This dish is a play on chiles rellenos that has been adapted enough that I hesitate to use that term… so, at my house, we refer to them as spicy stuffed peppers. And, we refer to them as DELICIOUS. This is one of my favorite meals. Normally, I avoid dishes with multiple steps during the week, but I enjoy these so much, I don’t mind the extra work. And, really, they are not much trouble at all, requiring a little more patience than enchiladas but offering a final product that is well worth the trouble.
I ran across a recipe for chiles rellenos with goat cheese and mushrooms in Bon Appetit a few summers ago. Rich and creamy, it taught me how to use poblano peppers and gave me some ideas for adapting the dish to fit my preferences– basically, I didn’t want to batter and fry the filled peppers, which is why I refer to my version as stuffed peppers instead of chiles rellenos. The version that I make is stuffed with summer vegetables, most often a combination of mushrooms and zucchini, and cheese and topped with spicy salsa ranchera or enchilada sauce and… more cheese. It is creamy, slightly spicy and cheesy, also a great way to enjoy abundant summer vegetables. I’ve included peas, bell peppers, corn, and tomatoes (even black beans and chorizo) in the filling, in different combinations. You can really use what you like.
Though it’s several steps away from a traditional chiles rellenos recipe by now, this is a tried-and-true dish that’s delicious and satisfying. As peppers, zucchini, summer squash and the like come into season, it’s a handy recipe to have around!
Spicy Stuffed Peppers (serves 2-4)
- 4 poblano peppers, roughly the same size
- 1 T. canola or grapeseed oil, plus more to grease the baking dish
- half of a red onion, chopped (about 1/2 c.)
- 3 – 4 c. chopped vegetables: mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash or similar, preferably a mix
- 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, minced (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. adobo seasoning, or a scant 1/2 tsp. garlic powder plus salt & pepper to taste
- 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 4 oz. medium yellow cheddar, shredded and separated
- 1 c. salsa ranchera or enchilada sauce
- sour cream, cilantro, fresh tomatoes and or sliced black olives to serve
The first step is to roast the poblano peppers. I have a small convection oven which I set on fan broil (450 degrees) and cook the peppers whole for 20-30 mins., turning once after about 15 mins., until the skin is blistered. (If you don’t have a convection oven, here is a method using a standard oven, oven roasted peppers, and one using a gas burner, charred roast peppers; it is also possible to use a grill. These methods can be used for most peppers but are especially useful to remove the tough skin of a poblano.) After the skin has blistered, put the hot peppers into a clean paper bag (or a bowl covered by a dish towel), close and allow them to sit for about 15 mins. The steam created will loosen the skin; by the time the peppers are cool enough to handle, the skin will slip right off. When you peel off the skin, you should also gently pull off the stem of each pepper and pull out the seeds and core (which are usually attached to the stem and come out easily). Don’t worry if a few seeds are left behind. Place the peppers in a lightly-oiled pie plate or shallow casserole dish and set aside.
In a skillet over medium heat, add the oil and cook the onion just until it starts to soften, about 3 mins. Add your diced vegetables and jalapeno, if using, and continue to cook for about 5 mins. Add the adobo (or garlic powder, salt & pepper) and stir to combine; taste and reseason if necessary and continue to cook the vegetables until they are cooked through but not too soft. Fresh vegetables often need very little cook time; you want them to be a consistency you would enjoy eating, being mindful that they will bake for 30 mins. and soften slightly more during that time. When you feel the vegetables are done, stir in the cream cheese and remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Working carefully so as not to rip the peppers more than they naturally tend to rip (I always find that the seams break when I pull off the skin, but that’s okay), open one pepper at a time and lay it flat. Place 1 – 2 T. cheddar cheese in the middle of the pepper and spoon one quarter of the vegetable filling over the cheese. Wrap the left side over the filling and then slightly overlap the right side over the left; place the pepper seam-side down in the oiled baking dish and repeat this process with the other three peppers. Pour the sauce over the filled peppers and sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top. Bake for 30 mins., until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately with sour cream, cilantro, diced fresh tomatoes, sliced black olives or a combination of these toppings.
If you are a patient person, these stuffed peppers are delicious the next day, reheated or even cold (in my opinion).