illustration by Kristy Heilenday
Illustration by Kristy Heilenday
We credit Spanish conquistadors for the earliest records of the poblano, written when they encountered the chiles in Aztec cuisine— but it’s believed chiles were actually domesticated as early as 10,000 years ago. “ ‘Chile’ comes from the phonetic ‘hil,’ which the Aztecs used for ‘chile peppers,’” says Paul Bosland, director of The Chile Institute. It’s believed conquistadors then spread poblanos to what is now New Mexico; the chiles also spread through Europe by way of Portuguese traders.
What to Buy
Fresh poblano chiles can be found in the produce section of most U.S. supermarkets, even though they’re primarily grown in the American Southwest and Mexico. Look for a smooth, unmarred, deep-green chile that’s 4 to 5 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. If your recipe calls for dried poblanos, you’ll find them labeled as “anchos” in some supermarkets and most international food stores.
How to Prepare
When preparing fresh poblano chiles, roasting or grilling and removing the skin is always a safe bet. Fill them with cheese, batter and fry them to prepare a classic chile relleno, or dice them finely and add to nearly anything, from scrambled eggs to shredded chicken. Grinding the dried chiles and adding them to traditional mole sauce or chili results in an even, deep flavor.
Smoky Tomato-Poblano Jam
Makes about 4 quarts
By Greg Comstock and Lauren Jurk of The Naked Onion
5 fresh poblano chiles
12 to 13 pounds of fresh tomatoes
2 large sweet onions
1 fresh jalapeño pepper
2 heads of fresh garlic
1 cup of raw sugar, to taste
1 cup of balsamic vinegar, to taste
¼ cup of olive oil
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Smoke the poblano chiles for 1 to 1½ hours at 200 degrees, then place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Remove tomato stems, then quarter the tomatoes, and dice the onions, jalapeño and garlic. Peel the skin off the cooled chiles and remove the seeds, then cut the chiles into thin strips. Place a large stockpot on low heat and add the olive oil, then the vegetables, thyme and oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent, and add the tomatoes and chiles. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer and stir occasionally for the next 5 to 8 hours; the jam is done when most of the liquid has cooked out, resulting in a thick mixture. Season with more salt and pepper as it nears the end, and add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. If the tomatoes are sweet, add less sugar and more balsamic; if the tomatoes are acidic, add less balsamic and more sugar. If you cannot properly can the jam, refrigerate some and store the remainder in the freezer.