Oh how I love el Barrio, a funky little Mexican restaurant just down the street from Vore’s office in downtown Birmingham. They ascribe to the Tex-Mex philosophy I often found when I lived in the Lone Star State–fresh food that’s a far cry from greasy, Americanized standards for a Mexican plate.
It was in el Barrio that I found a chili relleno on the menu, which our server explained differed from the typical “filled with cheese, battered and deep fried” business. This was cut in half, stuffed with veggies and roasted, then served with a light and flavorful cream sauce. It was the jam.
I went home and sought to create an interpretation, and I’m darn pleased with the results. These stuffed chilis are easy to make and promise to be a standout at any Mexican dinner. You can easily serve them as a main dish, paired with rice and beans. They would also make a perfect side to accompany a meat dish like fajitas. I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!
Baked Chili Relleno with Cilantro “Cream”
3 poblano peppers, cut in half and seeded
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups sweet onion, finely diced
1 cup zucchini, finely diced
1 cup eggplant, finely diced
1/2 cup red pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 cup corn (I used frozen)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c cannellini beans
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles (optional)
1. Grill the poblano peppers. You want these lightly charred and tender, yet still firm enough to hold their shape. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and set aside to cool.
2. Make the cilantro “cream.” Place the beans, cilantro, broth and nutritional yeast in a food processor or high speed blender. Process until smooth. Add salt and pepper if desired.
3. Make the veggie stuffing. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion, zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, cherry tomatoes, corn, garlic and salt. Sautee, stirring often, until all the excess water evaporates and vegetables are very tender. Stir in half to three-quarters of the cilantro “cream.” It’s your binder, so you want enough for the veggies to stick together, but no so much to be soupy.
4. Stuff the peppers. Add the veggie mixture to the peppers and gently pat so it holds in place. Top with goat cheese, if desired. (For a vegan option, I think toasted pine nuts would make a fine topping!) Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is just starting to brown.
5. Plate the peppers. I served our peppers on a bed of quinoa, but Spanish rice and black beans would make a fine accompaniment. Drizzle with the remaining cilantro “cream” and enjoy.