The Case of the Unpeeled Chiles Rellenos

DaveChile Peppers, SnacksLeave a Comment

03212017 Chile Relleno
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The “Ask Dave” emails have never stopped coming in. For years and years I had a column called “Ask Dave” in the old Fiery Foods & BBQ SuperSite (before we transformed it into The concept was simple: Ask me anything about chile peppers or fiery foods and I would either know or track down the answer. The Q&As are still up and you can browse them in the Chile FAQ Archives. A few days ago I received an “Ask Dave” query from Kyle Word, an author and chile lover living in West Texas:

I love chile rellenos. Every recipe I’ve seen says to char, sweat, and peel the chile before breading it. I’ve found that breading won’t stick with the outer membrane (skin) still attached. I’ve consulted experts who say you have to peel the peppers. However, two restaurants in Levelland, Texas (cousins working from the same original recipe) make chile rellenos without peeling the peppers. They won’t reveal their technique. Experts say it can’t be done. Yet they’re doing it. They serve the rellenos without sauce, the crust and chile both crispy, and easily eaten without utensils if one wishes. Can you shed some light on how they might be doing it? I have photos available if that might help. (These rellenos are delicious, and I’ve eaten them for over forty years, thus my slight obsession. I’ve never found any other place that serves them the same way.) Is this a simple technique, or are these folks pioneers who deserve recognition for their discovery? Thanks in advance for any help.

Curious, I asked Kyle where the restaurants obtained their chiles. Kyle wrote back that one of the restaurant managers told him they got them from Ben E. Keith food distributors. I went to their website and discovered that the chile supplier for them is Bueno Foods here in Albuquerque. I also learned that Bueno Foods roasts and peels all the chiles supplied to Ben E. Keith, so obviously this was a dead end. Further investigation by Kyle–going to one of the restaurants and ordering chile rellenos–revealed two things: one, that the skins had not been removed from the fried chiles; and two, that the restaurant received fresh chiles from somewhere else during the summer harvest and processed them by removing the seeds and stems and then freezing the pods. Kyle also learned from one of the relatives of the owner that “They will occasionally get some chiles with the outer skin so waxy that they have to rough them up with scrubbers to get breading to stick.”

Aha! I wrote back to Kyle with my opinion about what was going on. “I’m convinced that these Levelland chiles rellenos are a Texas version that work more as a snack eaten with the fingers than an entree served coated with red or green chile sauce, or both, as they are in New Mexico.”