Shavuot is approaching, and people’s palates anticipate tastes of favorite dairy dishes: blintzes and cheesecake, lasagna and ice cream or bagels and lox. But if you are bored with bagels, blasé about blintzes and lukewarm about lasagna, do what we do in my house — culinarily speaking: We go south of the border for a Tex-Mex treat.
Tex-Mex is a delicious fusion of American simplicity with traditional Northern Mexican cuisine brought to Texas before it became a republic. The traditional ingredients and flavors are rice and beans, corn and peppers, cumin and cilantro, cheese and meat. To keep it kosher, we make our recipes either dairy or meat.
For Shavuot, the main course we salivate for is chiles rellenos, stuffed chili peppers. Not to be confused with jalapeno peppers, these whole chiles are mild and sweet.
The basic method is stuff peppers with cheese, coat them with an egg and flour sauce and then fry them crispy brown. The cheese melts into the peppers and satisfies your taste buds’ desire for salty, spicy and fried all at once. You could probably order it at a Mexican restaurant, but it’s so easy to make at home that once you do it, it will be a regular part of your holiday repertoire.
Whole roasted chili peppers can be bought in large cans at the Mexican grocery on Penn Avenue in the Strip District. There are several brands that are kosher. (The really adventurous chef can buy fresh Anaheim or Poblano chiles and roast them at home!)
2 cans whole green chiles (4 oz. cans)
½ pound Monterey Jack cheese
4 tablespoons flour
About ¼ cup mild oil such as canola oil
Chopped scallions (optional)
Store-bought or homemade salsa
Preparation time is 30 to 40 minutes, and it serves 6
>> Stuff: Cut the cheese into strips to fit inside the chili, about a half-inch wide and 2 inches long. You may need to split the chili just enough to stuff it with a cheese strip, one per chili. Cut off any cheese that is sticking out of the chili.
>> Dredge: Coat stuffed chilis with flour and put them aside on a plate.
>> Mix: Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. (Don’t allow any yolk to get in.) In a separate bowl, beat the yolks until creamy. Fold the yolks into the whites, adding the flour a little at a time as you fold.
>> Batter: Dip each stuffed chili into the egg batter, one at a time, turning it to coat and set aside. Spoon extra batter on top to make sure each chili is well covered.
>> Fry: Heat about ½ inch of oil in a large frying pan, temperature medium high. Carefully slide each chili into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. If there are any bare spots, spoon more batter on. Turn once, gently. As you finish, you can place them in a warm oven until all are done.
>> Season with salt and pepper and a garnish of chopped scallions and salsa; serve hot. Increase the fusion aspect by spooning sour cream over the chilis before serving. Delicioso!
If you want to put together the Shapiro family’s entire Shavous dairy Tex-Mex meal, you can prepare any combination of the following tasty dishes: gazpacho (cold tomato soup); enchilladas (tortillas filled with cheese and sauce and baked); frijoles refritos (refried beans); rice; guacamole (avocado dip); flan (caramel custard); and either sangria (wine punch) or Dos Equis (Mexican beer).
Or maybe you will be lucky enough to be invited to our house for the whole enchilada. Good Yom Tov!
Simone Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.