Pick a Pepper (Chiles, too)
This time of year, what you see at the market dictates what food you will prepare. At closing time Saturday, for the first time I noticed a vendor selling nothing but peppers. Deep green poblanos. Fiery anaheims. Bright red and yellow Italian (long and skinnier but just as sweet as bell) peppers. It was a pepper farmer from Coburg I hadn’t seen there before. To woo us, the stand fresh-roasted the peppers right there on the grill.
But I took them home to do myself. Some right on the gas burner, some under the broiler. Until they blister and turn black, then into a paper bag to steam for 10 minutes before slipping off the skins. It’s hard to get the timing just right. But better to overdue it slightly, to get that smokey roasted flavor, if you don’t mind them falling apart.
And fall apart they did as I tried to stuff the poblanos for Chiles Rellenos. Mark Bittman inspired the stuffing: grated Monterey Jack cheese, mixed with some fresh sweet corn and pumpkin seeds. Bittman also gave good tips for the batter: whip egg whites until stiff, then add flour and some beer to keep it airy. Ours didn’t quite have the right consistency because my husband is still learning how to separate the egg whites from the yolk. (Never-mind, I’ll just do it myself). But it was less eggy/omelette-like than the Rellenos my father, who worked in a Mexican restaurant throughout college, always makes.
His Mexican recipes are some of the most treasured in our family, as if that were our ancestry (oh wait: we do have Mexican cousins, stemming from the forty years my explorer-archaeologist-adventurer-cultural pirate great-great grandfather spent there). Most beloved is Dad’s famous Salsa Verde (green sauce). Here’s the recipe:
1 large onion
1 can green chiles (or roast your own anaheims or poblanos, of course)
2 cups chicken stock
1 lb. tomatillos
sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic, Mexican oregano, oil, cilantro is optional.
Saute the onions until translucent. Add all the other remaining ingredients except the sour cream. Simmer for 45 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender blender. Add sour cream to taste and blend til smooth.
And it freezes well to boot. I spooned the sauce over Chiles Rellenos but it is also excellent with camerones: just take steamed shrimp and place them atop a bed of Mexican rice and lettuce and top with the hot salsa verde.