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.
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.
to be stressed, I dove in with bare hands and hoped for the best.
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?
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
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
Bon Appéte-tip: Fresh poblano chiles are often (incorrectly) labeled pasillas here in the states.
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.