Tacos have to be one of my favorite Mexican meals.
I can remember being in elementary school art class and getting an assignment to create our favorite food with plaster cloth. I thought how in the heck am I going to make a taco? Well, I ended up making a piece of pizza, simply because it was simple.
And while in tacos are easy to make in real life, so are other Mexican treats.
Over the years, I’ve become slightly obsessed with poblano peppers (Dried poblanos are called ancho chiles). They’re extremely popular in Mexico. The deep green pepper is relatively large and comes to a point. It’s glossy, and has a good-sized stem. The pepper is more mild when it’s green. It turns red when it’s ripe and gets considerably hotter. But beware, the level of heat isn’t consistent. I’ve had tame green poblanos and some that felt like I’d swallowed a lit match.
You’ll find them in Mexican restaurants under the name chile relleno. That’s usually a stuffed poblano, and nine times out of ten, it’s battered or crusted and deep-fried. Tasty, but not exactly healthy. I mean, the pepper itself isn’t bad for you. In fact, the heat (capsaicin) in peppers is said to be good for your heart and blood pressure, can suppress appetite and even relieve pain.
Like any hot pepper, they can cause you pain if you’re not careful. I use latex gloves to prepare them. If you get any of the pepper’s oils on your hands, you’ll be crying out in pain when you go to take out/put in your contacts or if you pick your nose, which none of us ever does, right? RIGHT?
You can usually find poblanos at the grocery store, but I’ve been getting them at the farmers’ market. I have a poblano plant in my backyard right now. I’m hoping it gives me a good crop.
I’ve played with poblanos before, once by stuffing them with cornbread mix for a contest, and once by grilling them for burgers.
Now, I have a dish for you that really lets you celebrate the poblano, and it won’t send you running for the border between Zen and insanity.
Here’s what you need:
4 poblano peppers
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
½ can of chipotle in adobo
1 link of fresh chorizo (not the cured kind)
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
½ red onion, diced
4 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. sugar
1 bag of Uncle Ben’s brown Ready Rice
1 can of black beans, drained
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
Preheat the oven to 400.
Cut open the skin on the chorizo, and squeeze the filling into a large pan set over medium heat. Break up the filling as it begins to brown.
Once the chorizo starts to give off its own flavorful oil, add the diced onion to the pan. Stir.
Let the onion cook down for 3-4 minutes. Keep breaking down the chorizo.
Open the can of chipotles. These are just smoked jalapenos. You can find them in the Mexican foods section of your supermarket. Take out a few of the chipotles, 2-3, dice them, and add them to the pan. Then add 1-2 tbsp. of the sauce. Stir. This will add smokiness and heat. If you want to keep it mild, use less chipotles.
Add the cocoa power, cinnamon, and sugar. Stir.
Add the zest and juice from one of the limes. Stir.
Turn up the heat to medium-high, and let this cook for about 20 minutes. It’ll thicken as it goes. Stir it occasionally.
When you’re ready to prepare the whole meal, preheat the oven to 400.
Carve the stems out of the peppers, then take out all the seeds. Use gloves! It’s ok if the tops of the peppers split slightly, but you don’t want them to break open completely.
Microwave the Ready Rice for 90 seconds, then add the cooked rice to a big bowl. Add the drained beans, the garlic and onion powders, the zest and juice of the other lime, and a good pinch of salt. Stir.
In a 9×13 casserole dish, put down some of the chorizo gravy. You’re just creating a bed for the poblanos.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven, top the peppers with shredded cheese (if you want) and bake for 5 more minutes or until the cheese melts.
To make that, combine ½ cup sour cream with the juice and zest of one lime. Mix, and put into a squirt bottle, or just dollop it onto the plate.
I truly love this dish.
The chorizo gravy is smoky, spicy, and rich. The chorizo gives it flavor and texture. The cocoa powder and cinnamon hang out in the background and just give the sauce a little something extra. They kind of make it warm, and comforting. The pepper is tender, but still crisp. It’s also spicy, but the citrus rice helps mellow it out. The lime sour cream is like a fire extinguisher for your tongue.
Tip: Freeze the rest of the can of chipotle in adobo. Just dump what’s left into a resealable bag. Squeeze out the air, and toss it in the freezer. When you need a little smoky heat, just chop it up (it’ll be slushy, not like a rock) and toss it into whatever you’re making. I recently added some to my no-cook pizza sauce and made a Mexican pizza (topped with black beans, corn, cheese, and Serrano peppers).