There are some days when i want nothing more than a capital V vegan meal; maybe a heaping bowl of whole grains, tofu, and greens, or a crisp salad with lemon tahini dressing. Then there are those days when it seems like everything is going wrong, and the only thing that could possibly make it all better is a hefty meal that involves getting a little grease on my finger tips while I eat.
Rich, flavorful, and wrapped in a shatteringly crisp batter, these chiles rellenos are so delectable they could have come from that amazing 24-hour taco place you used to frequent at 4AM in college. But, have no fear, they won’t make you regret your decision the next day. These tasty little guys are 100% vegan, free of heavily processed foods and artificial substitutes, and showcase fresh, seasonal produce. The recipe is admittedly a bit involved, but, trust me, it’s worth it. (And no one will ever guess it’s vegan!)
Tequila-Battered (Vegan) Chiles Rellenos
- 8 medium sized poblanos, or similarly mild and stuffable peppers (I used an as yet unidentified yellow variety from our CSA)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups (or more) diced mild pepper of your choice*
- 1/2 jalepeno pepper, diced (use more or less depending on your spiciness threshold)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 ears of corn, kernels shaved
- a generous pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup of cashews, soaked overnight or simmered in water for about an hour until soft
- 1/2 block of firm tofu (I like the tanginess of Bridge brand)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons miso paste
- a few generous shakes of cumin and chili powder
- (another) large pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup flour of your choice (I used whole wheat)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup tequila
- small pinch salt
- enough oil to fill your frying pan until about 3/4 to 1 inch deep
- 1 lime (optional)
- Prepare peppers to be stuffed: Char and peel the poblanos according to this method, leaving the peppers whole. Make a small vertical slit at the top of each pepper, large enough to insert your fingers to remove the cluster of seeds. Don’t stress if you end up tearing the hole further. You’ll be able to pin it closed with a tooth pick later. Rinse out any lingering seeds under running water, and pat dry. Set aside.
- Cook up the remaining veggies: Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Saute bell and hot peppers for about 10 minutes, until soft and slightly transparent. Stir in garlic and sweet corn, and continue cooking until you notice spots of char and caramelization.
- Make the cheesy filling: (Can be done while the veggies are cooking) Use a blender to combine the cashews, tofu, nutritional yeast, miso paste, and seasonings. Add water as needed until the mixture is slightly firmer than ricotta. [Using all of these typically Asian ingredients may seem a little strange in a Mexican dish, but the combination of protein, fat, fermentation, and natural glutamates (umami–aka deliciousness–molecules) make this mixture a very close cousin to cow’s milk cheese in terms of flavor, texture, and nutritional value, minus all the ickiness that comes with eating dairy.]
- Stuff the peppers: Fold together the cheesy mixture and veggies, and adjust seasoning. Using a small metal teaspoon, fill each pepper with cheesy mixture. Close up the slit using large toothpicks at the top and bottom of the pepper. Don’t worry if the peppers seem to be falling apart–the batter will hold them together.
- Mix up the batter (adapted from this awesome recipe on Serious Eats): Combine flour, baking powder, cold water, tequila, and a pinch of salt and stir with a fork until combined. Fun fact: The tequila isn’t there just to sound and taste good. The high alcohol content helps prevent the flour from absorbing too much oil, so the batter stays crisp and doesn’t get greasy. Vodka or gin will have the same effect.
- Fry those babies up: Heat frying oil to 350 degrees. If, like me, you don’t have a fancy frying thermometer, use this trick to test if the oil is hot enough. Once the oil is ready, dip one pepper at a time in the batter and allow excess to drip off for a few seconds. (If the peppers are falling apart, use a slotted spoon to submerge the peppers in batter, then remove and slide into the hot oil.) Being careful not to crowd the pan, fry peppers in small batches for about 1 minute on each side, until the batter is crisp and lightly browned. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and squeeze of lime juice, if using.
- Have yourself a little feast: Serve with warm tortillas, sliced avocado, and salsa of your choice.