By Rod Cohenour
Pollo Poblano Relleno
Melinda Cohenour – 1990
The New Year is HERE. So is the new decade! It seems almost like a cliché to say some things will stand the test of time – beautiful songs, wonderful food, loving relationships. And, in terms of food, this is one that definitely will stand the test of time. It took M a while -probably three or four years actually, experimenting and trying different combinations until she finally hit one that could hold its own with Mariano’s “Especiale.” There are very few things in the world more varied and more wonderful than Mexican dishes. And I can speak from personal experience that Chile in any form is one of the most – if not THE most – wonderful and variable food in the world. Just as an aside, I recall an incident where our grandson, Adam, requested Stuffed Peppers for his birthday meal and Melinda gladly prepared stuffed peppers – BELL peppers, that is, complete with a salad, mashed potatoes and baked beans. Adam took one look and asked, “What is this? I thought you were going to fix my favorite dish – you know with chicken and guacamole and stuff?” She realized he had meant Pollo Poblano Rellenos! It is still one of his favorite meals and it certainly is one of ours. So, start the new decade off right and spice up your life. Guaranteed this one will help you do it! (And, yes, she prepared the RIGHT dish the next night for our birthday boy.)
This recipe was adapted from a magnificent dish served to Rod and me in downtown Dallas Texas at Mariano’s about 1986. The elder Mr. Martinez was enjoying his birthday when we arrived for a late lunch. He graciously insisted we join him at his table. He then hailed the waitress and asked that the chef prepare three of his “special dishes”. This was my introduction to Pollo Poblano. This is my version.
FIRST SIDE DISH: Guacamole: First prepare guacamole. Mash 3-4 large ripe avocados. Add 1-2 Tbsp chunky tomato salsa, dash of garlic powder and a squirt of lemon juice. Mash, mix, chill. You will want a lot of guacamole for this dish.
SECOND SIDE DISH: Mexican Rice: Cook white long-grain rice, adding butter and a couple tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro to the water before cooking. When cooked, fluff rice, add one can Mexican tomatoes and their juice, 2 Tbsp chili powder (or to taste), dash garlic powder. Separately sauté 1 bell pepper, diced, and one diced white onion until tender. Stir vegetables into rice mixture. Keep warm on stove. Burner OFF to prevent scorching.
6 large poblano peppers, stem in, seeded
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Lime juice or lemon juice
Fajita seasoning mix
1 brick Monterey Jack cheese, freshly grated
1-2 tsp garlic from minced garlic in oil
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, de-stemmed, leaves loosely chopped
Rinse chicken thoroughly under cold water. Lay on prep sheet. Squeeze lemon or lime juice over chicken breasts and sprinkle with Fajita seasoning mix. Broil until lightly golden on both sides and cooked thoroughly.
Remove, cool, cube chicken.
Heat electric skillet to about 350°. Heat oil to sizzling. Add garlic and stir to release perfume. Quickly add diced chicken and stir to coat evenly. Begin adding a little cilantro (leaves only).
Split poblano peppers and remove seeds, leaving stems intact. Rinse and shake dry. Put on cookie sheet or grill pan and broil until outer skin is blackened and begins to split. Turn and repeat. Remove pan of peppers to location near skillet. Continue adding cheese to chicken mixture in skillet. Toss, add oil as necessary to prevent sticking, control heat to prevent scorching. Add fresh cilantro (no stems) and toss. Turn off heat.
Stuff peppers, using all of chicken mixture. Work quickly.
THIRD SIDE DISH: Refried beans (I prefer no fat). Heat just before preparing plates. (You can microwave with a sprinkle of grated Mexican blend cheese and some chopped onions while you are stuffing the poblanos.)
PREPARE PLATES: To make a beautiful presentation, use colorful plates. Place large leaf of Kale (purple with curled edges) on one side of platter and use for the guacamole “dish”. Spoon rice onto plate, then beans and place one large beautiful stuffed poblano pepper in center stage.
Serve with tortilla chips and cold drink. Cold, crisp radish slices and green onions are always a nice addition, and some traditional pico de gallo.