By: Suellen Pineda, RDN, CDN
Poblano peppers are just perfect for stuffing! Being milder than Jalapeño, poblano is one of the key ingredients in Chiles en Nogada, a traditional Mexican dish from Puebla, where this chili pepper is native to. Poblanos can be found fresh or dried. When dried, poblanos are called Ancho. Many traditional Mexican dishes such as Pozole, a rich hominy and pork soup, use Ancho for flavor and color.
This recipe calls for charred peppers and grilled meats. Many people have concerns about charred foods and its link to cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines or HCAs. In the case of peppers (or any other vegetable), the formation of HCAs is much less likely than it is in meats.
Also, there are ways to minimize the formation of this compound in your grilled meats. The National Institute of Health (NIH ) recommends to marinate your meats. The acidity in marinades appears to reduce the formation of HCAs. Also, cook your meat at the right temperature and time. Generally, the higher the temperature the greater the risk of HCAs formation. However, the time that meat is left on the grill ALSO plays a role. This is an additional reason NOT to over cook your meat.
Ingredients & Method
- 6 poblano peppers, washed and pat dried.
- 1.25 boneless, skin-less chicken breasts (about 3 medium), pounded to ¾ “thickness.
- 2.5 Tbsp. olive oil + (1 Tbsp. to cook rice)
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. ground paprika
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 small limes, juiced
- 2 cups, uncooked long grain rice
- 3 ¾ cups of water
- ½ small bunch of fresh cilantro, washed
- 2 ripe avocados
- ¼ cup low-fat milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Using a food processor, combine oil, oregano, garlic, cumin, ginger, the juice of one lime, salt and pepper. process until smooth. Pour mixture in a large ziplock bag. Then place chicken in it until fully coated. Reserve.
2. Char peppers directly over burner flames. Use kitchen tongs to turn the peppers as they char. Once the skin is completely black, place peppers inside a ziplock bag and seal. This would help release the steam and would make peeling the peppers much easier.
3. Place cilantro in a blender; add water and blend on high. Reserve.
4. Heat the grill to medium-high
5. Make the rice. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat, add the rice, stir with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute. Add cilantro water blend. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook uncovered until water has evaporated. (small tunnels should be visible on the surface). Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Make the avocado sauce. Peel avocados. Remove pits. Mash with a fork. Add the juice of one lime, milk and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
7. Prepare the peppers. Once they have cooled down, peel off the skin very gently. Then, make a vertical slit down the middle with a paring knife. Open carefully and remove the seeds. (Use gloves when handling peppers).
8. Once the grill is hot, lightly grease the grill grates. Place chicken breasts and cook for about 4 minutes. Turn and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let it rest loosely cover with foil for about 3-5 minutes before slicing it.
9. Assemble the dish. Stuff each pepper with rice, sliced chicken and top it off with the avocado sauce. Garnish with cilantro leaves.