When Cinco de Mayo rolls around each year, I think of all the wonderful food options. Tacos of all kids. Burritos wet with sauce and melted cheese. Enchiladas filled with shredded pork and topped with cheese and tomatillo sauce. My taste buds are hopping at the thought of it all. Then I grab a package of hamburger meat and some buns. Let me explain.
Cinco de Mayo is also my son’s birthday. And as in many families, the birthday person gets to pick the meal. Hamburgers are my son’s favorite food, and he always chooses them for his birthday dinner. And I can’t turn down the birthday boy’s request. And I can’t say that my burger won’t be topped with Pepper Jack cheese and guacamole. And I can’t say that I haven’t thought once or twice about sneaking into my son’s room while he’s sleeping to utter the slightest whisper of Cinco de Mayo wisdom into his ear. Tacos. Guacamole. Chips and salsa.
I could simply suggest we have tacos or quesadillas on Cinco de Mayo, but it wouldn’t be right for me to outwardly persuade him to choose something other than his favorite. But I’m not above resorting to subliminal messages.
So in an effort to indulge myself, I’ve decided to start a new holiday this year and it’s called Tres de Mayo. (The date is subject to change every year.)
About a week ago, I started mentioning the chile rellenos my husband made a few years back. We haven’t had them for a while, and I needed to talk through the process of making it with him. There isn’t an actual recipe for it, just a memory of how to put it all together. What I do recall is the original recipe came from a now-retired fire fighter named John. According to my husband, John was a great cook. And I have to agree. These chile rellenos are relatively low in calories and fat, simple to make and quick to get on the table. And they satisfy. Oh do they ever. Melted cheese has a way of making me weak in the knees…and so do firemen…especially when they create brilliance in the kitchen.
You don’t need much to make the chile rellenos. You don’t even need a recipe. We didn’t have one to begin with, but you will have one by the end of this post.
You can do this with a hand mixer or with an stand mixer. I used my stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Into the bowl, add about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and a good splash of white vinegar.
I put my hubby to work while I took all the photos. When I do this all myself, everything is a bit slower and the photos are more deliberate. He was moving a bit too fast at times, and this was one of those times. In this slightly out of focus shot, I simply wanted to show that you use a paper towel to wipe the vinegar and salt around the bowl leaving a bit of the salt behind. Why? I don’t know. We debated this, my husband and I. Neither one of us knew why this was done, but we did it because that’s the way John did it. And we don’t mess with John’s recipes. Ever.
I got busy removing 6 whole chiles from the can. They are packed in juice, so drain them over the can and then lay them on a paper towel to drain a little more. You’ll have extras in the can which can easily be stored in a plastic container in the refrigerator until Seis de Mayo, because I know I will make some more of these after we have our Cinco de Mayo hamburgers…
Cut the 8 ounce block of Monterey Jack cheese into equal portions. If you’d like a little more zing, you could always use Pepper Jack cheese instead.
Begin stuffing the chiles with the cheese. Some of the chiles may be too small for the whole piece of cheese, so you should trim the cheese to fit if that is the case.
Continue until all of the chiles are filled.
If the chiles split open, don’t worry about it. I actually think it’s better, because all of the yummy cheese will ooze out while baking. And that means crispy baked cheese! Almost as alluring as the fireman in my kitchen…I should have had him cook in his uniform.
Lay the chiles onto a baking sheet. Now in the days before these silicone mats were made, this recipe was done right on the sheet pan without a liner of any kind and without grease. I think I prefer them that way, but the clean up was nicer this way. Whichever way you choose, just make sure you do NOT grease the pan or liner.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place the egg whites into the mixer bowl that has been wiped with vinegar and salt. Keep the egg yolks in a separate bowl and set aside.
Whip the egg whites until you have medium-firm peaks.
Go back to the reserved yolks and with a spoon scoop out about half of one yolk. (You can use the rest of these yolks to make ice cream
And fold it into the egg whites. Crazy, huh? I’m not sure why this needs to be done, but we keep doing it this way. This is one of those few times where I actually do what I’m told without knowing why. Maybe one day I will find Alton Brown and he can give me the reason. If there is a reason. Maybe it has to do with not making the egg whites resemble a meringue when baked. You’ll see what I mean.
Scoop up a large spoonful of the egg mixture and cover each of the stuffed chiles. It’s okay if a little bit of the chiles show through here and there. Pop them into a 350 degree oven for approximately 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Start checking on them at 15 minutes.
While the chile rellenos bake, I got to work on a simple little sauce of sour cream and salsa. About 1/4 cup of each mixed together and popped into the microwave, just long enough to warm it up. Maybe a minute to a minute and a half. Play with the proportions to your own liking. I actually like more salsa and less sour cream, but I made it the way my husband likes it and as a baseline for the written recipe.
Time’s up! Go get those fluffy, light as air chile rellenos from the oven. Did you ever think you would be able to refer to a chile relleno as light as air? Well now you can. The tops will be craggy and dry with a hollow sound when tapped on right after they are removed from the oven. They will begin to deflate and soften a little as they begin to cool. The one with the cheese oozing out from the side: that one is mine. Serve immediately. The silicone mat doesn’t really allow the cheese to brown the way it would have without the liner.
My next post will show how to make this simple spicy rice. But in the meantime, get into the kitchen and whip up a batch of these chile rellenos. You will be pleased with the results and so will your hips!
The melted cheese is calling for you…
1 large can whole Ortega chile (1 pound can)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into equal portion sticks
6 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 of one egg yolk
splash of white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Set oven to 350 degrees F.
Place salt and vinegar into mixing bowl. Using a paper towel, wipe the inside of the bowl leaving behind a little salt to flavor the egg whites.
Drain juice from the chiles and place on a paper towel. Place one stick of cheese into each whole chile and place on baking sheet about three inches apart.
Place egg whites into the bowl and beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer until medium-firm peaks are achieved. Using a spoon, remove half of one egg yolk from the reserved yolks and add to the egg whites. Carefully fold the yolk into the egg whites. Scoop the egg mixture and place over each stuffed chile covering completely. Place baking sheet into oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until the surface is dry, golden brown and hollow sounding when lightly tapped. Remove chile with a spatula and serve immediately with creamy salsa sauce (recipe follows).
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 prepared salsa, or to taste (I used Pace, medium spicy level)
Mix together and warm in microwave oven for approximately 60 seconds or until slightly warm. Do not over heat or boil.