Carolyn here today, feeling a little nostalgic. My mother taught me how to cook, beginning with stirring Jello when I was five years old. Then later there was junior high home ec and a Girl Scout cooking badge. Mom would be 102 next week if she were alive and she would have been a more adventurous cook if her kids had been more adventurous at the table. I wouldn’t say my brother and I were picky eaters, but we didn’t want anything too unusual. It wasn’t until I spent the summer in Europe between my junior and senior year in college that I began to broaden my palate and did a complete change. For the next decade, I wasn’t interested in any food that wasn’t authentically ethnic.
So when Mom told me she had this new recipe called Chile Cheese Puff, I couldn’t have been less interested. The name alone sounded so Family Circle or Good Housekeeping, absolutely everything my friends and I were not in the early 1970s. (Remember, much of what we call The Sixties happened in the early Seventies). But at some point I came around, tried the recipe and liked it. And when I needed some chile recipes for my second cookbook The Tumbleweed Gourmet, I included Chile Cheese Puff. For some reason I didn’t think to rename it.
Basically this is a baked chile relleno. Without the deep frying, it is much healthier, but almost as delicious. It’s a great dish to make for a light dinner when you need inspiration. If you live in the Southwest, you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. This recipe calls for stuffing the chiles with jack cheese, but you could use beans or mashed squash as well. You can roast and peel your own chiles, usually Anaheims but poblanos are delicious. Or get the ones in a can.
Chile Cheese Puff
2 cans (4 oz each) whole green chiles
6 to 7 fresh peeled chiles
1/4 pound jack cheese (or beans, squash or tofu)
2 cups milk
1/3 cup instant flour (Wondra)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound gated longhorn or cheddar cheese
Grease a 6 inch by 9 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Clean seeds and ribs from chiles, trying not to tear them. Cut jack cheese in strips and stuff chiles. Alternately, stuff with mashed beans, squash or tofu.
Arrange chiles flat in a row in prepared baking dish.
Divide eggs. In a medium bowl, whip whites until frothy, whip in yolks. Add flour, milk, salt, pepper and gently combine.
Pour over chiles. Sprinkle with gated cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until puffed and golden.
Carolyn Niethammer’s five cookbooks cover wild foods of the southwest deserts and other southwest cuisine. Find her books at the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store, on Amazon or order from your favorite independent bookstore.