Adventures in Southwest Cooking: Ancho Chile Relleno with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Chile relleno is a popular Mexican and New Mexican dish consisting of stuffed, roasted peppers, typically fresh Poblano peppers.  The peppers are filled with beans or some type of ground meat, as well as cheese, but can also be made vegetarian style.  Chile relleno is a common option on many Santa Fe restaurants menus, often in combination with enchiladas or tacos.  This unique recipe from the Santa Fe School of Cooking uses dried peppers, called Ancho peppers, stuffed with chorizo and refried beans, with a really delicious tomato-oregano sauce.  I served it with Mexican rice, green chile corn bread, and tortilla chips with guacamole.  This was definitely the best New Mexican dish I've made at home!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

All the delicious ingredients!  The Ancho chiles are in the bottom right, prior to soaking in the liquid.

I'm always impressed with myself when I have all four burners going...

Soaking the dried chiles.

Stuffing the peppers.

Yum!


Ancho Chile Relleno with Spicy Tomato Sauce

From Santa Fe School of Cooking's Flavors of the Southwest

INGREDIENTS:


6 dried ancho chiles

1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 or 4 small cones piloncillo to taste*
4 large cloves garlic, split lengthwise
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 pound chorizo
2 cups refried beans
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound Monterey Jack or other good melting cheese, cut into strips
3/4 cup creme fraiche**
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into 12 slices
Nasturtrium petals (optional)

DIRECTIONS:


1.  Leaving the stem intact, carefully slit the body of each chile and remove the seeds and veins.  Set aside.
2.  Combine the orange juice, vinegar, piloncillo, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook until the piloncillo has dissolved, about 15 minutes.  Remove pan from the heat and add the chiles, pressing them down so they are submerged.  Cover the saucepan.  Soak the chiles until they have reconstituted and feel fleshy, about 20 minutes.
3.  Fry the chorizo over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the chorizo is cooked through.  Stir in the beans and mix well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
4.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5.  Remove chiles from the soaking liquid and transfer to paper towels to drain.
6.  Carefully stuff chiles with the bean mixture and a strip of cheese.  You should be able to just close the chile when it is filled.  At this point, you may refrigerate the chiles for later use or place them on a baking sheet and heat through, about 15 minutes.
7.  To serve, place 1/3 cup of the Spicy Tomato Sauce (see recipe below) on a large plate.  Place a stuffed chile on the sauce and garnish with drizzles of creme fraiche, slices of avocado and a sprinkling of nasturtium petals.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice, pureed
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
2-3 tablespoons chipotles en adobo, finely chopped
Pinch of sugar
Kosher salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and oregano, and saute for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes with their juices and the chipotles.  Season with sugar and salt to taste.  Simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use.

Enjoy!!


Notes:

*Piloncillo is a form of pure, unrefined sugar that is pressed into a cone shape.  I had to search around town to find it.  If it's not available at your local market, you can substitute 1 cup of dark brown sugar and 1 tablespoon molasses.

Piloncillo cones

**Creme fraiche is a type of soured cream that is less sour and has a lower fat content than U.S.-style sour cream.  I was unable to find this in Santa Fe, so we just used regular sour cream.

For a discussion on Mexican oregano and how it differs from regular oregano, see my previous post Here.


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