The smell of roasting chile is a sign that fall has arrived in New Mexico. The scent of the state’s signature crop roasting permeates the air, inducing hunger and chile cravings. The aroma has a Pavlovian effect on many New Mexicans. It is New Mexico’s version of aromatherapy.

During the August – September harvest period, Hatch Chile Store ships fresh chile nationwide, both to retailers and individuals. They offer a discount on pre-orders during the spring. Hatch Chile Store is owned and operated by descendants of the Franzoy family. The Fanzoy’s were integral in making Hatch chile a worldwide phenomena. They were among the first farmers to ship Hatch chile to markets in other states.

Picking green chileBig Jim Chile – A Chile Made to Stuff

Joseph and Celestina Franzoy had 10 children, which provided the labor force for their farming enterprise in the Rio Grande bosque near Hatch. Joseph purchased additional land before he passed away to make sure each child would have a plot to farm. His children followed in his footsteps. His daughter, June, married James Lytle, known in the valley as “Big Jim” after his son James was born. Big Jim Lytle worked with Roy Nakayama at NMSU to develop the Big Jim variety of pepper, which has become one of the most popular worldwide.

The Big Jim chile is 7 – 9 inches long and 1 – 1.5 inches wide on average. The meat of the pod is thick, making it easy to roast and peel. It is mild compared to other varieties of legacy chile. Large Big Jim pods can be over a foot long and 2 inches wide, making them ideal for chile rellenos. A large Big Jim chile can be stuffed with about ½ pound of meat and/or cheese.

Chile RellenosChile Rellenos are like a jalapeño popper on steroids

There are numerous variations of chile rellenos. Modify the recipe and preparation to accommodate variations in palate. Most versions involve adjustments to four basics:

Type of chile

In other regions, like California, they use different peppers for chile rellenos, like Poblano or Anaheim peppers. In New Mexico, we usually use Big Jim, which is slightly hotter than an Anaheim. Even hotter variations, like Sandia or Barker, can be used for those who like their rellenos to pack a punch. My favorite is the Sandia Select. It is a hybrid of Big Jim and Sandia, larger than a Sandia, but with more heat than a Big Jim.

Type of cheese

Use a cheese that melts well. Most recipes call for a mild cheddar or asadero, but sharper cheeses can be used to add kick. I prefer sharp cheddar or any cheese with “a bite.” It is fun to experiment, because chile goes well with any type of cheese.

Baked or fried

Whereas baking decreases the calorie count significantly, the decadence associated with fried rellenos cannot be denied. I fry mine.

Breading

I prefer crispy coatings on fried food. Some people prefer doughy breading. The recipe below can be adjusted to accommodate both based on the thickness of the batter. If you prefer a crispy scald, water down the batter and roll the chile in panko before frying. If you prefer a doughy scald, leave the batter recipe “as is.”

Chile Relleno RecipeServings: 4

Batter

You can use a pancake mix to speed up the process, but I prefer to use the batter recipe below. Adjust the consistency of the batter based on your breading preference.

For the crispy version, coat the chiles with enough of the batter for the panko to stick…slightly thicker consistency than a paper mache mix. The batter creates an adhesive surface on the chile for the panko.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons salad oil

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg slightly, stirring in the milk and oil.
  3. Add the egg to the flour mixture and stir until flour is moistened. Batter will be slightly lumpy.

Chile Preparation

  • 8 large, meaty green chiles
  • 8 sticks of cheddar cheese, approximate 1 oz each
  • 2 cups of panko
  • 1 cup oil

Green ChileAssembling the Chile

  1. Roast and peel the green chile.
  2. Cut the cheese in long strips that are the length of the block and approximately ½ inch wide. The cheese needs to be narrow enough to insert into the chile without ripping the meat of the chile. If minor tearing occurs, wrap the chile around the cheese so it doesn’t escape while frying. Make an incision at the top, near the stem, to insert the cheese. Insert a block of cheese into each chile.
  3. Dip each pepper in the pancake batter and then roll it in panko until well coated.
  4. Pour oil in a heavy frying pan, approximately 1/4” inch in depth and heat over medium-high heat. Tip: if you insert a wooden spoon into the oil, the oil will bubble around the stick when it’s ready for frying.
  5. Fry the chile rellenos until brown on both sides.
  6. Cover a plate with paper towels and place the fried chile on the plate to drain excess oil.

Please leave your recipe modifications, or any questions that you may have, in the comments.

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Need Chile?

If you live in an area where the only green chile available is canned, you can order outstanding frozen green chile from the Hatch Chile Store. Hatch Chile Store ships frozen red and green chile nationwide year around. They have mild to hot varieties available and sell whole green chile as well as chopped. Each package is 1 pound, which is approximately 2 cups.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I live in Canada and have for 57 years. I was raised in Silver City, New Mexico and learned Mexican cooking while still a youth. I make do with whatever pepper (usually Anaheim) I can buy to make my own chili rellenos. My niece in East Texas had a wonderful restaurant and I ate there often. Another place I ate at for over 50 years whenever I visited in that area was a little restaurant across the railroad track in Lordsburg, New Mexico and ate copious amounts of chili verde and chili rellenos. I’m too old to travel anymore but still make empanadas, stacked enchaladas, chili con carne, tacos and flour tortillas and sopapillas and have not changed the recipes for any of them, ever.

  2. Great recipe; I love Hatch chile rellenos made with Big Jims, but prefer hotter. We roast the chile when it comes in, let it steam, put it in ziploc bags , and freeze it. It is easy to peel when it thaws. Last year, a pretty impressive scorpion was in the batch of chile when I dumped it out to roast, and I was barefoot. My wife flattened it with her foot in a second.
    I like to stuff the chiles with:
    2 slices each of sharp cheddar, American, Havarta, and Gouda, plus smoked ham. Have the deli make thin slices of each.
    Stack up the slices and cut the stack 1/2 inch wide, put the thin stack of cheese/ham on a butter knife, and use the knife to wiggle the stack into the chile all the way, then slide the knife back out. This reduces tearing.

    We bake ours with just an egg coating, but your coated and fried sounds delicious. Hope you try this variation someday.

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