Grilled Chile Cheese Rellenos
Ever since I begin preserving the goodies from my garden, I’ve been victim of the cruel, cruel irony of August and September: just when you least want to turn on the stove, you not only must turn it on, but also leave it running for hours at a time, all the while boiling water that eventually causes your windows and walls to stream with condensation. But, that’s when summer produce is in its full glory, in heat bathed August and September, so a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
The reward, of course, is undeniable — a sunny blast of fresh heirloom tomato sauce over comforting pasta during a January blizzard makes any effort worth it.
But, in terms of meal preparation, the less my stove is on between now and October, the better. Cooking gets relegated to the grill.
I’m fairly certain I’ve never had authentic chile rellenos before — are they battered and fried? — but authentic or not, this version from grilling guru Steven Raichlen is just the thing for those of us who can stand the heat in the kitchen, but just don’t wanna.
The stuffing is vegetable-heavy (of course!), seasoned with piquant Mexican flavors and tasty surprise: pepitas! A quick 5 minute saute keeps the kitchen cool. (Note that you could also do this part on the grill, in a heat-proof pan.)
Once stuffed, the poblanos roast over a smoky flame until bubbly, top and bottom. And unlike their batter fried counterparts, these are totally healthy (each serving has only 1/4 cup of cheese, which you can always reduce further). I serve these as sides to burrito bowls made with brown rice.
Grilled Chile Cheese Rellenos
adapted from Barbeque U
4 large poblano peppers or green bell peppers
1 can (16 ounces) low-sodium pinto beans or black beans
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for drizzling
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped (for a hotter filling, leave the seeds in)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 3 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce, or more to taste (I use sriracha)
2 cups (about 8 ounces) pepper Jack, Monterey Jack, or fontina cheese, coarsely grated
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
For the grill: 1 cup wood chips or chunks (preferably mesquite), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained
1. If using poblano peppers, cut them in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. If using bell peppers, cut off the tops about 1/2 inch below the stems. Scrape out the veins and seeds, taking care not to puncture the bottoms.
2. Drain the beans, place them in a colander, rinse under cold running water, then drain again.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeños, red bell pepper, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, if using, and cumin and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the beans, hot sauce, and 2 cups of the cheese. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and/or more hot sauce as necessary. Spoon the bean mixture into the hollowed-out peppers. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, dividing it evenly among the peppers. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the cheese.
4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.
5. When ready to cook, place the peppers in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the peppers until they are tender and the cheese is browned and bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the peppers to a platter or plates and serve at once.