I hear that some people don’t know how to make chili rellenos. I find that hard to believe! When my first husband and I got divorced, I kept the Friday night dates with all of his family during Hatch chili season, the best time of the year. All of the women would hang out in the kitchen, drinking, gossiping and making these, and all the men would hang out outside, drinking and gossiping, though I’m sure they called it something else.
Burn the skins. If the weather outside is horrid, do in on the burners inside, like I did today. Or if you have lots of them, do them under the broiler. If the weather is fine, do it on the grill. If you’re camping, use the bonfire. Just burn those skins! It smells so good. I spent many happy hours smelling those in anticipation of one of my very favorite meals. Definitely one of the benefits to living in that neck of the woods.
After you’ve gotten a really good char on one side — go for more rather than less. Uncharred skins are a bear to remove and are really unpleasant to eat, sort of stringy and tough. Put them in a paper bag, then roll up the top of the bag and seal it well. Leave them for 15 to 20 minutes. No peaking! Leave them alone. If the side that is down gets soggy, turn the bag over, but leave it closed. You want the paper to soak up as much steam as you can, and the magic works, the skins will just peal off very easily. If you cheat and open it? It all sort of falls off, but sticks to the skin and is a pain to get off.
Make the egg mixture. It’s sort of a weird mixture to me, backwards, but it works really well. Separate the eggs. (I use half as many eggs as chilies.) Beat the whites until they are quite fluffy and stiff, then gently beat in the egg yolks, only until they are incorporated. (So not long at all with the egg yolks — 30 seconds maybe. You don’t want the stiffness of the whites to collapse too much. Don’t over beat them, fold them in gently but quickly.)
Next it’s time to get the skins off as quickly as you can. If you let them cool off too much, the skins will stick and be a pain in the neck, so work quickly. Pull one out of the bag and re-seal it. I find holding the chili under cool running water is the quickest way to get the skins off. If there’s a part that won’t come off, don’t be afraid to re-burn it and stick it back in the bag. The skins should slip off pretty easily. (Oh how I wish freezing them worked like it does with tomatoes!) Then pat the chilies dry.
Stuff them. I’m a purist. I just like to stuff mine with long thin strips of the best cheese I have around. I especially like Farmhouse Jack, mostly because it’s the best cheese I actually make myself. But a sharp cheddar works well. The hotter the peppers, the more cheese I like. Some people put meats of various sorts, but I don’t like that at all.
Add the coating. First drench the stuffed chili in a flour mixture of flour, salt, and pepper, then dip in the egg mixture. I use a little bit of coarse corn meal as well as whole wheat flour because I like the nuttiness that comes through in the flavor, but my family used plain white flour without batting an eyelash.
Fry them up. I use whatever fat I have around, usually lard, but today it was bacon fat. If I’m using meat in the stuffing, I like to use a similar fat. So if I stuff with chicken, I use chicken fat, duck fat with duck. Get them evenly brown on all sides at a low enough heat for the cheese to melt while they get browned.
Heat up a flour tortilla. All the times I’ve seen these in restaurants around here, they put all sorts of sauces and gunk on top of the chili relleno, but I’m a purist. I like mine just wrapped in a simple flour tortilla, especially one that was just made. (Oh how I miss being able to buy these on every street corner, but I have gotten pretty good at making my own. Lard is the answer.)
Eat and enjoy! This is one of my very favorite meals! I just haven’t been able to find anyone up here in New Hampshire that even comes close. It helps that we grew the peppers ourselves this year. Big Jim Hatch chilies is the variety. It’s hot, but not too hot. I like it when I can leave the stems and seeds on, and suck that at the end, with only a little sweat on my brow and my eyes just starting to water. YUM!