This is a dish I have always thought was pretty wonderful. When I became vegan and gave up cheese, I sort of forgot about the possibility of these succulent stuffed peppers. I had never made them — only had them in restaurants. When I learned to make the tofu cashew cheese (this shows up a lot on my blog) it opened the possibility for vegan chiles rellenos. Since I am in Mexico with a good deal of time on my hands, this was a perfect time to give it a try.
The intimidating thing about making this dish was dealing with the peppers. I wasn’t sure how to prepare them, even after watching a video or two on You Tube. But, a magic cookbook crossed my path, Mexican Cookery by Barbara Hansen, and it gives very clear directions on just how to get the peppers ready for stuffing, the batter, and frying. I’ve made them twice now and they are very good. The first time I made them was just for Fred and myself. I always do a test drive with Fred when I’m trying something for the first time. The second time I made them (as shown in this picture, taken by Javier) was to have Paco and Javier over for dinner. Since these two guys run what I think is the best restaurant I’ve visited in Mexico, it was a little intimidating to cook for them, especially a Mexican Classic with a vegan twist. But, I never get too worked up over serving people a meal. I figure nothing is really much nicer than cooking for someone, and it’s only dinner.
The peppers to use are fresh poblanos. They are good sized peppers, dark green and beautiful. I’m going to spell this process out for you. Stay with me, now. One step at a time.
Before you can peel the chilies, you have to char them to loosen their skins. This is really easy, you just have to pay attention to what you’re doing. So — I do this over the flame of a gas stove burner. This is a very direct method. You can do one on each burner. (I just make one stuffed chile per person, as they are pretty large). You should end up with the peppers looking pretty burned and charred, which might seem weird to you, but that’s exactly what you want. Unless they are charred, the skin won’t come off. You will scrape off the burned part. Tongs are very helpful tools in handling the peppers while they are on the flame.
Put the charred chiles in a paper bag. Put the paper bag in a plastic bag. Let them steam themselves for at least 15 minutes.
Use a sharp serrated knife and scrape off the burned skins. You now have a pliable pepper. Leave the stems on, cut a slit in the side of the pepper that goes from the top about half-way down. Hold under cold water and carefully remove the seeds. They are all up at the top, tight under the stem.
Now, here’s a little trick I learned from the cookbook…..you can calm down the heat in peppers by soaking them in salt water. Since I personally am not big on heat, I did that. I soaked for 3 hours. Heat is a very personal taste. These guys might have been happier had the peppers had more heat, but I played it safe.
After soaking, rinse the peppers really well with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
Stuff with the Cashew Tofu Cheese. Recipe below. Don’t overstuff. You don’t want it oozing out all over the place when you fry them.
Once they’re all stuffed you are going to need 4 beaten egg whites, one for each chile. I was somewhat limited in my choice of tools for beating, but the stiffer the better. Mine would be stiffer if I had a proper beater. Have a large skillet ready to go with enough oil (I use olive oil for everything) to cover the peppers so that you only have to turn them once. After you coat a pepper with beaten egg white, dust with Maseca corn flour (these guys are not only vegan, they are also wheat-free), and put in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown.
Serve topped with tomato sauce, which you have made in advance.
In 1 T olive oil in a large skillet, cook a medium onion for about 5 minutes. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic and 3 T chopped cilantro. Add 1/2 teas salt and cook another 5 minutes.
Put in a blender with 5 plum tomatoes, seeds removed. When all ingredients are blended, add 3/4 cup vegetable broth and return to skillet and cook slowly until mixture thickens, maybe 15 or 20 minutes.
CASHEW AND TOFU CHEESE. This is same recipe as with Gorditas.
This makes a pretty big batch. You’ll have some left over to be creative with.
I got this idea from my dear friend, Edward Tomlin, and I use it so much. Great for anything that needs cheese. Creamy and delish. I also use this on my pizzas.
In food processor blend
1/2 cup raw cashews
1T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
When these ingredients are all blended and nuts are well chopped add and blend well
1 package firm tofu, drained and crumbled. My favorite is Mori Nu (12.3 oz.) if you are using tofu packed in water place it between paper towels and press out the water.
1 1/2 tea dried basil
1 tea salt.
Taste and see if you’d like more salt.