Real Chiles Rellenos & Ersatz Sylvia PlathSaturday, August 14, 2010
It was sometime around 7:45 on Saturday that Rebecca, Lauren, Rosemary, Hilary and our guest, Alec Globe sat at the table. On the table we had a half bottle of ice-cold Listau Manzanilla Papirusa which the urbane Globe and I would share. I had made a batch of my keep-you-awake-all-night iced tea (Russian Caravan tea, nutmeg, mint, cloves, orange, tangerine and lemon juice and sugar). There was Mexican rice, my mother’s hard-boiled egg, tomato and chopped onion salad and a dish that Rebecca had jointly cooked from scratch, Mexican chiles rellenos (stuffed Mexican chiles).
For years I had not enjoyed the ersatz Argentine version (oven baked) of stuffed (picadillo or ground meat with chopped onions and sometimes, ugh, raisins) prepared by my mother.
The Mexican variety uses a delicately flavoured (but sometimes quite spicy) chiles poblanos. These chiles are a handsome and shiny dark green. The are longish and flattish as opposed to the tasteless bell peppers. It is astounding that a store that is opposite to Granville Island Tea Company has been selling these chiles for years!
I chose this recipe. Rebecca was all excited.
Crucial to the process is the searing and blackening of the chiles on the barbecue (in Mexico the chiles are burned over a gas range) and then their placement in tightly covered plastic bags. This makes it easy to peel their tough skin.
Rebecca did that while I prepared the picadillo (without raisins). She also shredded some Monterey Jack. We made a batch of meat and a batch of cheese.
After Rebecca dipped the stuffed chiles in a batter of egg and flower she deep-fried them. It was here that we found out we had made a few mistakes. The slits for stuffing the chiles had been made too big so the stuffing would come out. Rebecca also used far too many toothpicks to keep them closed. Eating these chiles was perhaps as dangerous as eating a spiny fish.
But, but!.. when I cut with my fork one of the cheese ones, the taste was heavenly. We all dug into them and suffered the consequence of not removing the seeds or the whitish “nervios”. These chiles were hot. But the taste was worth the slight pain.
For dessert we had Rosemary’s special coffee flan. We retired to the living room where Rebecca spied a 100th anniversary edition (October 6, 1996) of the New York Times Book Review. Of the cover she said, “That looks like a dead ringer for Sylvia Plath.” It was the retired UBC professor Alec Globe (who taught bonehead English, Shakespeare, the classics (“but not Rome, I never liked the Romans,”) who gently pointed out that it was not Plath but Virginia Woolf. As far as I was concerned, any 12-year-old who knows of the existence of Sylvia Plath must be in some sort of exclusive minority.
Rosemary took the girls home who are all excited about their week-long vacation to Disneyland (ugh!) starting this Monday. Alec Globe lingered. We inspected books and talked about them. All in all it was a Saturday evening to savour and to remember.
Which makes me think about what new dish Rebecca and I will tackle next? Chiles en nogada? Mole Poblano?