Chile Poblano Rajas
Rajas are one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes. They are a part of any meal - breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, after hours - and a companion to a variety of dishes: eggs, quesadillas, tacos, tamales, tostadas, sopes, steak, fish, carne asada, chicken, paninis / tortas, casseroles, pastel azteca, and so on…
Traditionally, rajas are cooked in a rich sauce, made with crema and cheese. While delicious, it is a casein (protein in milk, who’s consumption has been linked to cancer) and saturated fat bomb. Really not healthy at all.
My mom taught me this version and I love it for its simplicity. Chile poblano, plum tomatoes, white onion, garlic, olive oil and salt. That is it! Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe - most of it is detail on how to prep chiles. If you are worried about the heat of the poblanos, choose darker green ones as these tend to be less spicy.
Word of advice: prepping rajas is simple, but time consuming. You have to roast the chiles, “sweat” them, remove charred skins, de-seed and de-vein them, cut them in strips, then cook. To cut time, prep chiles up to 2 days in advance and store in fridge. When ready to cook, cut them up, and throw them into pan, and the dish comes together in no time. If you have never seen this done I’d recommend watching this video that walks through the entire process and gives good tips.
Traditionally, you'd top this with cubed manchego, panela, or oaxaca cheese once rajas are cooked. I leave it to you, but suggest you try it without to start.
Ingredients: 5 medium chile poblanos (about 1.75-1.90 lbs) 4 plum tomatoes 1 large white onion 1 large garlic clove extra virgin olive oil, or vegetable oil salt
There are several methods, the key in all is to blister and blacken chile evenly on all sides, so that the superficial thin skin is black and wrinkly. You will hear a crackle and sizzle as they cook - that is ok! Turn on the vent to avoid filling up the house with smoke.
Open flame stove: roast chiles directly on stove over a medium-high flame, one at a time. Turn around with tongs until blackened and charred on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Take care not to toast chile through.
Electric stove: heat a medium sized pan, preferably cast-iron or non-stick, over medium-hight heat. Place chiles on pan and char on each side, turning and moving chiles around the pan, until all sides are blackened and blistered. The time will depend on how thick your pan is. Scrape pan with a paper napkin and set aside.
Place charred chiles into a plastic bag and seal well (I use thin produce ones from the grocery, large ziplock ones work). Let them rest for 15 minutes. This is called “sudar los chiles” - “sweating the chiles”: you are steaming the chiles in their vapors, loosening the skin, and enhancing the roasted flavor.
If you have never, or rarely, handle chiles and food, use latex gloves or cover your hands with thin plastic bags. I’m slightly immune to them at this point, but still maneuver the chiles with tongs and a fork and knife, minimizing contact and washing my hands often.
De-skin: one by one, place chile onto a cutting board and using a paper napkin, scrape off the burnt skin from sides completely, ignoring top part (see video, 2:52” - 3:10”). Alternately, protect hands by doing this inside the plastic bag, using the bag to protect your hand from the napkin and chile. Place cleaned chile into a bowl.
Grab a chile, place into a cutting board and cut a slit from the top to the point bottom and open skin. Using knife, cut off the top part off and completely remove it along with seed cluster. Scrape off veins and all seeds from chile. Set aside. At this point, you can store for up to 2 days.
Using pan where you roasted chiles (or a medium sized pan), heat a glug of olive oil over medium-high heat, and add onions and garlic. Stir, scraping up browned bits from pan (flavor bombs), mixing thoroughly until onions are slightly browned. Reduce heat to medium.
Meanwhile, cut poblano skins into thin strips, top to bottom. You should have about 2 ½ cups. Add to pan, and cook for 2 minutes (image below). Pour in blended tomatoes, and increase heat to medium-high, simmering until sauce turns bright red. Season well with salt. Cook until tomato is absorbed and no longer saucy (image below). If using cheese, add at this point. Turn off heat, taste, adjust salt.
Serves 4 - 6 people
Serving notes: serve with rice/quinoa, as tacos in warm tortillas, over beans, avocado, a dollop of raw cashew cream (or greek yoghurt). Stuff into a quesadilla. Add protein to it. Top your eggs. Possibilities are endless!