While watching - and rooting for - Rick Bayless on Top Chef Masters, I developed a serious case of the hungries for some Mexican food. And when we got these adorable tomatillos from our CSA, I took it as a sign that I needed to make some salsa verde, pronto. I wanted to try to make my salsa as authentic as possible, so it made sense to go with a Bayless recipe. I only made a couple of changes, as you'll see - not because I thought I could improve on his recipe, but rather because of equipment failure and an ingredient confusion. But it still came out with a very distinctive, smoky taste. Delicious.
I more or less made up the chipotle sauce as I went along, and my husband made his always-yummy, simple, fresh guacamole. I'll admit there are a fair number of steps to this dish, but you can make the salsa verde and chipotle sauce ahead of time, and the results are more than worth a little extra effort!
Cheese Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Chipotle Sauce, Guacamole, and Salsa Verde
For the Salsa Verde (almost-faithfully based on Rick Bayless's recipe)
makes about 2 cups
7-9 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
4-5 fresh serrano chiles (*Note: Serrano chiles are hot, hot, hot. I would have LOVED to use them, and I thought I had some on hand but ... they turned out to be mild green chiles. Oops! Our CSA had given us a bag of assorted peppers and I hadn't looked closely enough. So ... no heat, but lots of flavor. If you prefer a mild salsa, go with a mild chile rather than the serrano.)
1 small white onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 peeled garlic cloves
1/3 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
about a tsp of salt
sugar (optional - I didn't use any)
The recipe calls for you to broil the tomatillos and chiles 4 inches under the broiler for about 5 minutes on each side in a heavy foil-lined pan. The tomatillo skins should split and appear splotchy black in places. This is great if you are lucky enough to have a gas stove or even an electric stove with a working broiler. I, however, am a broke freelancer with a cursed electric stove that has a broken broiler AND an electric cooktop. It's the sort of appliance favored by people who like to just hit the "casserole" button to cook their frozen dinners each night.
So I had to MacGyver this step. I took an oven rack, placed it directly on the cooktop, turned it up to high, and roasted everything right on the rack, turning frequently with tongs. If you have a gas stove this would definitely work as well. Here's a shot of the poblano peppers roasting using this jacked-up method:
Amazingly, it worked and I didn't set the house on fire. Aside from a little juice dripping on the cooktop, my tomatillos and chiles came out beautifully:
Next, roast the onion slices and garlic in a 425 degree oven, stirring often, until the onion is translucent with a little charring around the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
In a food processor, pulse the chiles, onions, and garlic until moderately finely chopped. Remove to a bowl - don't clean out your food processor (yet).
Coarsely puree the tomatillos with their juice. Stir them into the bowl. According to Bayless, in Mexico this salsa is served fairly runny, so he suggests adding enough water at this point to get to that consistency.
Next stir in the cilantro and season fairly liberally with salt. This will keep for 5 days - and it just gets better each day!
For the Stuffed Poblano Chiles
a paper bag
Queso Fresco, cut into cubes, about 1 1/2 -2 oz per pepper - basically enough to just fill, but not overstuff, the peppers
Cotija cheese, 1/2 oz. per pepper
First, roast the peppers, either in the broiler or with the method outlined above until the skin is dark brown and crackly. Splotchy black in spots is fine. Immediately put the peppers in a closed paper bag to cool.
Once cool, remove the skins. They should look like this:
Carefully cut a slit lengthwise in each pepper and remove the seeds; stuff with the cheeses. Seal the seam with a toothpick and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese melts.
For the chipotle sauce
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce such as Tuttorosso
1 -2 inch piece of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped. I used La Morena brand (right) , which I found at Whole Foods.
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
Saute the garlic on low/medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chili powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the chopped poblano and a bit of the adobo sauce, stir to mix.
Next add the tomato sauce, stir well and season to taste. Let simmer on low, stirring occasionally, until you're ready to serve.
For the guacamole:
My husband used to try to get all fancy with the guac until he decided (and I agree) that simple is best.
All you need to do is combine 2 ripe avocados, the juice from 1/4 lime, 3 very finely minced garlic cloves, and salt and pepper to taste. Some people prefer a chunky guacamole; sometimes if they're very ripe it's nice to almost "whip" the guac until it has a light, fluffy texture.
To serve this dish, drizzle some of the chipotle sauce on the poblano peppers, and plate it up with some salsa verde, the guacamole, and some sour cream. You'll definitely have leftover salsa, so just go nuts with it and put it on everything! Just look at all that tomatillo goodness: