Cheesy Chorizo and Corn Stuffed Poblanos
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)