Chiles Anchos Rellenos de Queso (Cheese-Filled Poblano Chiles)

Chiles Anchos Rellenos de Queso (Cheese-Filled Ancho Chiles)Feliz Cumpleaños
My family is a bit different. I think we have well established that, but if we need any further proof, here it is…

I celebrated my 29th birthday (again) this past May, and my gift from my sister was a culinary tour of the Hispanic grocery stores, bakeries and butchers in Sonoma. Not your usual gift, but it totally beats a new sweater. It was typical us…and we had a blast.

Because of my Mexican food habit, I am no stranger to Hispanic grocery stores. In fact I shop at my local Mom and Pop all the time for the things we just don’t carry here. (As much as I would love to have anything and everything, it’s just not possible.) And for the warm tortillas…(My god, the warm tortillas!)

As a card carrying Foodie, or maybe because that’s how I roll, I have never felt the intimidation that others in our tour group felt about shopping at one of these establishments. Granted, I feel pretty at home in grocery stores, but I always figured any language barrier could be solved by hand gestures at the least and a love of food at best. So it surprised me that some of the other food lovers among us were missing out on really great culinary experiences because of fear of looking out of place or unknowledgeable. The good news? That was resolved that afternoon.

The panaderias (bakeries) and the carnicerias (butchers) are a whole different world of new and interesting. Here you will find the legit pastries and cuts of meat that you won’t find anywhere else–and the best thing is that, for the most part, the people who work there will happily explain how to prepare their products. We were given quite an education by the proprietors, and more than a few ideas for what to make for dinner.

We were also fortunate to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, Rancho Viejo. If you are ever in Sonoma and looking for some place to stop and grab a bite, I definitely recommend it. The Cochinita Pibil (Pork slow cooked in Banana Leaves) was fantastic, as were the Chili Rellenos.

Chiles Anchos Rellenos de Queso (or Cheese-Filled Poblano Chiles recipe)
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 6 Servings

For the Caldillo con Crema
1 pound Roma tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup crema Mexicana or sour cream
Kosher salt to taste

For the Chiles Rellenos
3 tablespoons grated piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano, preferably Mexican
1 bay leaf
6 fresh poblano chiles
Kosher salt
1 pound Asadero or Jack cheese, grated or cut into cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Make the Caldillo con Crema
Combine the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and blend in a blender or food processor until smooth. For a smoother sauce, force the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, over moderate heat. Add the tomato caldillo mixture and fry, stirring occasionally, until the sauce changes color and reduces slightly.

Just before serving, gently warm the crema Mexicana in a saucepan, then whisk in the tomato caldillo mixture, bring it to a simmer, and season with salt to taste.

Make the Chile Rellenos
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil, along with the piloncillo, thyme, oregano, and bay leaf.

Heat a comal or cast-iron skillet over low heat and dry-roast the chiles until just tender. Transfer to the boiling water, then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chiles from the water and using a small, sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit down one side of each. Carefully remove the seeds and, if possible, the skin. (The stem of the chile should remain attached, so if the skin is difficult to peel, leave it on.) Season the insides of the chiles with salt, then stuff with the cheese, dividing it equally.

In a large sauté pan, over moderately low heat, melt the butter. Add the chiles and cook, flipping gently, to melt the cheese.

Spoon the caldillo con crema onto a platter or individual plates, top with the chiles, and serve immediately.

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