One of my favorite chile pepper recipes is a variation on a chiles rellenos
casserole, that in its original form appears in Hot & Spicy & Meatless,
by Dave DeWitt, Mary Jane Wilan, and Melissa T. Stock, published by Prima Publishing, in
1994. Its a vegetarian book, but Im not a vegetarian, so I revised the recipe
for my own use. Heres my version:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2-1 pound of ground beef, or hot sausage
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, extra-sharp
- 2 cloves garlic, minced preferably
- 5-6 Poblano chile peppers, roasted, peeled, stems and seeds removed
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup flour, preferably rice flour, but any flour will do
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 cups cooked beans, such as black turtle, pinto, anasazi, or kidney (use canned beans
if you must), or refried beans
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, if desired
- 1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese,
preferably chile jack
Cut a short slit in the side of each Poblano chile and place in an oven in a shallow
pan, on the top shelf under the broiler. Rotate the chiles until the skin is roasted and
pops away. Place the chiles on a length of dampened paper towel, wrapping them up, and put
into a plastic bag and set aside for at least fifteen minutes. You can start the sauté of
the meat, etc., at this point, if you prefer.
Sauté the ground beef or sausage, the onion and garlic (and more chopped chiles such
as hot yellow wax, jalapeno, or serrano, if desired) in the oil. When the meat is cooked
through and the onions and garlic are soft, just a few minutes, add the beans and cook
just to warm and mix together. Set aside.
Peel the filmy skin off the chiles and make a slit along the previous slit, but
extending from the crown to the tip. Remove the seeds and stems. In a well-greased
casserole dish, about 3-4 inches deep, arrange the chiles side-by-side, their open sides
up. They should resemble limp pockets. Stuff each chile with enough of the meat mixture to
give each one form, but not necessarily so that the peppers can be closed over the top.
Place a strip or two of the jack cheese on each pepper, pressing it down gently. Sprinkle
the whole dish with the grated cheddar.
Beat the eggs with a little oil and the flour until smooth. Add the milk and salt and
mix well. Carefully pour this mixture over the chiles.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees, for 35-45 minutes, or until it puffs up golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let the casserole cool for five to ten minutes before cutting it
with a sharp knife and serving.
Another variation is to cook one cup of brown rice in chicken broth until fluffy, then
mix it with the meat mixture. Obviously, youll only need half of the usual meat
mixture, so make the adjustment. Use this to stuff the peppers and proceed as before.
Depending on how hot your sausage is (you could use hot or spicy Italian, chorizo, or
linguica -- many variations), and whether you choose to add peppers to the meat mixture,
this dish can be mild or very, very hot. Heck, you could even use chile powder in the meat
mixture, or chopped habanero. Experiment!
This is a great dish. I cook it a couple of times a month. Nowadays, I substitute soy
milk for the regular milk. Its no dieters meal, though, with the meat and the
cheese. I dont care what Humphrey says.
|Readers of the Mulheisen series
know that, after HIT ON THE HOUSE, the new boss of Detroits mob was the former
second-in-command, Humphrey DiEbola, formerly known as "The Fat Man." And all of
a sudden he wasnt fat. Here was a man in late middle age who was suddenly slim and,
I think, a much more interesting character. In my new novel, to be published next year (LA
DONNA DETROIT, Feb. 2000), this development takes on even more significance. But I have
already heard from a number of readers that they are quite interested in this remarkable
transformation of DiEbola. Ill try to explain.
When I first created him, I wanted a character who was a kind of nameless
prototype of a bloated mobster. He was jovial, ruthless, and sometimes crude, but he was
also an intelligent, not to say shrewd, henchman who basically had to do the dirty work
for the elegant, but shallow and incompetent nominal boss, Carmine Busoni. When Humphrey
at last came to power, I felt that he had to do something to symbolize his change of
status, his ascension to genuine leadership. So, I had him go on a diet. At the time, I
had recently discovered the remarkable world of chile peppers. I was engrossed in the
topic. Id always eaten chiles, in one form or another, but not with the enthusiasm
that I soon experienced. Id also had the fascinating experience of losing weight,
myself, through incorporating a lot of chiles into my diet. It seemed to me that chiles
had a generally unremarked effect of alleviating hunger. They werent in the least
fattening, themselves, and when used in a variety of fascinating ways, I saw that they
could be the cornerstone of a general weight-losing regimen. So I made Humphrey into a
The key element in this process was Humphreys naive
belief that peppers not only contributed to weight loss through hunger satisfaction, but
that they actually burned fat! When I wrote this, I meant it to indicate that
Humphrey was the kind of guy who gets hold of a few facts and leaps to conclusions, and
acts on them. Imagine my surprise when, after the book was written, though as yet
unpublished, I came across an amazing study from Oxford, that suggested just that! In an
earlier study, this same laboratory had documented that subjects given a modest amount of
capsaicin (the active substance in chiles that makes them "hot"), had
experienced a measurable degree of appetite suppression. The laboratory study suggested
that this might be useful in weight-loss programs. I had read this study. But now came a
follow-up, in which it was determined that there was, in fact, at least preliminary
evidence that capsaicin acted to consume calories.
I was delighted. Admittedly, the study did not say that
capsaicin burned fat stored in the cells, nor did it suggest that ingesting capsaicin
would actually cause weight loss. There may be other, unknown factors here. But I hastened
to write, in my next book, a scene where Humphrey discovers this study and triumphantly
shows it to his skeptical chef, Pepe.
As a writer, the great thing about this chile pepper
business, is that it provides a humanizing bit of material for developing a character who
is basically (pardon the pun) not very appetizing. A boss of organized crime cannot be a
very pleasant guy, one would think. He is involved in the most sordid of human activities,
especially murder, and not just involved, but essentially the responsible figure. And yet,
I had the feeling from my own experience with a couple of these men in real life, that
they were fundamentally ordinary men in an extraordinary line of work. They liked to
dramatize themselves, it seemed, but they also knew that it was wise not to be too public
-- the careers of some flamboyant types like John Gotti, notwithstanding. They knew that
their real activities didnt bear the light of day.
Ill go into this more in some other forum. But chile
peppers! Oh yeah, theyre great. I heartily recommend them. As it happens, I write a
lot about food, mostly for Big Sky Journal.
(You can link to BSJ, for information on back issues or subscriptions -- my food columns
appear in nearly every issue.) I also do a weekly radio show, with my friend, former chef
and cookbook author Greg Patent. The show, "The Food Guys," is presently a
five-minute broadcast that airs on KUFM, in Missoula, Montana, a local affiliate of
National Public Radio. We are hoping to get the show on NPRs "Weekend
Edition." Ill keep you posted on that. Greg Patent, by the way, is the author
of several cookbooks, including most recently, New Cooking From the Old West,
published by Ten-Speed Press. He and his wife, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, will soon have their definitive
book, A Is For Apple, published by Broadway Books.