat about 5 minutes early (the rice should still have a little extra chew to it).

While the rice is cooking, remove the tops and seeds from the poblanos.  Place peppers onto a small sheet pan and wash hands thoroughly (be sure not to touch your eyes before washing hands).  Drizzle with a little bit of vegetable oil, and salt lightly.  Set onto middle rack of oven and roast for 30 minutes, turning the poblano halfway through.  Let cool until easy to handle.

Once rice has been pulled from the heat and poblanos have cooled slightly, stir in the salsa, garlic, cayenne (optional), paprika, and black pepper.  Fold in the beans and the cheese until well incorporated.  Spoon the mixture equally into each of the poblanos and place back onto the sheet pan.  Bake in oven until pepper is soft and rice is done, about 10 - 15 minutes.

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