Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Risotto-Stuffed Poblanos

Baked stuffed poblanos
Our Poblano peppers have been gorgeous and prolific all summer and fall, but not exactly flying off the shelves, so I've been searching for a good recipe to feature them.  These relatively mild* peppers are the ones traditionally used for Chiles Rellenos in Mexican cuisine, but most recipes for that delicious dish are so involved -- stuffing, battering, deep-frying -- that I've been disinclined to try them at home.  Then, as ever, Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen Cookbook came to my rescue, with a reasonably simple, (nearly) vegetarian, non-deep-fried version.  I know we've published a number of stuffed-pepper recipes and ideas this season, but now peppers are almost done and I promise this will be the last one!  This is hardly a traditional Chiles Rellenos filling (though Deb nods to Mexican cooking with her cheese choices and the use of cerveza in the risotto instead of the traditional white wine), but here at the end of both pepper and sweet corn seasons it's too good to pass up.

from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

serves 4 generously

8 large fresh poblano peppers
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups short-grained rice, such as arborio or carnaroli
1/2 cup beer, preferably light or medium in color
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 cobs)
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 teaspoon table salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco, ricotta salata, or another crumbly cheese
3 Tablespoons sour cream mixed with 1 Tablespoon milk and a pinch of salt, for serving
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves or flat-leaf parsley

Prepare peppers:
Lay several chiles at a time on their sides on the racks atop a gas burner, and turn the flame to high.  Using tongs, rotate the chiles frequently until their skins are blistered, about 4 to 6 minutes each.  Transfer the peppers to a bowl, and cover them with foil or plastic wrap.  Repeat with the remaining chiles.  Should you not have a gas burner, you can do this under a broiler.  Or you can skip this step altogether if the pepper skins don't bother you.

Make risotto:
In a medium saucepan, heat the stock to a low simmer.  On a separate burner, heat a larger saucepan over medium heat.  Once the saucepan is hot, add the oil and heat through; then add the onion, and sauté until it is softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the rice to the pot, and stir it for a minute or two, until it becomes slightly toasty.  Pour in the beer, scraping up any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan.  Let beer simmer for roughly a minute -- it will mostly disappear.

Ladle 1 cup of warm stock into rice mixture, and simmer until it has been absorbed, stirring frequently.  Add the remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing stock to absorb before adding more, and stirring often.  Along with the final addition of stock, add the corn.  The total cooking time for the rice is about 30 minutes, after which it should be creamy and tender.  Though risotto is traditionally supposed to be on the loose side, you can leave this one ever-so-slightly thicker, so it can be easily stuffed into peppers.  Once the stock is added and the risotto is tender, stir in the Monterey Jack cheese, the salt, and many grinds of black pepper.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Remove risotto from the heat.

Assemble and cook poblanos:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Remove chiles from bowl, and gently rub off the skins, which should now remove easily.  Cut a slit lengthwise in each chile, and remove the seeds and membranes as best you can.  Leave the stems on -- they're cute.  Fill each chile with risotto through the slit.  Arrange the chiles tightly in a baking dish, and sprinkle with crumbled cheese.  Bake the chiles for 10 to 15 minutes, until bronzed a bit on top.

To serve:
In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream mixed with milk and salt.  Drizzle the mixture over hot chiles.  Garnish with cilantro.  Eat them while they're hot.

*A note on spiciness: I ate some of these the other day and they were pretty hot.  Now, I don't have a super-high tolerance for spiciness, and I was able to eat and enjoy them (the crema cools things down a bit, and I drank lots of water), but consider yourselves warned.  I found that removing the seeds and membranes, which is where the heat hangs out, was difficult to do thoroughly through the slit in the chile without destroying the pepper's structural integrity, and next time I think I'll cut each chile in half, so I can more easily remove all seeds and membranes, and heap the risotto into the halves to bake.  One could also stuff sweet peppers, eliminating any spice, and it should be said that the corn risotto is quite delicious on its own, too.

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