I grew up in a family that still made good of our leftovers. We pan-fried leftover grilled corn, made meatloaf, stuffed all sorts of vegetables, made soup with bits and bobs of meats and leftover rinds and things. At times I thought it was amazing and at times a cruel joke. Do they really think I’m not going to notice that the corn in my fritter is from the half cob I refused to finish yesterday?! My attitude towards leftovers depended on age, and whether at that age I saw my parents as gods or messengers of evil, plotting against me. Reinventing foods to make something new and possibly more satiating is no laughing matter. It requires gusto which my mother has in spades. Many of the soups, stews, loafs, and stuffings we revere come from these humble roots.
Surely chile rellenos must have come from these sort of roots. A Mexican mama somewhere at some point pulled poblanos from the garden, grilled them as she always did, and then lovingly stuffed them with bits of ground meat and cheese before she covered them in batter and fried them. I don’t deep fry my chile rellenos, but don’t cry. These are damn good. I grilled them, as is traditional, to promote their smokiness and to help facilitate removing the tough skin. Then I stuffed them with a leftover homemade spicy sardine tomato sauce (recipe below), some black beans, cheese, and steamed broccoli and broiled ‘em until everything was fork tender and the cheese was bubbling and browning. These can easily be adapted to being more hearty (just add some cooked ground beef or turkey or even leftover chile) or more filling (just add some leftover rice).
I suggest you have a stuffed chile in your repertoire for summer nights just like these. Dig in. And of course if you don’t finish, there’s always tomorrow!
4 poblano chiles, washed
1 can of black beans, drained and mashed (you can also substitute 1/2 pound cooked ground turkey or beef)
2 tablespoons parsley + 1 tablespoon for garnish, minced
2/3 cup tomato spicy sardine tomato sauce (see below for recipe)
4oz pepper jack or other cheddar, grated, with some reserved for garnish
3 cups steamed broccoli, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut around the stem of each pepper and remove. Shake the seeds out over your trash or a bowl. Remove as much of the core as you can without cutting into the pepper.
Combine remaining ingredients above in a large bowl. Adjust seasoning.
Set your oven to broil (high).
Grill over direct flame until completely blackened (either on your grill or gas stove). Remove peppers and place in a bowl and cover with saran wrap or place in a sealed plastic bag. Allow to steam for 5 minutes. Remove and peel off the blackened skin. You can use a knife, but don’t wash them! Slice each pepper down one side and place in a heat-proof baking pan.
Stuff each pepper well and top with remaining cheese. Broil in the oven until cheese is browning and bubbling, about 3-5 minutes. Serve!
Spicy sardine tomato sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 vidalia, 1/2 inch dice
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chili sauce
3 sardine fillets (preferably salt-packed), minced
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed between your hands
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a sauce pan on medium. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add the thyme, tomato paste, chile sauce, and sardines, grind in some black pepper, and saute a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes, basil and red wine vinegar and simmer 25 minutes, or until thickened. Add in the sea salt. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat.
We used this first to pour over some grilled zucchini which we topped with goat cheese and served with crusty bread (depicted above).