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Plantain-Stuffed Chipotle Chiles in Escabeche

This image courtesy of Professor Paul Elledge

Spicy-sweet-savory-tangy-that’s one of my favorite flavor combinations. And these little tiny stuffed smoky chipotle chiles deliver on all counts. They’re spicy from the chiles, of course, chipotles being one of the spicier chiles you’ll encounter. And sweet from the plantains, which have a much fuller flavor and meatier texture than standard-issue bananas. And savory from browned onions and garlic that are woven into the filling. And tangy from the vinegary. Spice-infused red onion escabeche that bathes the plantain-stuffed chiles. In a nutshell, this is the perfect appetizer for folks who love spicy, bold flavors. A couple of pointers: if you’re worried about the chiles being too hot. Blanch them twice in the sweet-salty water. Because plantains brown so well in a nonstick skillet, I use one in the preparation of this dish.

NotesWorking ahead: Chiles can be blanched, and escabeche and filling made a couple of days ahead. Stuff and marinate the chiles early on the day you’re serving: cover them and leave at room temperature.

Makes24 stuffed chiles, serving 8 to 12 as a tapa or snack 

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursesnack, tapas/small plates

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Mealsnack

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt
  • 24 large (3 ounces total) dried cranberry-red chipotle chiles (aka chiles moritas)—the softer the better
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice, preferably coarsely ground
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1½ teaspoon dried)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh marjoram (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small (1 ounce) cone piloncillo (unrefined sugar)
  • OR 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large, black-ripe plantains, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

Instructions

  1. The chiles. Measure 4 cups water into a small (2-quart) saucepan, add the sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cut a slit down the side of each chile from stem to point. Add to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool in the water while making the escabeche and filling.

  2. The escabeche. Scoop the carrot into a large (10-inch) skillet. Drizzle on 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and set over medium heat. Stir occasionally as the carrot cooks until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the 2/3 of the garlic, the allspice, thyme, marjoram, bay, vinegar, piloncillo (or brown sugar) and ¾ cup water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the piloncillo, remove from the heat and add 2/3 of the onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Scrape into a bowl and cool.

  3. The filling. Rinse out the skillet and set over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/3 of the onion. Cook, stirring regularly, until the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/3 of the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Scoop in the cubed plantain and cook, stirring occasionally and mashing the mixture a little, for 15 to 20 minutes until thick and homogeneous: regularly scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Taste and season with salt. About 1 teaspoon.

  4. The stuffed chiles. Remove the chiles from the water. With your fingers or a demitasse spoon, carefully scrape out all the seeds that are clinging to the seed pod and attached to the veins and discard. Stuff each chile with the plantain mixture, then arrange them, cut side down, on a platter. Spoon the escabeche over them and let marinate for at least an hour before serving.


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