For the longest time, chile relleno was my favorite dish, and, really, what’s not to like? A cheese-stuffed poblano pepper, battered and fried, with a spicy sauce? Bring it on, right? Making it at home was a different story: Dipping that delicate pepper in the batter without the stuffing falling out was, well, beyond me. This version may seem involved, but believe me, compared to the traditional version, it’s positively streamlined. I like an almost burrito-like filling, with starchy rice or farro included, but there’s no egg binder, no batter, no oil to heat up (and splatter everywhere). It’s oven-roasted and vegetarian, but spicy and cheesy all the same. Eat with a small salad if you like.
- 1 large poblano pepper
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon ground ancho chile
- 1 medium shallot lobe, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 or 5 Swiss chard leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced
- 1 plum or other small tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
- ¼ cup cooked black beans, preferably homemade, rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup cooked brown or white rice or farro (see Notes)
- 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese, cut into small chunks or grated
- Kosher or sea salt
- ½ avocado, pitted
- 2 tablespoons low-fat yogurt
- ¼ teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle in adobo)
- Juice of ½ lime
- 2 to 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon roasted shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) (see Notes)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Blacken the skin of the poblano pepper by turning a gas burner to high and setting the poblano right on the grate, using tongs to turn it periodically until it is charred all over. (If you don’t have a gas stove, preheat your oven broiler and set the poblano on a pan about 4 to 5 inches from the broiler element or flame and broil for 5 to 6 minutes, turning periodically until it is charred all over.) Transfer the pepper to a stainless steel or glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam as it cools.
While the poblano is cooling, make the filling. Pour the olive oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, sprinkle in the ground ancho chile and cook for about 30 seconds, until it foams and releases its aroma. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the Swiss chard and tomato and cook until the chard wilts and the tomato softens, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the black beans, rice, and cheese, and season with salt to taste. Let cool.
When the poblano is cool enough to handle, gently rub off the blackened skin, being careful not to tear the flesh open. Use a sharp paring knife to cut a slit on one side of the poblano, starting near the stem and cutting about halfway down the side. Carefully reach in and remove the seeds, trying not to enlarge the opening if possible. Use your hands to carefully stuff the filling into the poblano, getting it as full as possible. Carefully transfer the stuffed poblano to a baking sheet, cut side up. Don’t worry if the filling is exposed.
Roast the poblano for 15 to 20 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the cheese is melted.
While the poblano is roasting, make the sauce. Scoop the avocado flesh into a small bowl and use a fork to thoroughly mash it. Whisk in the yogurt, adobo sauce, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of water, adding more water if you want the sauce to be thinner.
When the poblano has finished roasting, transfer it to a dinner plate and let it cool for a few minutes. Then spoon the sauce on top, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, and eat.
To roast the pumpkin seeds, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 5 to 7 minutes, until the seeds are very fragrant. Immediately transfer to a plate to stop the cooking and allow the seeds to cool completely.