For the longest time, my favorite dish in Mexican restaurants near and far was chile relleno: a poblano pepper stuffed with meat and cheese, battered, fried and slathered with sauce. It still ranks high on the list.
But to make it at home? Oh, what a pain. You’ve got to peel the broiled and blackened poblanos very carefully, so they don’t rip, and then cut an opening just big enough to get your fingers in (so you can pull the seeds out) yet small enough so that when you stuff the thing, it holds together for the frying. Toothpicks often come into play. And that’s before you’ve even coated the peppers in batter or heated up the oil.
At home, I make a more healthful version by roasting instead of frying, and of course it also happens to be much easier.
You still have to peel carefully, but the pepper can be splayed open wide to fit in a lot of filling and doesn’t need to close for its oven time. These days, there’s no meat in my rellenos, just a combination of whatever seasonal roasted or sautéed vegetables I happen to have around, usually with some beans: black, pinto or garbanzo.
While the chilies are roasting, I make a quick, chipotle-spiked avocado-and-yogurt sauce. After I drizzle it on the finished peppers, I sprinkle them with pumpkin seeds for a little crunch.
I’d say it couldn’t be simpler, but I’d be lying. It would be easier if I skipped the step of blackening and peeling the poblanos first, a shortcut I’ve been meaning to try as I think about the similarities between this dish and Italian-style stuffed red or green peppers. If you decide to give that technique a whirl, let me know how it goes. I’m always up for more streamlining.
Roasted Chiles Rellenos With Avocado Sauce
For the chiles rellenos:
4 large poblano peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chili powder
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 pound thin green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup canned, no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
4 ounces (about 1 cup) Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Kosher or sea salt
For the sauce:
Flesh of 1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon adobo (from canned chipotles)
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted
For the chiles rellenos: Position an oven rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiler element or flame; preheat the broiler.
Arrange the poblanos on a pan. Broil, turning periodically, until the peppers are charred all over, a few minutes on each side. Transfer them to a heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a plate to steam as they cool. Turn off the broiler; preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pour the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, sprinkle in the ancho chili powder and cook briefly, just until it foams and releases its aroma. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften. Stir in the zucchini and green beans, and cook until they have barely started to soften. Remove from the heat and stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, olives and cheese. Season with salt to taste. Cool.
When the poblanos are cool enough to handle, gently rub off their blackened skins, being careful to keep the stems and flesh intact.
Cut a slit on one side of each poblano, starting near the stem and cutting most of the way down the side. Carefully reach in and remove the seeds. Use your hands to carefully stuff the filling into the poblanos, packing them as full as possible and mounding the filling on top, if desired. Carefully transfer the stuffed poblanos to a roasting pan, cut sides up, leaving the filling exposed. Roast until the filling sizzles and the cheese has melted, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Use a fork to thoroughly mash the avocado flesh in a medium bowl. Whisk in the yogurt, adobo, lime juice and water to form a thick sauce, adding more water if you want to adjust the consistency.
Divide the chiles rellenos among individual plates. Spoon some of the sauce on top of each, then sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.
Nutrition per serving: 440 calories, 17 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 30 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, 12 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar.