Chiles Ancho Rellenos

Ancho (Ahn-cho) Chile (Capsicum Annum) means Wide Chile Pepper. This chile ranges from 3 – 4 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. An Ancho is the dried form of a Poblano Pepper and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper. Anchos have sweet fruity flavor with hints of cherry, prune, and fig. Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the Holy Trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000.

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Chiles Ancho Rellenos:

8-10 ancho chiles
4 cups water
2/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
4 oz. piloncillo, grated
1-1/2-inch cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican, broken into pieces
3/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
Picadillo de Pollo* (recipe follows)
2 cups Mexican crema or creme fraiche
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

Picadillo de Pollo:

1/2 cup chopped olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 pounds (4 cups) plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 small bay leaves, preferably Mexican
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 cup green olives
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
2 pounds finely chopped chicken breast, or ground chicken breast
coarse salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint


For the Picadillo de Pollo:

In a medium saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onion. Saute the onion until it becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes, then add the olives, raisins and capers. Cook for 10 minutes and set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil until it just begins to smoke over high heat. Add the chicken and cook until dry, stirring constantly. Season with salt, then add the reserved tomato mixture and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes and add the almonds, cilantro, parsley and mint. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool. This can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and remove the bay leaf before stuffing the chiles.

For the Chiles Ancho Rellenos:

Preheat an oven to 350F. Use a damp paper towel to thoroughly wipe each one of the ancho chiles. Cut a slit from the stem to the tip, and carefully remove the seeds and ribs. Combine the water, vinegar, piloncillo, cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. of salt in a medium saucepan, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chiles. Let the chiles soak for 10 minutes to rehydrate them. Carefully transfer the chiles to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.

Fill each chile with some of the picadillo de pollo and place it in a small baking dish. Bake the stuffed chiles for 15 minutes or until they are heated through. Meanwhile, combine the crema and onion in a small saucepan. Place the mixture over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes, then train it through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl, and stir in the cilantro. Season the crema with the remaining 1/2 tsp. of salt and pour it over the chiles just before serving. Garnish the chiles with some cilantro sprigs.

Recipe by Martha Stewart.