stuffed poblano chiles

When JM walks, each of his feet points about 45 degrees to its respective side, making his knees bend with a noticeable outward swing. He also leans back slightly, looking up and around at things instead of down at the ground. Sometimes, if he’s really on a mission, his arms will swing a little behind him. All of these tendencies cumulatively give him the appearance of a very relaxed person walking in slow motion.

I tried to imitate JM’s walk while we were making our way down the street today, which was difficult — the imitation, I mean — because I was laughing a lot while I was doing it. It’s just generally tough to imitate someone else’s walk, because something you’re accustomed to identifying through sight is now made recognizable through feel. I leaned back as much as I could without falling down, turned my feet and knees out at as extreme an angle as my joints made possible, swung my arms back, and moved as slowly as I could manage. “Is that really how I walk?” asked JM, who seemed somewhat stricken by my caricature.

“Well, no,” I had to admit. “It’s not exactly like that. It’s just how I see it.” And with that, I had either made a profound statement on the contingencies of mimicry or discovered the not-so-innocent roots of every racist and sexist stereotype ever represented. I like to think it’s somewhere in between, for sanity’s sake. If we attempt to reproduce things as we see them, we often get them wrong, and sometimes that’s really offensive but other times — say, in the kitchen, when we refuse to follow a perfectly good recipe and instead focus on how the photograph of the dish looks — can actually lead to sort of interesting stuff. If there’s a word that means ‘crappy parody,’ that’s pretty much my kitchen style. Is it strange to say I’m proud of it?

When I looked up ‘stuffed chiles,’ I found a lot of really awesome recipes for chiles rellenos that had waaaaay more ingredients than I was prepared to use. All I wanted was a simple, insanely hot chile stuffed with cheese and served in a cast iron skillet so that it seemed ‘rustic’ or whatever. So I took a few recipes, got rid of several of their ingredients, and mashed them together. What happened was delicious, but probably needs another go round before it’s really right. For one, I didn’t spend enough time dry roasting the chiles ahead of time to get them nice and blistered, so the skin didn’t come off as easily (or completely) as it should have. Also, I would have used meltier cheese, and more of it. Still, what came out of the oven looked somewhat rustic, in the same way the Xmas tree topper I made out of twigs and house paint looked charming — that is to say clumsy, but somehow endearing.

Chiles Stuffed with Cotijo Cheese and Onions
(Serves 2)

Ingredients:
-4 large poblano chiles
-1 cup crumbled cotijo cheese
-1/2 onion, diced
-1 clove garlic, minced
-2 tbs olive oil

My mom peels the chiles by using a pair of heat-safe tongs to hold them above an open flame until all sides are blackened and blistered. Then, put them all in a paper bag and seal it tightly to let them steam for about 15 minutes. I made the mistake of trying to do the first part under the broiler, but if you have a somewhat, uh, difficult oven like I do you might want to try the open flame method.

While the chiles steam, combine your garlic and your crumbled cheese, and put a pan over medium heat. Add the oil when it’s hot, and toss in the onions. Fry them until they brown, and then put them aside in a small bowl. Set the oven to 350° F.

Once the chiles come out of the bag you should let them cool until they’re easy to handle, and then slip the skins off. The skins should peel off easily, though the chiles themselves might be a little worse for wear. It’s okay. You’ll need to slice them open lengthwise to remove the seeds, anyway, so if a hole’s already started you can just keep going with it. It’s crucial that you leave the stems on, though. That keeps it all together.

Once the seeds are removed, and the onions have cooled somewhat, combine the onions and cheese and stuff the mixture into the chiles. Set each one in the skillet in a way conducive to non-stuffing-spillage — with the cut part sort of angling upwards and to one side. Once all the chiles are in there, put the skillet in the oven and wait for about 20-30 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned a bit. We’ve come a long way since stuffed crescent rolls, haven’t we? These look almost appetizing, and taste almost like tongue-sizzling heaven.

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