I love chile rellenos (and all Mexican foods) but so many are fried and heavy in fat and calories. I know, you say, but that's what makes them taste good. My latest challenge was to find a recipe that it just as delicious but better for you so of course I turned to Rick Bayless, one of my all-time favorites chefs, for inspiration. I like Rick Bayless for his tireless dedication to Mexican food authenticity. He has two restaurants in Chicago that share a common wall (Frontera Grill, his original restaurant, and Topolobampo, which is more upscale). If you're ever in Chicago be sure to try Frontera Grill. We went there for the first time a year or two ago and it was one of my best restaurant meals of all time. They don't take reservations and people wait in line for an hour before the restaurant even opens which tells you how popular it is. Even so, it was more than worth the wait. Rick has several cookbooks as well as a line of Frontera Grill salsas and other foods in grocery stores. You can also catch his cooking shows on PBS.
I was happy to find this recipe for baked chile rellenos from Rick, in particular because it includes chorizo and goat cheese. I love the combination of slightly spicy chorizo with creamy, tangy goat cheese and the roasted poblano chiles are the perfect flavor counterpoint to them both. Because Rick's recipes are authentic, they're not always quick to prepare. Be aware that this recipe contains a couple of steps that require cooling time so plan ahead - the good news is that the entire dish can be made in advance and refrigerated. For perspective, he calls this recipe "quick and easy".
The interesting technique in this recipe is roasting, peeling and seeding the chiles which is an essential step in softening them and giving them a wonderful flavor. Start with beautiful fresh poblanos and then blacken them over an open flame or under the broiler.
Let them sit a few minutes in a covered bowl, then peel the skins off. This was actually easier than I thought it would be. You want to handle the softened chiles carefully during this process so they don't tear open but if a little tear happens don't worry, you can use that as the start of the next step.
You make a long lengthwise cut and a short crosswise cut to form an elongated "T" shape on the side of each chile, then remove the seeds with your hand, rinse and set aside. Then you make the chorizo filling and let cool before adding the goat cheese. Remember that Mexican chorizo is completely different from Spanish chorizo, which looks a lot like pepperoni. Mexican chorizo is crumbly and is sold like this or in a styrofoam container like ground beef.
This picture shows what the cuts look like in the chiles, and the amount of stuffing in the pan. After I was done stuffing the chiles I had a lot of stuffing left.
My guess is that Rick stuffs his chiles more than I did, but they were plenty stuffed for us. I refrigerated the leftover mixture and used some in quesadillas on a weeknight and some in scrambled eggs served over toasted french bread for Sunday breakfast. Both were so delicious that next time I'll do the same rather than cutting down on the stuffing. Anyway, the final step after baking is to add a crispy topping and serve. They are absolutely delicious and I think much better than traditional fried chile rellenos. Serve with some Mexican rice for a complete and very satisfying meal.
I am giving you my slightly adapted recipe in this post, but also wanted to give a link to the original recipe on his website here.
Roasted Poblanos Stuffed with Chorizo, Goat Cheese and Zucchini
4 large (about 1 ¼ lbs total) fresh poblano chiles, not twisted or deeply indented
1 pound Mexican chorizo
2 cups diced white onion
1 large zucchini, diced
6 ounces goat cheese
¼ cup panko crumbs
¼ cup finely chopped sliced, slivered or blanched almonds
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley
Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly until the skins have blistered and blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for open flame and about 12 minutes for broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 5 minutes. Carefully peel off the skin, then cut an incision in the side of each chile, starting ½ inch below the stem end and continuing to the tip. Make a small crosswise cut (approximately 1 inch in length) just under the stem at the top of the lengthwise cut to form an elongated “T” shape. Carefully open up the chiles and remove the seeds with your fingers, trying not to extend the cuts any further. Rinse the inside of each chile and drain on paper towels, cut-side down.
Crumble the chorizo into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, using a spoon to break up any large pieces, until brown and cooked through. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, zucchini, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine, then cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Once the mixture has cooled, crumble in the goat cheese and stir to combine. Stuff each chile with the mixture and then fold the chile around the sides of the filling leaving a gap in the center. Place the filled chiles in a 13x9 inch casserole lined with parchment and wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the panko crumbs and almonds. Spread the mixture in a small baking pan and place in the oven for a few minutes until golden brown, watching closely so it doesn’t burn. Remove and cool. Add the baking dish with the chiles to the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes.
While the chiles are baking, stir the chopped cilantro or parsley and ¼ teaspoon salt into the cooled panko/almond mixture. Remove the casserole from the oven, place the chiles on a serving dish and sprinkle with the topping. Serve immediately.