When I was a little girl still living in Sichuan province, my parents and I were introduced to a couple that would play a big role in my family’s immigration to the US. These two people enjoyed the kind of retirement that all of us dream of, one of adventures around the world with the person you love most of all.
When I met them, my American Grandparent, as I liked to call them, were taking an extended stay in China teaching English. China at this time was still a country of bicycles and impressionable young people with the ambitious goal of making it out of the country to America. My parents were among these people tired of the abuses of the government and looking to start in a place of so many opportunities. Grandpa Sid and Grandma El would teach me some of my very first words of English. And when we finally made it to this country, they served as anchors for us.
One of my fondest memories was when my parents and I visited them in their home at a Texas retirement community. We were close enough to Mexico that we took a drive to the border. As is pretty much always the case with me, my most vivid memories of people are always related to enjoying amazing food with them. In between shopping for knickknacks like sombreros, I had my very first taste of Mexican food. Out of all of the delicious food we ate, what really stood out was a simple stuffed poblano pepper. The smokey, perfectly charred pepper was stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs. After we returned back to their home, my mom tried to recreate the dish. But without the wonders of so many shared recipes that we now have through the internet, it just wasn’t quite the same. How were we to know that the peppers needed to be broiled first or what types of spices were used in the stuffing?
A few weeks ago, I found out that Grandpa Sid passed away. The loss of someone brings profound sadness but also a flood of the wonderful memories you have of them. He was a person filled with such vibrancy and always a curiosity and eagerness to never stop learning. That is an attitude that I hope to never be without as I get older.
This stuffed poblano is definitely not your sad green bell pepper filled with poorly browned grey meat. It is a yummy balance of the savory from the spices and chorizo, sweet from the super ripe plantains, nutty from the wild rice, and fruity and smokey from the ancho chiles. Of course all of this is topped with melty chihuahua cheese, that is then broiled until the cheese achieves golden crust perfection. Paired with a spicy arbol chile and pepita salsa, you will want to lick your plate when everything is gone.
Also, tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. Perfect reason to make this, that is if you really needed a reason.
S T U F F E D P O B L A N O P E P P E R S W I T H C H O R I Z O, P L A N T A I N S, & W I L D R I C E
makes 4 peppers
1/4 cup wild rice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 ancho chiles
2 links fresh Mexican chorizo, ½ lb
1 generous pinch ground cinnamon
1 large black plantain, cut in half lengthwise and then into ½ inch slices
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup chihuahua cheese, shredded *
4 large poblano peppers
1 avocado, cut up
In a medium sized pot, combine the wild rice with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, add 1 tsp of salt, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook for about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside. The rice should still have a nice bite to it when done.
In the meantime, dry toast the cumin and coriander seeds in small pan over medium heat. The spices are done when they have darkened slightly and are super fragrant. Grind them in a spice grinder. Using the same pan, toast the ancho chiles until they have darkened. Remove the stems, deseed, and blitz in a blender with ½ cup of water until smooth.
Remove the chorizo from its casings and crumble into a medium sized pan with a thin layer of grapeseed oil. Cook over medium high heat until they are nice and browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove from pan and set aside. Mix the cinnamon in with the plantains. Using the same pan that the chorizo was cooked in, fry the plantains to a golden brown. This will take a couple batches. Set aside. Add the onion and garlic, cook until they are softened. Add in ¼ tsp salt, the ground cumin and coriander. Rub the oregano between the palms of your hands and then add as well. Now pour in your ancho chile sauce and another ¼ tsp of salt, mix in well, cook for 5 minutes or so. Stir in the cooked chorizo, wild rice, plantains, apple cider vinegar, and half of the chihuahua cheese. Turn off the stove.
Set the the stove’s broiler to high and move the oven rack to the top level. Cover a baking sheet with a layer of tin foil. Make a slit down the center of each of the poblano chiles. I find that if you cut almost to the stem and tip but not totally there, the peppers will hold their shape better. You can always cut them more after broiling them. Put the peppers on the baking sheet and broil for about 8 minutes, flipping over every few minutes. The peppers are done when their skin are blackened almost all over. Immediately place them in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. After 10 minutes or so, deseed the peppers and peel as best you can. Divide the stuffing among the peppers. The sides will wrap around the stuffing, but a big portion of it will be exposed. Cover with the rest of the cheese. Broil in the oven for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melty and starting to gain a golden crust. Serve immediately with the below salsa, cilantro, and some avocado.
*another kind of melty cheese would work here as well
A R B O L C H I L E + P E P I T A S A L S A
5 arbol chiles
2 puya chiles or other mild dried chile
6 cloves of garlic, in the skin
1/2 cup of pepita/pumpkin seeds
5 tbs apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
Toast the chiles and garlic over medium high heat until they have darkened slightly. Remove the stems from the chiles and peel the garlic. Add to a blender, blitz with the rest of the ingredients and ½ cup of water until smooth.