As we hit the half-way mark, I think it’s safe to say 2020 has been a year most look forward to letting go. And yet, even in its strangeness, its darkness, its sorrow, we’re being called to get clear about what we want, how we want to design or lives and our realities.
Quarantine has been difficult, stressful, trying, tedious. It has also been a time of discovery and rediscovery — of hobbies, passions long forgotten, doing mundane chores such as yardwork or cleaning closets, drawers, the garage — at ones’ leisure, finishing projects that were started long ago and left to languish in a Tote.
I believe this is a Universal Wake Up Call, and after much reflection, have decided this column will be my last in the Nevada Appeal. I began this endeavor in 2000, and the 20-year mark seems a good place to stop.
I have decided that I want a life without deadlines. I want to focus on writing my cookbook and on my family. I want to travel. I want to have the freedom to do and help where I can and when I want. I want to continue to consult, as I am on a project for Mark and Jenny Lopiccolo who are soon opening a wine bar in McFadden Plaza at 3rd Street, Carson City, offering a great menu centered around small and shareable plates.
I want to be engaged in things that feed my creativity and my soul. I plan to spend time supporting The Greenhouse Project, which needs each one of us more than ever due to the pandemic and “new normal” which precludes gathering for concerts and such, the mainstay of TGP’s fundraising. Those with a heart to provide for our food insecure and educate our young people about sustainable agriculture and more, and who would like to be monthly or legacy donors please visit www.carsoncitygreenhouse.org . Financial support of any size and duration is greatly appreciated and stays local.
Also moving forward, remember to shop local – farms, ranches, retailers, restaurants – whenever possible. Their livelihoods are on the line. Visit 3rd and Curry Street Farmer’s Market, Carson City every Saturday through September, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Many of the ingredients needed for this week’s recipe can be found there.
Now let’s get cooking!
Charlie’s Chili Rellenos
The juice of 4 fresh limes (microwave each for 25 seconds, to make them easy to juice).
6 Pasilla peppers
5 plum tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 ear of white corn (shaved off the cobb)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups monterey jack cheese, grated
3/4 cup thawed or fresh bay shrimp 90 / 100 count or as close as you can get (drain/ squeeze excess juice to make as dry as possible)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3 large egg whites plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 C. Panko bread crumbs for dredging
Vegetable oil, for frying
Queso Fresca for garnish
Pepper prep. Turn a gas burner on high. Char the peppers on the burner grate, turning with tongs, until blackened all over. They can also be charred under the broiler. Regardless of method, peppers need to be burnt BLACK. Transfer the charred peppers to a heavy-duty, resealable plastic bag and close. Let stand 10 minutes. The chiles will steam in the bag, making them soft and easy to peel.
Remove the skin. Taking peppers out of the bag, gently rub them with paper towels to remove as much charred skin as possible. It’s OK if a few flecks remain - they’ll add flavor, so don’t rinse them off.
Carefully open the peppers. Using a paring knife, make a slit across the top of each pepper just below the stem, leaving the stem intact. Starting from the middle of the slit, slice lengthwise down to the tip of the pepper, cutting through only one side. Think of it as a zipper in a sleeping bag. Open the pepper like a book and pull out the seeds and inner membranes. You may need to use a paring knife to loosen the top of the seed pod. Repeat with the remaining pepper.
Prepare the sauce. My sauce preparation is broiled at 450 degrees F. In a 12-inch broiling pan, place two of the Pasilla peppers, plumb tomatoes, white onion, and garlic, all rough chopped; 1 tablespoon olive oil, sea salt and pepper, oregano and half of the cilantro. Mix all together and place in preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until charred almost 3/4 black. Yes, I am giving you permission to burn the mixture because in this prep, burnt is good. After you get the desired cooked texture, pull out of the oven and set aside to cool, approximately 45 minutes. After cooling, place in a food processor adding the lime juice and 2 tablespoons of water. Pulsate until you have a smooth sauce, then adjust the salt to taste. Place sauce in a sauce pan to heat for the final finish to the chili rellenos .
Chili Rellenos. Mix together the grated cheese, shrimp, corn and 1/4 cup of the cilantro. Fill each pepper with about 1/4 cup cheese mixture. Fold in the sides to cover the filling, then thread two toothpicks across the seam to form an X. You will probably need to make a second toothpick X to secure each pepper so the filling doesn’t leak out when frying.
Mix the batter. Beat the egg whites with a mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the egg yolk and beat 3 more minutes.
Fry prep. Heat about 1-inch vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees F.
Dredge. Pour the Panko bread crumbs into a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. One at a time, coat the stuffed chile.
Batter. Holding each pepper by the stem, lower it into the egg batter to cover completely. Let any excess batter drip off.
Fry. Add the pepper to the hot oil, 1 or 2 at a time; fry, flipping once with tongs, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
Then place in a baking pan one at a time with a paper towel to help drain excess oil. When all are done frying, place in the oven for about 15 minutes.
THEN Eat! Place a fried pepper on each plate, pouring the warm sauce over it. Garnish with Queso Fresca and cilantro. Serve immediately. You might want to serve with salad or beans or both.
Also, The Fox has just released a Mexican-style beer - Más Equis Mexican Lager - a perfect pairing or go to Showtree Brewing Co., and pick up a growler of whatever they recommend.