A Hot Surprise

*Update: Voting is now open for Round 2!!  Thanks in advance for your support!!

Thank you all SO much for helping vote me through to ROUND 2 of Project Food Blog 2010!!  For this round we were asked to, tackle a classic dish from another cultureFoodbuzz wanted us to reach outside our comfort zone and try something completely new to us.  Mexican cuisine jumped to my mind first.  I think this is because it’s such a staple cuisine around the US, but it’s not always easy to find authentic Mexican food.  Sure I’ve made burritos, enchiladas, tacos, etc., but I wanted to dive in a little deeper this time.

I’ve always been intrigued by Chiles Rellenos and have thought about making them many times.  How can you go wrong with stuffed peppers, especially when oozing with cheese.  Flipping through the latest Vegetarian Times magazine, I came across a whole spread on Mexican meals, side dishes, etc.  They even had a recipe for baked Chiles Rellonos with a spicy tomato adobo sauce!  Perrrrrfect. 

Before heading to the store, I did some reading on poblano peppers.  I found that they are mild in heat and that the most flavorful poblanos will be dark green and firm. 

But what to make for the rest of the meal?  Corn was on the brain.  Corn is a staple in Mexican cuisine, and I wanted to think of another way to incorporate it into the meal.  The peppers were partially stuffed with corn, but that wasn’t enough! 

Cornbread??  I couldn’t figure out if that was a Southern or Mexican tradition…so I nixed it.

I then consulted my culinary guru Emily for some advice.  She mentioned having a corn dish at Mexican restaurants similar to cornbread but much softer + creamier in texture.  After a little googling, I figured out that she was referring to Sweet Corn Cake.  It’s basically made with corn, butter + sugar.  How bad could it be??? 

Still, I needed something else.  Rice or beans?  Rice or beans?  Rice won.  I decided to make Mexican spiced, short grain brown rice.

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I found a clear cut recipe for Sweet Corn Cake, on the Bob’s Red Mill website.  The ingredient list was short, and the directions were clear.  Although, there were a lot of little steps in the making of this. 

Processing the corn…

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creaming the butter…

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and boiling water to put in a double baking dish…  It was a good thing I read through the directions before I started.  I would have never guessed I would be boiling water for this!

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This was good even before it went into the oven.  I was on pins + needles waiting to dive in!

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While that was in the oven baking for 50min, I got to work on the poblanos.  New foods don’t intimidate me too much, but new techniques definitely do!  I had to roast these babies and then stick them in a covered bowl to steam, before peeling the skin off.  Sounds easy enough, but I really had no clue what I was doing. :)

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I tried to choose the straightest peppers I could find, to allow for easier stuffing.

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The directions said I could roast them in the oven, on the grill, or in a pan on the stove.  I opted for the grill because it seemed to be the quickest method.

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Washed and ready.

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I preheated the grill to 375* and closed the lid.

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Love the vibrant dark green color of these local beauties.

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After a short 5min, just look at the progress! 

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While the peppers were on the grill, I got to chopping + sautéing the veggies that were going inside.  After they were done cooking I mixed in a cup of Organic Valley Pepperjack cheese.  At that point, I wanted to stop right there and just dig into the bowl of cheesy veggies…

zucchini + onion + corn

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But, then I came to my senses and waited for the peppers to finish on the grill…

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I flipped them 3 times total and it took about 20 minutes to get them completely charred and blistered.

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I threw them in a bowl, covered it with foil, and set to the side to steam for 15min.  I’m not going to lie, peeling these suckers was not easy!  They were still pretty hot, and the skin was sticking to me.  I got them peeled the best I could! 

Then came the de-seeding.  I cut a 3” slit in the pepper, as directed, and started to scoop out the seeds.  This was also, no easy task.  These peppers were quite limp from being cooked, steamed, and peeled.  They’re also fairly narrow.  There was no way all the seeds were coming out! 

I got as many out as I could and started stuffing the peppers with the cheesy veggie deliciousness.  At one point, I took tiny bite of pepper + veggies to see how it tasted.  After about 20sec my mouth was on FIRE.  My lips were burning and so was my tongue.  I thought poblanos were mild?????  I’ve never actually ordered a chile relleno at a restaurant, but have had many bites of Chris’s plate before and it was never spicy!!?? 

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A little disappointed, I trudged on.  I knew I probably wouldn’t get to enjoy this meal because that’s how hot it was!  The peppers were sealed with toothpicks, dipped in an egg + water bath, and then coated with panko breadcrumbs.  

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While the peppers baked, it was definitely Beer Time.  Not Mexican, but still delicious!

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Before the peppers went in, the sweet corn cake came out. 

Oh dear me.

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Can you tell how buttery delicious this is??  The only change the recipe I made was subbing 2T Greek yogurt, in place of heavy whipping cream [which I forgot to buy].  There was no way you could tell.  It was a perfect substitute!

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I ate a spoonful, squealed, and then ate another.  Seriously.  I can’t get over the amazing texture and delicious corn flavor of this dish. 

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Next on the list was the spicy tomato adobo sauce.  There was a lot of prep for this meal!!  This recipe also came from Vegetarian Times and was super simple.  You basically sautéed tomatoes, onion, and a few spices, then blended it all together with an adobo pepper, until smooth.

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Finalllllyyyy.  My hot little peppers were done!

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I now present you with my first ever attempt at baked Chiles Rellenos! 

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Served with a side of lime, tomato adobo sauce, sweet corn cake, and Mexican spiced brown rice.

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As expected, the peppers were off the chart with spice!!  I don’t think it was just because of the stray seeds I left hanging around.  The skin was definitely really spicy too!

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I managed to eat a whole one though.  I just had to, after all that work!  The flavor was actually really good.  I loved the tomato sauce and the crunch from the breadcrumbs was delicious.  The cheesy vegetables were amazing too.  

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For the rice, I cooked 1.5c short grain brown rice, in 3c of water with 2T olive oil.  I also added 1 heaping teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, a pinch of coriander, salt + pepper.  I cooked it for 50min, simmering with the lid on, and then let it sit covered for 10min. 

Rice perfection!  And oh man…that sweet corn cake….mmmmmmm

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The next day, I fed Chris + Chris the rellenos.  Somehow, they snuck a little of the sweet corn cake…

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I tried to hoard as much as I could!!!

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I could not stop eating this.

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I consider this meal a success, even though I burnt off half of my tongue eating the pepper. 

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Through this challenge, I learned that even when you read up on an ingredient, things may not always turn out as you expect!  However, I now feel like I’ve conquered an authentic Mexican meal, picking up a few new techniques along the way! 

Hope to see you for ROUND 3!!!  Voting starts Monday morning.  I’ll update then with a link or you can click the photo of me in my left sidebar.