This week: Chile Rellenos from La Tolteca
¿Como se dice?: Good chile rellenos are hard to find, even in a place where Mexican cuisine reigns supreme. Chile rellenos are technically just stuffed chiles, but despite this simple definition a lot can go wrong. Heck, by that measure even the lowly jalapeno popper makes the cut. And honestly, if consider cream cheese stuffed and battered jalapenos on par with chile rellenos, we'll leave you to your Taco Bell and TGI Friday tacos.
See if La Tolteca's chile rellenos make the cut after the jump.
La Comida: At the dish's most basic, chile rellenos are just stuffed chiles. The mild green chiles are most often poblanos, but we've also seen Anaheim chiles and Hatch green chiles that add a bit more spice. The two most common fillings are standard shredded cheese or our favorite, a picadillo mix of chopped pork, raisins, almonds, and earthy cinnamon. Although the filling can be just about anything, so if you're looking to walk on the relleno wild side, hit up Dick's Hideaway for an exotic duck or turkey filling.El Sabor: Regardless of what's in the chile, the secret to a really tasty relleno (that most restaurants fail to accomplish) is a light and crispy batter. Just like a soufflé, you gotta whip those egg whites in a frenzy and fold in the rest of the ingredients to keep it light. Otherwise you end up with something that just tastes like a green chile omelet.
At La Tolteca, they failed the relleno taste test on all counts. They started strong with a tasty Hatch chile that brought a bit of heat, but flailed with a heavy cheese filling that was completely un-melted in the middle. Worst of all, the rellenos were not dipped and fried in a light egg batter. Instead, they took an unseasoned, crepe-like egg and wrapped it around the stuffed chiles. Top that all off with an uninspired and overly acidic tomato sauce and we were left with a platter of "chile rellenos" that left us baffled.
Bring a bit of México to your kitchen: Chile rellenos are definitely a labor of love. You gotta roast the chiles, peel 'em, stuff 'em, batter 'em, and fry 'em. There are a ton of steps involved, but take your time and serve them with something easy on the side, like corn tortillas, rice and beans. Can't go wrong with that trio. Try out Rick Bayless' minced pork and raisin-stuffed chile rellenos for the real deal taste of Mexico, or stick with a queso-stuffed chile rellenos to make the vegetarians happy.
Know of any Mexican gems in the Valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.