Megabeth here. Every once and a while I let Veggin’ get overtaken by a guest poster. I don’t often do this lightly, as there is usually an intense application process, a skills assessment test and a rigorous boot camp training that guest posters must submit to. But, in this particular case, I skipped all that because I had the pleasure of eating this Ridiculous Poblano Rice Conglomeration and knew immediately I needed a record of how it came together.
Unfortunately, not a picture was taken of the actual dish, but trust me, it was both beautiful in construction and exquisite in taste. Before I go on too much, let me let my friend, YoBimbo, take over to talk about this wonderful dish.
Now, let’s get on with the cooking, brought to you by my friend, YoBimbo.
Ridiculous Poblano Rice Conglomeration….or, how to throw together a bunch of complimentary flavors and impress the hell out of good cooks.
The last time we were at the Veggin’ house, it was a cookout, and the rule was that everything had to spend some time on the grill. We brought portabellos to be grilled and topped with goat cheese and the eater’s choice of garlic scape pesto or regular basil pesto, and sweet onion. Simple but terribly tasty. We concluded by the absence of leftovers that the mushrooms were a hit. So when the next invitation arrived in my Facebook email, I was determined that our next offering would be just as popular.
I teased the Veggin’ Mistress (and myself) with a recipe I found for Grilled Stuffed Jalapenos sans bacon , and I was pretty much set on making those for the event. Then the day of the event rolled around. I was wholly unprepared to make the dish, and the weather was hot and humid, so I had no desire to go outside. I peered into the fridge and saw three lovely poblanos, and decided to stuff them with rice and cheese. Usually, we add chorizo to the mixture, but… you know. ::pointing at Ms. Veggin’::
But then I realized that three poblanos, even stuffed with rice and cheese, would not go very far with ten people – more importantly, it would LOOK like it wouldn’t go very far. I stood motionless in the kitchen for a minute or two, thinking, until the refrigerator started beeping at me to close the door. My spouse suggested cutting them in half, “Then you’ll have SIX!!” she exclaimed. (She works on the federal budget, by the way.) But the logistics of mounding rice and cheese on poblano halves, cooking them that way, and then transporting them, were just too daunting. Finally, I decided on what would become the finished product – a rice casserole of sorts with all the flavors (and more!) that we have in our stuffed peppers.
First, I washed the peppers, covered a cookie sheet with foil, and put them under the broiler to roast. I also started the rice, so it would be finished in time for assembly.
Since the rice would be the main ingredient, I decided it needed more flavor than we usually add when stuffing the peppers. I added 3 dried chipotles to the boiling rice, something I do to flavor up the rice. In addition to that, I minced a shallot and a clove of garlic and slowly softened that in a small sauté pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter.
I tapped my lips with my forefinger… What else? Oh! Mexican oregano! I added about a teaspoon of that to the slightly sizzling shallot and garlic blend.
Then, I reached into the freezer and pulled out the baggie of chipotles in adobo sauce that we always have on hand. We *never* use an entire can of chipotles in adobo, so we *always* have a baggie in the freezer. Very handy. You can just break off (or cut off) a piece, mince it while it’s icy, and add it to a number of things for a punch of smoky, spicy flavor. So, yeah. I added probably a tablespoon’s worth to the shallot, garlic, oregano, butter mixture.
I added about a teaspoon of salt and turned off the heat to let those flavors get to know each other.
I had some cilantro and some leftover tomato sauce in the fridge, so I pulled those out. I chopped about ¼ cup of fresh cilantro. As for the tomato sauce, I added about a tablespoon of fresh lime juice and a good amount of chili powder – enough to darken the sauce. Usually, we have homemade ranchero sauce in the freezer – another standby – but we were out. I was flying solo on the sauce. (Wait. That didn’t come out the way I intended.)
Throughout this process, I monitored the peppers and turned them so they could get a nice char on the outside. When they were well-roasted, I put them in a bowl and covered it with foil to let them sweat. Like me. I sweat a lot I in the kitchen. But don’t think about that.
While the peppers perspired, I put the rice in a bowl, and turned and cut it several times with a spatula to cool it off. I tossed in the cilantro and cut that into the rice so it would be evenly distributed. Then I added the wonderful shallot/garlic/oregano/chipotle/butter mixture of love.
Oh. I forgot to mention the cheese.
We had a small chunk of white cheddar and some sliced pepper jack in the cheese drawer and some shredded mozzarella in the freezer (another staple). I couldn’t grate the cheddar and jack, but I did manage to mince them down to manageable sizes for spreading in the dish. The mozzarella thaws to a useable state rather quickly.
Next, I turned to the peppers. After donning latex gloves (that box of gloves in the kitchen sure is a conversation starter!), I peeled the skins off the peppers under running water, and then gave them a rough chop.
Finally, it was assembly time. I pulled out my soufflé dish, which is about 8” in diameter, and about 3” deep. I placed about an inch of the rice mixture in the bottom and topped that with some of the tomato sauce. Then I layered some mozzarella, cheddar, and pepper jack on that, and distributed all of the roasted poblano chunks on top of that. I packed the rest of the rice on top of that, spread the rest of the tomato sauce over the rice, and topped it with the rest of the cheese. I popped it in a 325 degree oven for twenty minutes and finished it with a few minutes under the broiler to give it a nice golden cheesy topping.
It smelled awesome.
But how would it look?
How would it taste?
Was the tomato sauce a mistake? I mean, it needed some sort of sauce, but would the tomato sauce soak into the rice too much?
Oh, let me tell you, I was nervous. When Ms. Veggin’ dug into the dish for the first spoonful, we all leaned in to take a look. It was beautiful, if I do say so myself. Everything kept its integrity, it was moist and dense, but not too moist or dense.
And it was flavorful! Yay, me!
As I sat down to eat my portion, I wiped the sweat from my face and breathed a sigh of relief. My reputation is safe; but more importantly, I did not endanger our chances for future invitations to the Veggin’ household.