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Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style

When I first read the recipe for chile relleno casserole I found in my family’s stash of cards, I was struck by the instruction to use a one-inch layer of cheese on top of chiles already bathed in eggs and milk. How much is that, I wondered? When I posed the question to others, I soon learned that it was about eight cups of cheese, which translates to two pounds. As much as I love creamy dishes, it all seemed a bit much. So my quest for a chile relleno casserole continued.

Now, for those unfamiliar with chile rellenos, they are peppers that have been stuffed with cheese, which are then battered and fried. Long green chiles or poblanos are the chiles most often used (though I did read about a Texas restaurant in the 1970s that made its with bell peppers, which is simply wrong), and other proteins such as meat, seafood, or refried beans can be added, too.

Chile rellenos are incredibly delicious but they require a ton of work, and during the week, messing with a batter and a hot skillet of oil may be more than one wishes to tackle. Yet, they’re incredibly satisfying, which is why I was hoping to find a baked version that reduced some of the effort. While there is no shortage of green chile casseroles, each one I read had an emphasis on the dairy, like my family’s. The thing I love about chile rellenos, however, is its celebration of the pepper with the batter and stuffing serving to enhance the chile, not mask it.

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style | Homesick Texan

On a recent afternoon, however, I was flipping through the El Paso Junior League’s fine cookbook Seasoned with Sun, and I spotted a baked chile recipe that read very close to the classic rendition of the dish. For instance, the traditional battering of the chiles is with eggs that have been separated, beaten, then folded into each other. Likewise, chile rellenos are often served with a simple tomato salsa. This El Paso casserole included both of these hallmarks. Cheese was also present, of course, but not in excess. The recipe sounded promising, so I took it for a spin.

The ingredients were few and after roasting the chiles (though I believe canned whole chiles would work well, too), it had you cook canned tomatoes with aromatics and spices, layer the chiles with cheese and the salsa, then make the egg batter and spoon it evenly on top. After a time in the oven, the dish comes out browned and bubbling. You then slice it and serve.

As I tucked into a hearty wedge of gooey cheese, tender chiles, bright salsa, and a light, puffed topping, I was struck by how much it resembled its more complicated fried namesake. The cheese and chiles were at the center of the dish, with the salsa and batter adding the right amount of contrast. It was excellent and considering how quickly it came together, I didn’t miss frying the chiles at all.

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style | Homesick Texan

If you have the time, chile rellenos are a fun project, but on a busy night you want something delicious that requires little thought. This El Paso take on a chile relleno casserole is an excellent example of this type of meal, and will be a welcome addition to your dinner rotation.

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4.60 from 5 votes

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style

Servings 6
Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from Seasoned with Sun

Ingredients

  • 10 long green chiles such as Hatch or Anaheim
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) Monterey Jack, shredded

Instructions

  • First you’ll need to roast the chiles. Place the chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. Take the chiles out of the bag and gently rub off the skin. Remove the stem and seeds, then slice the chiles from top to bottom to open them up.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a large cast-iron skillet or a 2 ½ quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
  • To make the salsa, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a pan on medium-low heat then add the onions. While stirring occasionally, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.
  • Pour into the pan the tomatoes, and add the cumin. While stirring, cook for 10 minutes, then taste and add salt. Turn off the heat.
  • To make the batter, whip the egg whites until so stiff that when you tip the bowl they do not move. Beat the yolks and lightly season with salt, then gently fold the whites into the yolks and gently stir until combined.
  • To assemble the casserole, pour half the salsa into the bottom of the pan. Place on top half the chiles, laying them flat, then evenly cover the chiles with the shredded cheese. Place on top the remaining chiles, laying them flat, then pour over the remaining salsa.
  • Gently spread the batter evenly over the casserole, then bake uncovered until brown and bubbling, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm.

Notes

To substitute with canned green chiles, use 2 4-ounce cans of whole green chiles, drained. You can also substitute with poblano chiles, if you prefer.

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53 Comments

  1. Lisa, thanks for a delicious dish. I’m a household of one and enjoy tinkering to scale down recipes when I’m not hosting guests. I essentially halved all the ingredients, still cut back on the cheese, and used my Zyliss battery-powered frothed to whip the lonely egg white. The results would have served two generously, and the roasted poblanos I used starred. Guess what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow!

  2. Lisa, thanks for the great recipe! I used 2 cans (10 oz each) of whole green mild chiles. So delicious! Not a fan of frying so I’m glad I can make my husband’s favorite dish so easily and with such great results! Thanks again from Austin. Finally feeling like fall here.

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      Cathy–So good to hear that it’s delicious with canned chiles. Glad you enjoyed the recipe and hooray for fall!

  3. This looks fantastic. One question please: if using poblano chiles instead of hatch or anaheim, how many would you recommend? Maybe 6 or 7?
    Thanks from Houston!

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      Jim–Depending on how large they are, 6 or 7 sounds about right.

      1. Made this last night with poblano chiles and it was delicious, my family loved it. Thank you Lisa for this great recipe and your wonderful website that celebrates our food.

        1. Lisa Fain says:

          Jim–So glad you enjoyed it and thank you for the kind words! It’s a joy to celebrate Texas cuisine and share that joy with others.

  4. debbie c. says:

    i made this monday (with fresh poblano chilies) for my husband who adores chili rellenos. he loved it. it was such a hit with my family that before we were finished with the meal my daughter called dibs on the leftovers. will be making again soon–a double recipe!

    thanks from sunny so cal!

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      Debbie–Hooray! I’m so glad y’all enjoyed it!

  5. Judy Laney says:

    Looking for further shortcuts-would this work just using already-made salsa? Either home canned or Pace….. Recipe looks great!

    1. Lisa Fain says:

      Judy–I haven’t tried but it could probably work.