Summer just wouldn’t be complete without a few Chili Relleños on the menu. This recipe is a family favorite. When August and September birthdays roll around, this is what everyone wants for their birthday dinner.
6 egg whites
3 egg yolks
1/3 C corn meal
1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp milk
3 oz cheese (or more, depending on the size of the peppers)
oil for frying
Peppers: any thick-walled pepper will do. Anneheims, Poblanos, Ancho, Hungarian Wax, Banana peppers are all good choices. It depends on how spicy you like them. (If you’re wondering how hot your peppers are, check a Scoville Scale chart like this one.)
Cheese: Any cheese is fine. I like Cheddar or Monterrey Jack. But you can use a sharper or milder cheese, whatever your prefer.
Oil: I prefer corn oil, but you can use any vegetable oil that is suitable for deep frying.
The ingredients are simple. But the preparation is a little more involved.
Start by separating the eggs and setting them aside. Egg whites whip better if they are at room temperature, so let them sit while you are doing the rest of your prepping.
Step One: Prep the peppers
You want to remove the thin outer layer of skin. It tends be a little tough, making it hard to bite or cut the peppers, even when they are cooked. To remove the skin, roast the peppers under the broiler in the oven. Put them 3-4″ from the heating element and turn them every 5-8 minutes to char them evenly, making sure they don’t get too blackened.
When they are evenly charred, put them on a kitchen towel and cover them to let them steam. This helps loosen the skin.
While you’re waiting for the peppers to cool, slice the cheese. You want about 3 slices about ½” thick. This will vary depending on how big your peppers
are, so adjust the size of the cheese accordingly. Cut these slices into 2-3 wedges (again, depending on the size of the pepper.)
If you cut the cheese into wedges it’s easier to get the cheese down into the small point of the pepper without tearing the walls of the pepper.
This is important: From here on out you will want to wear disposable plastic or latex gloves when you are handling the peppers. Peppers can burn your skin and the first time you wipe an eye or rub your nose you will be very sorry if you haven’t worn protection.
Use a paring knife to remove the loosened peel. Cut the stem off and remove the seed core. You may need a paring knife to cut the fibers that connect the seed core to the walls of the pepper. Try not to break or tear the pepper, but it’s OK if you do. Rinse the inside of the pepper to make sure no seeds remain. Unless you like them really hot. Like super nuclear furnace burning hot. Then you don’t need to worry about any seeds left behind.
Put cheese inside the pepper. I start with one slice of cheese, but if there’s room, I will add more. In my book, there’s no such thing as too much cheese in a chili relleno. Put all your prepped peppers on a plate or tray and set aside while you do the batter.
Before you make your batter, start heating the oil. Fill a pan with enough oil so that it is about 2” deep and turn the heat to high.
Step Two: Prepare the batter.
Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
In a separate bowl, mix salt, flour, corn meal, egg yolks and milk. Stir until well-blended. It should be about the consistency of thick pancake batter. Add a bit of milk if it is too thick.
Gently fold in the egg yolk mixture with the whites, one spoonful at a time until everything is evenly mixed.
Step Three 3: Fry the rellenos
Dip your peppers into the batter. I usually can’t get the batter to cover the pepper 100% in one go, so I just batter one side, put it in the hot oil and then spoon more batter over the top so that it is all covered. Fry at 350º about 3-5 minutes on each side, until it is a golden brown and the batter is fully cooked.
If the peppers are cooking too fast and getting too dark before they are fully cooked, turn down the heat a bit. But you’ll probably find that the mass of
the battered pepper will cool the oil pretty quickly, so that’s usually not a problem, especially if you are using a thick bottomed fry pan.
There! You now have yourself some delicious chili rellenos. You can serve them with enchilada sauce on top, but we like ours plain, with tomatoes on the side.
They are a little bit of work, but so, SO worth it.