Several years ago, I made these chicken, brown rice and cheese-stuffed poblanos from leftovers and other things I had on hand after discovering a new, utterly amazing international market in our area called the Winchester Farmer’s Market. We thoroughly enjoyed the dish, but as is often the case with me and “throw-togethers,” I didn’t write the recipe down.
However, before I tell you about the recipe, I have to tell you about THIS MARKET!
No one is quite sure why it’s called a “farmer’s” market as farmers do not directly sell their goods in the store. Of course, all the produce comes from farmers so it would make sense in that respect. Not long ago, the owner opened a second equally spectacular location called the Cordova Farmer’s Market.
The first time you go to either store, you truly can not take it all in. Along with exotic produce from around the world, there is practically every ethnic ingredient you can dream of. The aisles are organized by country–need I say more? If you’re ever in the Memphis area and want to check them out, allow a good two to three hours to browse, enjoy and “Google” ingredients.
Okay, back to these peppers. Or, should I say….THESE PEPPERS!
Chicken, brown rice and two cheeses are enveloped in earthy, roasted Poblano peppers, topped with a red chile sauce and yes, more cheese!
In fresh form, the chilies I used are called Poblanos. If you purchase them dried, they are called Ancho peppers.
We love the deep, earthy flavor of Poblano peppers and even grew them successfully a number of years ago. Most area grocery stores didn’t carry them when I first discovered the Winchester Farmer’s Market or if they did, they were often past their prime from sitting. So, when I saw a veritable mountain of these flavorful chilies there that were at the peak of freshness, I went a little crazy and bought a bagful.
Last week I made another trip to the Winchester Farmer’s Market and another mountain of Poblanos called out to me. Time to recreate my peppers!
For this dish, you’ll want to remove as much of the waxy, papery skin as possible. First, you need to roast them and get them charred, black and blistery. You can do this under a broiler, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on them. Instead, I roast them in a super-hot 450 degree oven close to the heating element (which in my oven is at the top). It takes a little longer, but I don’t have to watch them as closely. Turn them as necessary to char them evenly. You’ll see the skin start to pull away from the rest of the pepper. You could also hold them over an open gas flame, but that takes way too much time for me.
Immediately upon removing from the oven, place a sheet of aluminum foil or another baking sheet over the peppers to enclose them so they steam. Let them sit for about 20 minutes. Afterward, the skin will pull off easily. If a little stays behind, don’t sweat it.
When peeling and removing the seeds, resist the urge to do it under running water. It might make it easier to get the seeds out, but you’ll be rinsing away the flavor. If it tears slightly, don’t worry–you can wrap the pepper around the filling and no one will ever notice because of the sauce and cheese.
Also, starting with this recipe, I’ll be adding more notes and suggestions to each one such as whether the dish can be made ahead of time or frozen and how to tweak the recipe to fit your individual dietary needs such as making them lighter, gluten-free or vegetarian.
6 large Poblano peppers
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 container (8-ounce) jalapeno-flavored cream cheese spread (such as Philadelphia brand) or 8 ounces ricotta cheese
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sour cream, for serving (optional)
PEPPERS: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Position a rack close to the heating element, top or bottom. Place peppers on a baking sheet and roast 30 to 40 minutes, turning several times until blistered in numerous places. Immediate cover with foil and let sit for 30 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
While peppers are roasting and steaming, heat oil in a skillet or saute pan. Add onion and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook very briefly (15 seconds). Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese spread. Stir until smooth and melted.
Stir in cooked chicken, brown rice, 1 cup shredded cheese and salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.
Peel as much of the thin, papery skin from the peppers as possible. Cut a slit in the top and carefully remove seeds, leaving stem intact. (Don't worry if the pepper tears slightly; you can wrap around filling and cover with sauce....no one will notice.)
Oil a baking dish large enough to hold all the peppers.
SAUCE: In a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Stir in flour, reduce heat to medium and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly add chicken broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add tomato paste and spices. Simmer until thickened (it won't be terribly thick; I preferred it this way).
Pour about 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of prepared baking pan.
Fill peppers with even amounts of the filling and place in prepared baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over the top. Top with remaining cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and filling is heated through to 165 degrees. Serve with sour cream if desired.
--TO MAKE AHEAD: Can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Increase baking time to 35 to 40 minutes.
--TO MAKE GLUTEN-FREE: Use cornstarch to thicken the sauce.
--Lighten them up by using all reduced-fat cheese. Or, use less Mexican blend cheese in the chicken and brown rice mixture and less on top.
--For a vegetarian version, substitute black beans for the chicken and vegetable broth in the sauce.