7/25/12

Rajas Poblanas

The first time I ate tacos de rajas, it was at the famous little taco shack La Super Rica in Santa Barbara. I didn’t know exactly what I’d ordered until I took a bite and discovered a very flavorful, almost homogenous mixture of roasted peppers, onions, cream, and cheese. (I know, I had you at homogenous, but I think that detail is important—it was like the four separate elements had become one!) Point being, it was a new taco option for this little gringo, and I was into it.

But when I came across a recipe for them a few months ago and read that the first step involved either grilling or broiling two pounds of peppers, I put it off. I’ve only broiled but once or twice, and we simply do not have a grill (yet). Therefore, grilling and broiling are culinary turn-offs.
*
As much as I love our new house and neighborhood, and had been looking forward to creating new habits here, the change has reminded me of how much I struggle with, well, change. The truth is that I’ve found myself secretly pining over my old yoga and cycling studio, my old Trader Joe’s, my previous proximity to Whole Foods and Runyon Canyon—specifically, the combo of hiking Runyon and then going to Whole Foods at off-peak hours—etc. And so, I’ve been having to psych myself up, telling myself that the only way I’m going to find new places I like is by trying out new places I might like, i.e. Griffith Park and Cookbook (both of which, though not yet quite familiar to me, are pretty sweet places to live near). Similarly, the only way I’m going to be able to make tacos de rajas in the comfort of my own home is to get to know my broiler.

So, I bought two pounds of poblano peppers and dug out the oven’s instruction manual, which quite plainly told me to “turn the knob to broil.” Wait a second. There’s no special broiler compartment? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t I move one of the oven racks or something? And what was the deal with that one part I read, below the directions, about “Electric ignition” and opening the oven door? This manual couldn’t be trusted. So, I Googled “Bertazzoni oven how to use the broiler.” The exact same thing that I’d just read in the manual came up. So, I called Matt at work.
            “It’s not like our old oven,” he said. “You just turn the knob to broil.”
            “Are you sure? Because I read something in the manual about having to keep the oven door open for electric ignition…”
            “I gotta go. Bye!”
            And that’s when I thought of my friend, gracefully frying squash blossoms.
Last week, I went to a friend’s house for a dinner party. It was a bit of a potluck gathering, and so, when I walked into the kitchen, I found one of the other dinner guests, my friend Stephanie, standing over a pot of hot oil, casually deep-frying ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms until they were golden and perfect. Her little daughter was running around, from kitchen to living room and back again, directly below all of the hot-oil action. This was right after my big shishito nightmare, and my reaction to someone else’s version of deep-frying was quite visceral. It was like a slap-on-the-forehead revelation: life doesn’t have to be stressful! We don’t have to approach tasks—be it deep-frying or moving house—with anxiety and fear!

So, I made the decision to stop stressing and start placing the peppers on a rimmed baking sheet, which I then put on the middle rack in the oven, before finally turning the knob to broil.

And guess what? No one died. Here I am, alive and typing the true story of using the broiler function of my new oven. The peppers blistered and popped, just like they were supposed to. I even managed to pull the sheet from the oven and rotate the peppers so that all sides could get a nice char.
When they were finished, I steamed them in a covered bowl before momentarily worrying over how to approach the next step: peeling off the skin of the peppers. Poblanos are a much milder pepper than jalapenos, which I once seeded barehanded only to spend the rest of the night dangling my fingers in cold water. But, in the interest of choosing not to be stressed, I dove in with bare hands and hoped for the best.
And it worked. My fingers survived with just the mildest sensation of burning! (That sentence doesn't make it sound like a success story, does it?) Next time, I would only alter one thing: to be more careful to fully remove all of the seeds from the peppers. After I skinned them, I was a little lazy with the seeding process, which resulted in a much spicier rajas than I’d anticipated. Fortunately, I was able to counterbalance the heat quite nicely via an extra dose of shredded cheddar and some guacamole. A cold beer didn’t hurt either.
Speaking of beer, let’s have a cheers, eh? To recreating tacos de rajas, to not choosing and/or creating stress, and while we’re at it, to my dear friends Connor and Sonya whose wedding I attended this past weekend during which my pal, Mary Anne, Bon Appétempted an outfit from 2007! Pretty nice work, wouldn’t you say?
Salud!
p.s. Third green-centric post in a row! How long can I possibly keep this up?
p.p.s. The Olympics start this weekend! (My head may explode with excitement!)

Rajas Poblanas via Bon Appetit
2 pounds fresh large poblano chiles
1 onion, quartered, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
3/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream (Get this: I used Greek yogurt!)
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack
Kosher salt

Bon Appéte-tip: Fresh poblano chiles are often (incorrectly) labeled pasillas here in the states.

Preparation:
Preheat broiler, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. If broiling, place chiles on a rimmed baking sheet. If grilling, put chiles directly on grill grate. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and nicely charred all over, 15–20 minutes.

Transfer chiles to a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes. Peel chiles. Halve lengthwise; discard seeds. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips.

Heat a large dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until beginning to char, 6–7 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add oregano and 1 cup water; simmer until onion is tender and water has evaporated, 5–7 minutes.

Add chiles; cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in crème fraîche and cheese. Add water by table-spoonfuls if mixture is too dry. Season to taste with salt.
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24 comments:

  1. Green posts only from now on! We need to make the trip back to Super Rica SOON! xoxo

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  2. i think "pasillas" is just a west coast thing? they are poblanos in the midwest (and east?) i remember being really confused when i went to buy them in la.
    olympic fever! we got it bad.

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    1. Tim! I don't know jack about labelling of pasillas vs poblanos in the midwest vs west, but i do know that El Barco Mariscos on Ashland has THE BEST pasilla salsa. I tried to drink it. Then I bought some dried pasillas in a Mexican grocery and tried to bon appetempt it at home. But I need recipes and I had no recipe. Epic fail.

      Anyhoo, dont really know the point of my comment but i do like pasillas and i do like reusing outfits!!!!!!

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    2. Mary Anne- why don't you just ask for the recipe?! You need to be able to recreate it, and then guest post it here. It is your destiny.

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    3. Yeah, Mare! Do what Tim says!!

      Tim: There's live training action up on nbcolympics.com!! Gotta go, byyyyyee!

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  3. Yay rajas! I love them so. In the last batch I made, I used heavy cream, and OH MAN was that good. :)

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  4. I've had those Super Rica treats and they are amazing. Equally amazing is making a bridesmaid dress work again. I've done it, but not in awhile. Cheers to both!
    (I know the dress dedux wasn't you but still, it takes gobs of creativity and a little gall, just like this whole blog of yours). xx

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  5. ALSO, that was a dress redux, not a dress dedux (whatever that is).

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  6. Oh man I loved this post! I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to make this recipe any time soon - I'll see about getting my hands on that many pablanos - but your writing made me smile a lot. Thank you.

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  7. you are so good with all things peppery. you are always using peppers. WHY?? Why are you so good with peppers?? I stay away from hot peppers at all costs. It's a flaw. I want to come to your new house so bad. Hi!!!

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  8. I seriously, seriously, thought it was impossible to ever wear a bridesmaid dress again. (I have never been a bridesmaid, though, so never had the chance to test said theory.) I am VERY impressed with this Mary Anne. She seems like a good friend to have.

    Also, the rajas poblanos look yummy and might just push me to expand my rather limited culinary horizon of odd peppers. Gracias!

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    1. Mission Impossible!!! Dang, I was feeling lame for reusing that bridesmaid dress... you guys are making me realize I'm like a hero for bridesmaids everywhere! Hip hip hooray!

      Stephanie, want me to mail you the dress? Round 3? I think the universe might explode.

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    2. You are, most definitely, a hero for bridesmaids everywhere. *goldstarforyou*

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  9. I just made these tacos using BA's recipe, too. Good stuff. I also had trouble with getting all those seeds off. Making tortillas was more fun. So... what are you broiling next?

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  10. Deep-frying and broiling. I share those fears too. Especially because I have a crazy and old gas stove/oven, where I'm terrified the open flame will some how cause terrible things to happen. But I'm working on overcoming my fears in the kitchen, so your posts are always an inspiration. And they're fantastic - I love your writing. Congrats on defeating broiling!

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  11. Your new stove looks to die for!! Also, very well done with the multiple pounds of poblanos.

    Mary Anne's Bon Appetempt = A+

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  12. I, too, fear the broiler. I luckily have a grill to enable my broiler fear. Our apartment oven had a separate broiler bottom drawer and in our home, we have an older oven with broil on the dial. Suspicious!

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  13. Let's go on my favorite Griffith Park hike!

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  14. Dude. That's, like, 4 new things in one week. Pretty soon you'll be discarding rules and trying new things all the time and we can start a club.

    Also, probably way TMI but, de-seeding spicy peppers followed by sex is a bad BAD idea unless you keep your hands to yourself the entire time. Don't ask how I know; obviously I'm not stupid enough to attempt such things. Obviously.

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  15. My favorite salad is a pound red peppers and a pound a tomatoes. They all get broiled to an oblivion, peeled, and reduced in a saucepan. Like peel-and-eat shrimp, it's a pain in the ass well worth the effort.

    Greetings from Paris! J'<3 the blog.

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  16. oooh, i have heard super rica is good. must check it out asap. and order the rajas tacos!

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  17. Hello,
    Its the first time ever I visit your blog, and I love that you haver this recipie here.

    I´m mexican, living in México and everything, and for us rajas are something very common, specially in my family.

    The easiest way to make the is to put the peppers on top of the stove, you dont need anything, maybe a comal if you have one, but if you dont just put the peppers on top and turn it on. Nothing happens, and its way faster.


    I'll keep on reading the blog.

    Greetings from México.
    Lucia.

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Thanks for your thoughts!