Cheesy Chorizo and Corn Stuffed Poblanos

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Within a 7 minute drive of our house you can find five major grocery stores.  Each one of them has their own particular modus operandi.  There’s the outsourced No Frills with it’s discount tinned goods and uncommon South East Asian produce, the Loblaws with all of their pre-marinated meats and “dinner solutions”, the Food Basics with…..well, the food basics (you get what you pay for), and….That Store.  That Which Shall Not Be Named.  It’s a perfectly good grocery store, mind you, I just prefer not to go there.

The produce in That Store is generally abundant and, to be honest, rather astonishing, with a plethora of authentic imported Italian and Greek staples that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find in a chain grocer.  The staff are young but knowledgeable, and the floors are always impeccably clean.  But…it’s still That Store to me.  I don’t want to get into details, but the store and I have a history of unfortunate events.  There was the sorrowful Pumpkin Perdition, the Salt Fish Subterfuge, and the YOU LIAR, THAT ISN’T CHEESE YOU BASTARD incident, which always give me pause before I set foot inside it’s gaping grocery laden maw.  Oh, and The Bay Of Pigs..Intestine. Now THAT was a CLASSIC.

However, That Store is also the closest grocery mecca to our home.  I can go out to buy milk and be back before Mike realizes that I’ve left him all alone to tend something bubbling on the stove.  If I’m looking for organic spelt strozzapreti, well, I know where to go.  But….but I just can’t really, fully, TRULY forgive That Store for the indignities I’ve suffered over the years.  And so, despite it’s selection and proximity, That Store remains largely untouched during my grocery shopping extravaganzas.

The other day though, well, we had….an exception.  I was looking for good quality oil packed chunk tuna.  No Frills and Food Basics are rather more Vienna Sausage and less Tranci di Tonno. After an ample hour of grocery shopping I had exhausted all of my usual outlets, and I had no other choice:  drive to the next township (which, admittedly, is another 5 minutes down the road) or go to….That Store.

So I went.

It was…..not as bad as anticipated.

1.  I didn’t see any of my previous customers from my days as a bar wench.

2.  I didn’t feel the immediate urge to flee before the next unsightly incident occurred.

3.  I was – HOLY F’NG MOTHER, ARE THOSE POBLANOS?!

If you live South of the Canadian border, you might not understand my excitement.  It’s just, well, up here with the Nordern folks we usually have just a bare handful of peppers available on hand.  Jalapeno, scotch bonnet and green chili are bourgeoise.  Serrano, cayenne and Thai bird’s eye can be found at certain stores.  But poblano?  My friend, they’re like the blue lobster of peppers.  Well, maybe not quite, but you don’t just walk into your local and expect to see them on the rack.

Of course, you know what this meant, right?  I walked out of there with 8 poblanos and completely forgot what I went in for in the first place, which meant that when I went to make my Whore’s Tarts (puttanesca quiche) I had to use  Ocean’s flaked.  Sigh.  Goddammit, but doesn’t That Store just do it to me every time, one way or another.

In the mean time, however, we had poblanos.  Which meant that we had stuffed poblanos.  With CHEESE.  And CORN.  And CHORIZO SAUSAGE.  So I guess, really, in the greater scheme of things, life isn’t quite so bad.

Cheesy Chorizo and Corn Stuffed Poblanos

Serves 6

  • 6-8 large poblano chili peppers
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 links fresh chorizo *
  • 2 ears juicy fresh corn
  • 1.5 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tbsp dry)
  • 200 g Cotija (about 1 cup) **
  • 75 g (a scant 1/2 cup) shredded Monterrey Jack or aged cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper

* Chorizo sausage can be found in one of two ways:  fresh or dried/smoked.  Smoked chorizo is delectable on an antipasto platter with a side of firm sheep’s milk cheese and roasted vegetables with crusty peasant bread to carry it from hand to mouth, but fresh chorizo (uncooked and not cured) is what you want to use for this dish.

** Cotija is a Mexican cow’s milk cheese, usually brined in a saline mixture which serves as a preservative.  I have an unfortunate habit of referring to ‘cotija’ as ‘cojita’, because somehow it TASTES more like a ‘cojita’ to me, if that makes sense.  It also tastes fairly similar to a crumbly feta, so if you can’t find cotija (and we often can’t, as evidenced by this picture) a firm feta will be a good substitute.

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Finely chop the 1/2 red onion and mince the garlic cloves.  Heat the olive oil up in a large skillet over medium heat (or medium low, depending on how hot your fires be) and start to sweat them out until the onion is starting to turn translucent and the mixture is fragrant.

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Remove the casings from your chorizo links and crumble the meat into your pan by pinching off small portions and adding them in quickly.  Break the meat up as it cooks until you have fairly small chunks.  If your heat is too high the meat will cook too fast for you to break it up with your wooden spoon, so be sure to keep it fairly moderate.

When the meat is browned and cooked most of the way through, add the tomato paste, cumin and chili powder.  Season the meat with salt and pepper, but keep a fairly light hand as the cheese can be quite salty and the chilis add enough heat that you wouldn’t want to overdo the pepper.  Cook the mixture down together for a minute or two, until everything is nicely rouged.

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As the tomato and spice mixture settles onto it’s new meaty friend, carefully remove the kernels from your cobs of corn.  Use a long, thin, sharp knife to pare down as close to the cob as possible and remove as much of the whole kernel as you can.  Add the corn kernels to your meat mixture and let it cook until the corn is bright yellow, about 3-4 minutes.

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As soon as the corn is bright and tender-crisp, take the pan off the heat and let it start to cool.

In the mean time, prep your peppers by washing them thoroughly and then carving them in a ‘T’ shape.  Cut just under the top of the pepper and go about halfway around.  Then make an incision from the center of that cut and go in a perpendicular direction most of the way down to the bottom of the pepper.  Carve out the seeds – a quick stroke of the knife should do the trick- and remove them.

And yes, I AM  aware of exactly how filthy this picture looks, but believe me when I say that I am just not the type of girl to molest my chili peppers. I save that for the root vegetables.

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Is your meat mixture fairly cool?  If it’s just warm to the touch then that’s okay, but if it still feels hot you may want to give it another minute or two.  It just means that you’re too efficient with the autopsy of unsuspecting poblanos, so you’ll likely want to let it rest just a WEE bit more or the cheese will start to melt when you crumble it in.

While that cools, you might as well get the heat going somewhere else.  Preheat your oven to 425ºF.

Finely chop the fresh oregano (or use dried, it’s up to you) and add this to the tepid meat.  Crumble in the cotija (or feta) as well and give it a good stir.

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Stuff the peppers, being sure to cram the stuffing right into those narrow bottoms and all the way up into the tops.  If your peppers become a bit distended, that’s just fine. They’re bloated with sausage, corn and cheese. I can assure you that they won’t hold it against you.

Arrange the stuffed peppers in a baking pan or casserole dish.

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Bake the peppers for 20 minutes, or until they’re blistered and soft.

Sprinkle the Monterrey Jack (or cheddar) evenly on top of the split peppers and return them to the oven for another 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

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The peppers will lose some of their heat as they cook, but there’s still an alluring spicy swagger on your tongue with every bite.  And the cheese, oh god, the cheese.  Salty, creamy, oozing and gooey.  God bless the first farmer who made cheese.

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With a side of red beans and rice, one pepper doth make a meal for me.  However, Mike was quite happy to polish off two of the bigg’uns and then gaze longingly at the rest of the casserole dish (which I had earmarked for our lunch the next day), so in terms of how many people this recipe feeds, well, you can use your discretion.

Also:  cold and congealed stuffed peppers for lunch?  Delicious. Soggy microwaved stuffed peppers?  Amazing. I’m telling you, arrogant griper that he is, Bobby Flay was onto something with his Tex Mex spiel.  The mere thought of cheesy stuffed poblano peppers just warms your spirit, pats your belly, and tucks you into bed with a six pack and a few fond memories.  Thank you, poblanos.  You done good.

(And as for That Store: you can’t trick me with your pepper laden subterfuge.  I know your wicked ways.  But I’ll still buy your poblanos, thank you very much.  And no, you won’t be seeing me ANY TIME close to Hallowe’en, aka pumpkin season.  I’m not stupid…just hungry.)

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  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Holy crap that is SO CUTE! You got excited about poblanos. Now, granted, I live south of the Canadian border, but it’s worse than that. I live waaaaay south. In Texas, where I cannot turn around in the grocery store without tripping over a pile of errant poblanos. And we use them in everything. We don’t have scotch bonnets, though. Only habanero.

    Anyway, I made that exact pepper in culinary school, was what I was going to tell you. So basically you’re a real chef. And that’s where I met cotija as well, which I really like even though I don’t eat feta.

  • http://muskegharpy.blogspot.com/ Jacquie

    I guess I should count myself lucky that I can regularly get poblanos and anaheim peppers where I live–a decidedly more remote area than bigcityCanada. Food distribution patterns are pretty strange.

    Also, puttanesca never stops being funny for me. A friend gave me a pasta a la puttanesca recipe for some clams we dug (it was awesome) where I learned it was whore’s style pasta. I wondered what made it whore style. The seafood? The pan? I don’t know, but for about 2 weeks everything I made was whore’s style. Because winter in Southeast Alaska really twists a person’s mental faculties.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Ah, Jacquie, I can help you there. Puttanesca actually MEANS whores, and it was made in the old days and left on the windowsill to attract lonely dudes looking for a quick bite of spaghetti and poonanny. At least, that’s what I was taught.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      My Italian boss at my old job explained to me like this:

      “Puttanas are whores; puttanesca is something that tastes like a whore. It’s probably not polite to talk about it, now that I put it that way.”

      Bless her earthy little soul.

    • http://muskegharpy.blogspot.com/ Jacquie

      Thanks! I really like that lonely mens were attracted first to food, then poon. i asked about the seafood thing since all the puttanesca recipes I’ve found have a seafood base.

  • http:///www.thursdaynightsmackdown.com michelle @ thursday night smackdown

    i don’t know what growing zone you’re in, but i’m in the northern US and grow poblanos, the best of all possible peppers, every years. they don’t even get good sun, but they produce like crazy every august and september.

    which means i have to wait like, another month and a half before i can make this.

    curses!

  • http://jenncuisine.wordpress.com Jenn

    I am drooling over these peppers, yum!!

  • http://kopiaste.org Ivy

    These sound great. Are poblano peppers hot?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Ivy – poblano peppers are spicy, yes, but much milder than many other hot peppers (such as jalapeno, serrano, etc). When you cook them they also lose a fair bit of their heat, so the end dish is only about a medium-spicy.

  • http://hecooksshecooks.net Brittany (He Cooks She Cooks)

    The recipe is similar to something I’ve made before, which turned out to be one of my favorite dishes I’ve ever made. Mine involved some lettuce and fresh cilantro, which gave it some freshness. Yours are a lot cheesier looking, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Seriously, those look amazing.

  • lisa

    I love this. Found this while googling recipes for poblanos. This is pure heavenly goodness… I only had italian sausage on hand but it was still good, must seek out chorizo next time. Thank you for sharing this! I like your blog, too.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Lisa – so glad that you liked this recipe!! There’s just something about loads of gooey, melty cheese that makes my heart sing. I imagine that Italian sausage would be just as delicious, and perhaps a bit cheaper as well! Thank you for checking out our site, and we’re so glad that you enjoyed this meal!

  • Mike Lococo

    I’m making this dish tonight. I have a choice of beef or pork chorizo. Whick one would you reccomend? Is this dish mild enough for children or should I prepare mac and cheese for them?

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Mike – go for the pork chorizo, and make sure that it’s fresh chorizo and not the dried/cured Spaanish chorizo. The total dish is about a medium spicy, but I don’t know if I would serve it to children. If you wanted it to be more kid-friendly, you could reduce (or eliminate) the chipotle powder and add a sweet or smoked paprika instead. Or…..make Mac’n’Cheese. The thought of cooking for children terrifies me. No doubt my future progeny will subsist on a diet of Gouda and ring pops. Anyway, the poblanos mellow so much that they shouldn’t be a big problem, you’d just want to watch any other heat in the dish.

    Good luck with dinner, and please let us know how it goes!!

  • Mike Lococo

    Tina- I’d like to say being a line cook for 20+ years before moving to Minnesota gave me the inspiration to prepare this dish. As it turns out I took a position, ironically, as a overnight stocker at ” That Store”. I work the wall where they stock the chorizo and cotija. Leaving work the other morning the pablano peppers caught my eye in the produce. So being the ever creative person I am, I Googled stuffed pablano peppers and your recipe came up. I prepared it for my sister and her husband tonight. They lived in Phoenix, Arizona for the better part of a decade and said the dished met or exceeded anything they ate in restaurants there. So with the help of my employee discount card, I saved some dinero and lived a little better. Thankyou for a wonderful recipe. BTW I will from henceforth will refer to my place of employment as ” That Store”. 🙂

    Thanks again,
    Mike

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Mike – you make me giggle! How absolutely chuffed am I that this dish was a hit with you and yours? That makes my day, it really does. Thank you so very much for coming back to let us know that you liked it.

    Hehehe – in terms of “That Store”, I can assure you without a shadow of doubt that my grocery nemesis is NOT your place of work….they only have two locations (thank god) and both are in Ontario. However, if Your Store is the one that I’m thinking of (“Can we get a Hey-a for the MoFo from WhoFo!”) I am exceptionally jealous because:
    a) They have no presence to speak of in Canada, unfortunately.
    b) EMPLOYEE DISCOUNTS.

    Thank you again for checking out our site, and I’m seriously just as pleased as punch that you were happy with this recipe!!

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  • doug

    made these a few weeks ago and they were deeelicious. getting good peppers and using (fresh) chorizo and quality cheese are a must. it’s a little late for decent fresh corn but i’m sure frozen would be fine given the cooking time. some spanish rice and homemade salsa made for a fantastic meal.

    thanks also for the copious step-by-step and photos – if only Ikea’s instruction manuals were so easy to follow.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Doug – thank you so much for your comment! We’re delighted that you liked these stuffed peppers, and so pleased that you decided to try our recipe!! I agree that quality ingredients really do make or break a dish…..and I will also fully cop to the fact that I eat vegetables out of season when I feel a craving coming on!

      Thanks again for the nice words!!!

  • Laurel

    Made this tonight and it was a big hit!

    But, because I can never leave well enough alone, we made a few minor changes. We used Mexican chorizo – mostly mild with a little hot thrown in (to tidy up the fridge). We weren’t able to find the Cotija, so I used fontina and feta mixed together.

    And, because it’s about a thousand degrees in St Louis right now, we cooked these bad boys on the grill.

    Even our teenaged son, which I know isn’t saying much but still, asked that we make these again soon.

  • http://Foodgawker Rosa

    I’m on to my 3rd try with these tonight for a huge party because they were such a hit the first 2 times! Thanks for the great recipe.

    I ended up adding brown rice to stretch it and have used different sausage each time with wildly great success. The first time, I actually did what you told me not to and used the hard, small chorizo and diced it up super fine. We loved it! Especially needed the brown rice with that one! The second time, I used a chicken sausage and added chipolte peppers and it was awesome. Someday I’ll get the right sausages. 🙂 I’m making them in these red sweet peppers we found and after stuffing, we throw them on the grill. I cut the tops off and stuff them way down so that I can turn the peppers on all sides. SO good! My 13 year old is begging for them weekly now…even my 3 year old was spooning up the filling. Very impressive. Hope I can keep finding the peppers.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Laurel & Rosa – how delighted are we that you and your families enjoyed these peppers? And MAN, but did you ever have a lot of creative ideas and changes. Fontina and feta, brown rice, chicken sausage with chipotle, mmmmm. You’re certainly giving ME some more inspiration!

    Thanks again for stopping by to comment 🙂

  • Minnow

    Just found your site. Thank you so much for this awesome recipe! My pablano plant is going crazy right now and this was very tasty use for them. Hub’s loved it!! Can’t wait to try more!!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Minnow – thank you so much for the comment! We’re so glad that you and your fella enjoyed this recipe. I’m also very jealous about your easy access to fresh poblanos!