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Food & Entertaining

Stuffed Poblano Chiles au Gratin

Author: Sydney Dye
Issue: July, 2013, Page 44



The chile pepper, which is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, has a long history. We know from archaeological sites in Mexico that chiles were a part of the Aztecs’ and Mayans’ daily life, and that Christopher Columbus was among the first Europeans to come across this savory find. After Columbus shared them with Europe, chile peppers were cultivated around the globe.

Today, the chile pepper plays an important role in the cuisines of many countries, including Africa, China, India, Mexico, the Americas, Spain and Thailand. Its heat quotient varies from mild to mouth-blistering hot. Generally, the larger the chile, the milder it is. It’s the seeds and membranes that contain up to 80 percent of a chile’s capsaicin—the potent compound responsible for the spicy fruit’s pain and pleasure. A mere drop of capsaicin to the tongue triggers pain messages to the brain. The burning feeling then signals the brain to release endorphins—natural painkillers—to create a sense of well-being. It’s no wonder that these peppers are widely popular.

On the health front, chiles have much to offer. They are cholesterol free and low in calories and sodium. They also are a rich source of vitamins A and C and a good source of folic acid, potassium and vitamin E.

Poblano chiles, which are featured in this month’s recipe, are typically dark green with a robust flavor that varies from mild to somewhat snappy.


Serves 8

Stuffed Poblano Chiles Au Gratin

8 poblano chile peppers
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped, medium dice
1 medium orange bell pepper, small dice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 ears fresh white corn, kernels removed (2 cups frozen corn may be  substituted)
3/4 cup crumbled Cotija, divided in half
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon ground
cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Juice from 2 limes
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

Photo by Garrett Cook
 
PREHEAT broiler or gas grill. For oven broiling: Place chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 3 inches from heat until blackened; turn chiles and repeat until skin on all sides is blackened. For gas grill: Place chiles directly onto grill and cook, turning as needed until all sides are blackened. 
TRANSFER blackened chiles to a paper bag, close it and set aside for 15-20 minutes. (They will steam and cool during this period.) Then carefully peel and discard skins, making sure to keep the stem ends intact. Cut a lengthwise slit in each chile and remove and discard all seeds.
PREHEAT oven to 350°.
TOAST pine nuts in a small dry skillet until just brown; set aside.
HEAT olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Next, add bell pepper and garlic and cook until tender, stirring frequently and being careful not to brown the garlic. Add corn and cook for 2 more minutes, until just tender.
REMOVE skillet with vegetables from heat; stir in pine nuts, 1/2 cup Cotija cheese, black beans, cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper.
GREASE a 9-inch by 12-inch baking dish.
SPOON bean and corn mixture evenly into each chile. Arrange stuffed chiles in prepared dish and set aside.
MELT butter in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat; add cayenne pepper, cumin and cinnamon, and stir until combined. Gradually add flour to make a roux, stirring constantly.
COOK 4-5 minutes. Gradually add milk to make a sauce. Whisk until blended and continue cooking until thickened (8-10 minutes).
REMOVE from heat; stir in lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
POUR sauce over stuffed chiles.
COMBINE remaining 1/4 cup Cotija cheese and bread crumbs, and sprinkle on top.
BAKE for 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and top is golden brown.


Chef’s Note
Summer through early fall is chile harvest time in the low-desert and surrounding areas. When harvesting ripe chiles, cut peppers off the plant, instead of pulling them, to avoid breaking branches.

Cotija is a popular Mexican cheese made from either cow’s or goat’s milk and can be semi-soft to very hard. Cotija is quite salty, so be careful not to over salt when seasoning dishes featuring this cheese.

Sydney Dye is a home gardener, chef and owner of First Fig Culinary Adventures in Scottsdale.


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