When Making Stuffed Poblanos, Char And Remove The Skin To Avoid Bitter Bites

Chilies are amongst Mexico's many culinary gifts to the world, and Mexican cuisine has mastered the art of how to use them. While many chilies are added in small dried, ground, or diced doses to infuse vibrance into broths, sauces, and dips, poblanos are mild and flavorful peppers that are a delight to eat whole. Perhaps the most famous stuffed poblano dish in Mexican cooking is the chile relleno, or stuffed chili.

Whether it's the vibrantly colored chile en nogada or a simple breaded and fried cheese chile relleno, all stuffed poblano recipes start with creating that soft, tender, and mild cooked chili texture. Mexicans use a well-known cooking technique known as sweating the chilies, or poner a sudar, to rid the skin of its glossy and bitter exterior. Sweating poblanos entails placing the whole raw pepper over an open flame until the skin begins charring, turning it every so often with a pair of tongs until the entire poblano has a black, bubbly exterior.

The sweating begins when you place the charred poblanos, hot off the fire, into a plastic bag. The residual heat trapped in the bag will steam the pepper while also loosening its charred exterior. After about ten minutes, you can remove the poblanos from the bag and run them under water while you gently scrape off the charred skin. The result is a perfectly cooked, pliable, and flavorful pepper. Charring rids the poblano's skin of bitterness and adds a wonderful smoky finish.

More tips for prepping and stuffing poblanos

While the traditional and easiest way to char poblanos is by placing them over an open flame, there are other methods to char poblanos for those of us who don't have a gas stove. The first is to use a grill, placing the peppers directly on a grate over hot coals or a gas-fueled flame until they blister. Another is to char them in the oven by placing them on a baking sheet on the highest oven rack under the broiler, turning them twice for even charring. You want the poblanos to be blistered, but not completely black — over-charred skin will turn to ash and create holes, destroying the pepper's integrity as a stuffed veggie. If you don't have a plastic bag to sweat poblanos, use a plastic wrap-covered bowl or a paper bag.

Since you've charred and sweated the poblanos whole, you'll need to seed them; the pith that holds the seeds contains the highest concentration of capsaicin and thus the greatest potential to burn your skin. Poblanos aren't excessively spicy but they are, after all, chili peppers with their fair share of capsaicin, so when you remove the skin and seeds, be sure to wear gloves to keep your hands protected.

While charring and sweating poblanos is an important step in preparing chiles rellenos, it's not necessary for every recipe. You can also dice them and saute them with aromatics to create a tasty foundation for stir-fries and soups.