I couldn’t post the week of January 29, but I still found several cheap meals to make. I lived for years in Colorado and miss the availability of the type of Mexican food I became accustomed to while living there. There’s a lot more Mexican restaurants in Minnesota than there used to be, but the style of Mexican American cooking here is actually quite different from the style of Mexican American you find in Colorado and down through Northern New Mexico.
These Chile Rellanos, only very slightly altered from a Melissa D’arabian recipe, took me right back. They were quite a bit of work, and almost all of it active, so be prepared and have some time on hand if you want to make this. They also are best served right away, so the family should be assembled and waiting. That’s not to say that the leftovers weren’t good, just not at their best…I imagine it would be no problem to stuff the Rellanos ahead, flour them, then make the batter and fry them before serving. You may have to redust them with a bit more flour before battering.
This was my first Rellano attempt, so view them with kind eyes. A little sloppy, but still amazingly delicious. I made them with Mexican Rice, refried beans, and I figured as long as I was using oil I’d add a few chips and some guacamole and salsa. (Tomatoes and avocados were on sale this week.) This was a true feast for about $5.85. I know, I know, I went over my $5.00 mark. Let’s just say the guac, chips and Salsa are optional!
Chile Rellanos, with Sauce serves 4, cost $3.85 including sauce.
- 4 large poblano peppers
- 3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces jack cheese, shredded
- Chile Rellanos Sauce
- Vegetable oil
Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers on a baking sheet covered with foil and broil until the skin is blistered and just charred, turning to cook on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Place the charred peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the skin. Be careful not to over char your peppers or they will be overcooked and easily fall apart. The timing is going to vary depending on your broiler. Also don’t leave them too long covered, as they will still continue to cook and you’ll have the same problem. You can char on the grill, on the burner of a gas stove or with a torch, too.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. In a small bowl, mix 2 egg yolks with 1 tablespoon flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (Reserve remaining yolk for another use – maybe flan for dessert? Then you’ll have extra whites and have to make lemon merengue pie or Pavlova later on in the week!) Place the remaining flour on a small plate. Mix one-third of the egg whites into the egg yolks, and then gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the remaining egg whites just until incorporated. Have your cheese ready.
Slice about two-thirds the length of the pepper, just long enough to remove the seeds with a small spoon. Be patient. Stuff the peppers with the cheese mixture, squeezing the cheese gently if needed. Use a little of the egg batter on one edge of the pepper to help it stick. If needed, thread in a toothpick.
Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Gently roll the peppers in the flour. (If the cheese and peppers are too warm and are falling apart, place in the freezer for 10 minutes). Coat the peppers in the egg batter by dunking and spooning the batter all around. Lift the pepper, and gently spoon off any excess batter hanging from the bottom. Make sure the seam is well coated with batter. If the batter comes off, just spoon on a little more. It will likely be clumpy, but that’s ok. Place in the hot oil and fry until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. If you need to hold them for a bit, place on a rack in a warm oven. Serve with Chile Relleno Tomato Sauce.
Chile Rellanos Tomato Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 14 1/2 ounces canned tomatoes, juice included, blended in blender
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons vinegar
Add the olive oil to a medium saute pan over medium heat. Then add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, cayenne and garlic, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Add the chicken stock, sugar and the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil and simmer about 10 minutes to a sauce like consistency. Remove from the heat and add vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
Money and Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
As mentioned above, I’m sure you can assemble the rellanos and then batter and cook them later. The tomato sauce can easily be doubled or tripled and frozen. You might even be able to freeze the poblanos before battering – I’d be interested to hear if anyone tries this and how it works out. If you’re making the whole Mexican feast with Mexican Rice and salsa and guacamole, chop all your vegetables at once and put into little piles for each recipe. Use the part of a larger can of tomatoes and pull out three for the rice. Freeze the rest. I make the salsa and then add some of it to the guacamole.
- Poblano Peppers: Look for peppers that are shiny and tight, not wrinkled. Price per pound at the store, these sound expensive, but four good-sized peppers were only $1.49.
- Jack Cheese: Always buy your cheese on sale; it lasts quite awhile in the fridge and if you’re afraid it will go bad, chuck it in the freezer. Look for coupons and sales, too, particularly from Kraft. The better grocery store cheeses, like fresh mozzarella, ricotta and some of the name brands often have coupons. $2.00 for 8 ounces, the cost for this recipe is $1.00.
- Eggs: Eggs do go on sale periodically, especially around Holidays. Look for specials, too, where if you buy eggs and another item (sausage, bacon, etc.) the eggs are free. They last weeks and weeks. See discussion for information on freshness. Cost for this recipe, 99 cents a dozen, is 25 cents.
- Flour: See discussion: Cost 4 cents.
- Vegetable Oil: Cost for 48 ounces $1.49 on sale with a coupon. I have an aversion to Canola Oil after reading on the practices of genetic engineering and avoid it. When I have to fry, I’ll just use “POV” as a friend of mine calls it. Plain Ol’ Vegetable Oil. Strain it and freeze it or set it aside if you’ll be frying again later in the week, or just strain it and use it in the next few weeks while sauteing. This recipe takes about 3 cups or so, but since I’m so frugal with it, and will use it all in other recipes, I’m just counting what I think will be a part of this recipe, about 15 cents.
- Olive Oil: I buy at about 8 cents an ounce with coupons and sales, (see discussion) so a tablespoon comes to about 2 cents.
- Onion: I don’t care if they’re yellow or white, I just get the cheapest. These last a long time, weeks, so buy them if you see them on sale. I’m still using onions from December, 33 cents a pound. Store them in a cool place (I put them in a paper bag, loosely folded, and keep them near my back kitchen door in the winter. It’s always cool there. The other half, I just wrap in Glad Wrap (Cook’s Illustrated recently listed them as the best at keeping food at it’s best – buy it with a coupon, of course!) and keep on the top shelf of my refrigerator door so I won’t forget to use the rest.) Cost for this recipe: 10 cents.
- Garlic: Two cloves are about five cents. Watch for the package or per pound rate. Cost 5 cents.
- Chicken Stock: As I say in almost every recipe, I just simmer my bones and vegetable scraps (I always add in a few peppercorns) and make my own. Cost: Free.
- Tomatoes: The recipe calls for a 15 1/2 ounce can. I buy the large cans when they are on sale for a $1.00. and use coupons and store specials to reduce the cost even more. I last bought Red Gold for 50 cents for a 29 ounce can. Since I didn’t use it all, I threw half in a Ziploc bag and tossed it in my freezer for the next recipe. (I of course, labeled and dated it.) Cost for this recipe is 25 cents.
- Vinegar & Sugar and the spices are so cheap – I’ll guess about 5 cents. Buy your vinegar at Easter or during the summer, stock up on sugar during the Holidays and buy your spices in the bulk section.
- Refried Beans: Much cheaper to make your own, but when I buy canned, I buy them on sale: Cinco de Mayo or around New Years seem to be the best sales. I look for a price of about 89 cents a can for La Perfida - I think they run regularly around $1.29. I am absolutely brand loyal to La Perfida – they taste the most like ‘real’ refrieds to me. Beans on sale will cost about $1.00 and will make three cans worth. If they’re precooked and in your freezer, just pull out a bag and heat them up, add a little salt and pepper – oil/lard/shortening etc, is really not necessary, but a dash of milk is nice. The cost will be about 33 cents, so it makes financial sense to go this way.
Money & Time Saving Strategies for the sides:
Mexican Rice: I made half a recipe and the cost was 33 cents.
- Avocado: I used one, on sale for $1.00
- Salsa: I used a bit of the onion, a squeeze of lime leftover from a recipe earlier this week and a tomato – about 50 cents.
- Tortillas: On sale for a dollar for a small package, I fried up a two in the oil for garnish. I always buy these on sale, and throw in the freezer. I figure the larger packages are just more cost and calories! Cost: 33 cents.
Nutritional Value for the Rellanos:
Per Serving: 284 Calories; 16g Fat (50.3% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 184mg Cholesterol; 897mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Nutritional Value for the Sauce:
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 70 Calories; 4g Fat (44.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 422mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Put Your own Spin on It:
Melissa put corn in the filling of the Rellano; it can certainly be stuffed with other cheeses or ingredients…use your imagination. Can you imagine how good a crab filling would be, maybe with some goat cheese added? You can serve it with other sides, of course, too. This is really pretty healthy, with the exception of the chips.
My PayOff: This whole meal, very hearty and filling for four people under $6.00? My teenager will spend more than that when he goes to Taco Bell. He wonders why I’m horrified at his eating habits…and his spending habits!
Recipe made January 2012