Chile peppers are an integral part of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines, and it’s good to get to know them – especially the ones that are readily available to you.
One of the most well-known and available chiles is jalapeños, which are pretty hot, and tend to scare people. It’s okay if you never want to try them, although that would be a shame.
Poblano peppers, on the other hand, are mild, which makes them much more versatile. This is especially the case for those who don’t like things too spicy-hot, but want to experiment with Mexican and Southwestern cuisines.
The fresh poblano is dark green and long, about 5″ long on average. Dried poblanos are called ancho chiles, which you might have used before to make an ancho chile paste or sauce. Ground ancho chile powder is also available at spice markets.
Chile pepper nomenclature is really involved and confusing. That’s why it’s good to become familiar with the fresh, dried, and smoked varieties of chile peppers that you can readily purchase locally. Those are the ones you’ll probably be using the most. This is my favorite chile pepper reference:
Traditionally, you roast fresh chile peppers, like poblanos, before cooking with them. This process helps remove the thick peel, plus, the roasting adds flavor. After roasting, it’s just a matter of removing the peel, chopping the chiles, and you’re all done. The resulting green chiles are very similar to what you’d find canned, but they are so much better. It’s really worth the time having a poblano roast. And, it makes the house smell good!
First, purchase fresh poblanos that are nice and shiny and firm. Remove any dust or debris on the peppers.
To roast, place 2 or 3 peppers on a gas burner* and turn it on to the highest setting. Don’t overcrowd.
Let them roast; you’ll hear the popping and sizzling. Move them using long tongs. This is hot work.
Let them roast on all sides; they will become black and charred. The charring affects the chile peppers in a good way!
When they are completely roasted, place the peppers in a paper bag. Seal the bag, and set it aside for the peppers to steam-cook. This action loosens the peels. This should take about 20 minutes.
After the chile peppers have cooled, gently rub them by using your hands or paper towels to remove the peels. It’s sort of like peeling a roasted beet, if you’ve done that.
There might be some little bits of char remaining, but that’s ok. That is what adds flavor. Whatever you do, don’t put the peppers under running water to help with peel removal. You will lose the precious, flavorful and pungent chile pepper oil.
After the peels have been removed, remove the stem using a sharp knife and discard. Open up each pepper body and remove the seeds. Personally, I like some seeds, so I’m not extreme about removing every last one. That’s just a personal choice.
Then chop or julienne the chile pepper, depending what size and shape you want. Each poblano pepper yields about 1/4 cup of chopped chiles.
So now you have freshly roasted green chiles and you can use them in a soup, a stew, a sandwich, a salad, in a salad dressing, in rice, in beans, or in a dip like tomorrow’s post!
If you don’t want to roast raw chile peppers like poblanos, you can dice them up and saute them, just like you would green peppers and onions. Once they soften, the peels aren’t problematic. But roasting results in a far superior product!
* Alternatively, if you don’t have a gas stove, use a high setting on your oven like a 450 degree roast setting, or the broiler.
note: If all you can find are Anaheim peppers, which are longer and a lighter green, these are just as good to use. In fact, Anaheim peppers are what you typically get when you purchase canned green chiles. The roasting process is the same.