As most of you know, I was born in and have lived in the south for most of my life. So, like most people who grew up in a specific region, the food that I was born to is probably the food that I cook more often. I am a believer that one reason we cooked regionally is because that is what we had, what we grew, or what we could get.
Back in my small town there was no grocery store. My mother would drive to Piggly Wiggly about 20 miles away to shop. I remember one fall night we were driving home after getting groceries and my mother, whose foot was made of lead, came upon a light. She slowed down, and it was a good thing, too, because the light turned out to be a flashlight tied to the rear end of a rickety wood wagon pulled by a mule. A man was driving it down Alabama State Road 69 and that flashlight was the only thing he had showing in the dark. That episode nearly scared us to death.
Things really can change in one’s life and not too long after that my southern born mother ended up living in several different places around the country and relishing every regional food in most every place she lived, especially the foods of the Southwest and California.
Mother found that she loved the chilies and peppers that were native to those regions. One of her favorite foods was chile rellenos, and many years ago she sent me a recipe for a chile relleno casserole made with the mild Anaheim peppers. I thought that it might be time I tried some of those old recipes.
So, I decided to make the casserole and share the recipe for this article. The cheeses in this casserole are mild so if you want more spice, use Monterey Jack or pepper jack cheese. The topping is more solid to me than just scrambled eggs, and that has to do with the flour and baking powder, so if you want it more egg like, just omit those two items and just add the eggs and other ingredients.
I charred the Anaheim peppers (stems intact) that I used for the casserole on my gas stove burners. I had two going at one time to expedite the cooking, and then wrapped the peppers in a cotton dishtowel to steam as each came off the burner. Then I slipped the peels off, and slit an opening where I could take out the seeds and any ribs inside in preparation for stuffing with the cheese.
Well, talk about pretty. As I looked in the oven while the casserole was baking and puffing up, I thought, yes, it would be just like my mother to have made this recipe for a Sunday morning brunch. It is beautiful, and I already know that it taste good. So, I hope you and your family like it too.
Chile Relleno Casserole (Mild)
6 Anaheim peppers (also called chilies) prepared as above
8 ounces (2 cups) shredded Mexican style “Authentic” cheese (a mixture of shredded Queso Quesadilla, Asadero and Manchego cheeses and available in an 8-ounce container in the cheese section of your local grocery)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Your favorite salsa
Cilantro for garnish
Place the peppers/chilies in a shallow glass baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Stuff peppers with about 1½ cups of the cheese. Beat eggs, flour, baking powder, milk, salt and pepper together until smooth. Pour egg mixture over the peppers. Top with tomato slices across the center. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on each side of the tomato slices. Bake in a pre-heated 375º oven for about 20-25 minutes. Serve with a spoon of sour cream and a spoon of salsa on each serving. Top with a sprig of fresh cilantro.
Chile Rellenos (Spicy variation)
Stuff the Anaheim’s as above, but use a jack cheese, or spicy cheese of your choice.
On the second layer add a spicy chorizo that has had the casing removed and is pre-cooked.
Add your eggs on top, and if you like baked eggs instead of the beaten topping, just add whole eggs. Bake until the eggs are done to your liking. Serve as the recipe above with sour cream, and salsa.
By Stacey Hirvela, Spring Meadow Nursery
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners/ColorChoice Shrubs
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