Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Chilies relleno

Last night we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant and I ordered chilies relleno, which is what I normally have. Chilies relleno is one of the few Americanized Mexican meals, aside from tamales, that I do not make at home. The fresh chilies to make the recipe from scratch are not readily available in Podunk, Missouri. Earlier in December, when I was in Los Angeles, visiting my parents I thought it might be a good time make chilies relleno from scratch. My parents buy their produce from a Mexican market and I assumed there would be a wide variety of fresh chili peppers. I was right. I chose three long, dark-green chilies that looked promising and asked the produce man “are these the chilies that I need to buy to make chilies relleno.” “I don’t know,” he says. That surprised me. He talked with another man in the store and a few minutes later he came over and said, “Yes, those are the right kind.” When we got to the checkout counter, I picked up one of the chiles and asked, “Is this the right chili to make chilies relleno.” The cashier and the grocery bagger were both women and I figured they would know. The woman bagging the groceries gave me an odd look and said, “I don’t know.” The clerk said, “I don’t know.” I imagine I made their day: a stupid white woman asking about chiles for a dish that probably no “real Mexican” makes. I felt like an idiot. Later, my mom said “of course they don’t make it from scratch, they probably don’t have time.” My sister got a recipe for me off the Internet, and I set I forth to make chilies relleno. It was a disaster. The peppers were too convoluted, and I couldn’t get the skin evenly blistered to peel them. So, I just diced them up fine, dumped them in some beaten egg, fried the whole thing up, melted the white Mexican cheese on top, and had a delicious omelette.

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