In the world of peppers, South Carolina can claim its share of bragging rights. At least a couple of our in-state cultivars have made headlines beyond our borders over the years .
Most recently, it was news that a Fort Mill man's peppers had moved into No. 1 as "world's hottest" as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records. One of Ed Currie's Carolina Reaper peppers registered a whopping 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units. That compares to a milque-toast 5,000 units for your average jalapeno.
About 20 years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the Charleston Hot right here in the Holy City. The slender cayenne pepper made it to market in record time, two years, and quickly became a "hot" commodity. It measures about 70,000-100,000 Scovilles compared with 30,000 for a standard-issue cayenne.
But if you're not into head-sweats, just great flavor with a little bit of kick, reach for poblano peppers on the produce aisle. Better yet, plant some in the garden this spring and be picking them this summer. Peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in the Lowcountry, in my experience.
Poblanos are fresh peppers; the dried form is ancho. The pods are broad, flattish and heart-shaped, and they register a relatively tame 1,000 to 1,500 Scovilles. Though once in awhile, an aberrant one will surprise you.
They're good for many uses, especially stuffing. One of Mexico's best-known dishes is Chiles En Nogada, poblanos filled with green, white and red ingredients that correspond to the colors of the Mexican flag.
Ann Spencer was in touch recently looking for poblano recipes. And we have a few to offer up.
Marie-Louise Ramsdale of Sullivan's Island writes, "I made this when I had vegetarian friends for dinner. It is time-intensive but super good."
Cauliflower Enchiladas with Poblano Cream Sauce Recipe
1 large head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided for use
2 poblano peppers
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups hot vegetable broth
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper
10 ounces queso fresco cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 corn tortillas
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Break the head of cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Toss with 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, salt and pepper. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until they are golden and crisp.
Rub the poblanos with a bit of melted coconut oil and place on a separate parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until poblanos are blackened and blistered all-around. Place in a sealed container for about 10 minutes or until cool.
In a small pan melt about a teaspoon of coconut oil and add the onion. Saute over medium heat until golden. Set aside.
Heat up the vegetable broth. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Add a cup of the vegetable broth to the pan and stir until totally blended. Add the rest of the broth and simmer until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Add the yogurt and whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Rub the skins off the poblanos and remove the seeds and stems. Finely dice the peppers. Toss half with the cauliflower and stir half into the yogurt sauce.
To the cauliflower and peppers, add 2/3 of the queso fresco, the onions, coriander, cumin, half of the chopped parsley and 1 cup of the yogurt sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat up the tortillas. Place a bit of the cream sauce on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking sheet. Dollop a few tablespoons of filling into the center of each tortilla, roll up and place seam-side down in the pan. Repeat until all the tortillas are filled. Cover with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and golden. Garnish with remaining parsley.
Post and Courier food writer and critic Hanna Raskin also weighed in. "If you're trying to figure out what to do with poblanos, my friend Lisa Fain, the blogger behind Homesick Texan, is always a good source. Here's a poblano mac recipe suitable for wintry weather."
Poblano Macaroni and Cheese
Yield: 8 servings
2 poblano chiles
8 ounces elbow pasta (2 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk
1 teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon lime zest
½ cup chopped cilantro
Salt and black pepper, to taste
4 cups grated white cheddar cheese (12 ounces)
½ cup cotija cheese, for serving
Heat the broiler. Roast the poblano chiles in the broiler until they are blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper bag or plastic food-storage bag, close it tightly and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. Take the chiles out of the bag and rub off the charred skin. Remove the stems and seeds and chop the chiles into 1-inch-long pieces. Adjust the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions, then drain the pasta. Grease a large baking dish or a large cast-iron skillet and pour the drained pasta into the pan.
In a pot (you can use the pot the pasta cooked in or you can do this while the pasta boils) set over low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook until a light brown, toasty paste forms, about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and stir until it's slightly thickened but still fluid, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mustard powder, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro and chopped poblano chiles. Adjust the seasonings to taste and add salt and black pepper.
Slowly add 2 cups of the grated cheddar cheese and stir until it's melted and well combined into the sauce. (If the sauce has cooled too much and the cheese won't melt, return the pot to low heat on the stove. If, however, the sauce gets too thick, like a custard, you can thin it by stirring in milk, a teaspoon at a time.) Pour the sauce over the pasta and top with the remaining 2 cups of the grated cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Sprinkle with the cotija cheese and serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from "The Homesick Texan Cookbook" (Hyperion)
Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style
Serves 4 to 6
2 fresh poblano chiles
1 cup (lightly packed) roughly chopped spinach leaves
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, or you can use vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
3 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken (I usually use a rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled chicken)
12 corn tortillas
A little vegetable oil for brushing or spraying
About 1 cup Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A little chopped cilantro for garnish
Make the sauce: Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skins have blistered and blackened on all side, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes under the broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and, when handleable, rub off the blackened skin, tear open and pull out the seed pod and stem. Quickly rinse to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Roughly chop and put in a blender jar. Add the spinach.
In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, combine the milk and broth, set over medium-low heat to warm.
In a large (4-quart) saucepan, melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium. Add the garlic and cook for a minute to release its aroma, then add the flour and stir the mixture for a minute. Raise the heat to medium-high. Pour in the warm broth mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce boils. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Pour half the hot sauce into the blender with the chiles and spinach. Cover loosely and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sauce. Taste and season with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons.
Finish the enchiladas: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Smear about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the bottom of each of four to six 9-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish. Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the chicken.
Lay half of the tortillas out on a baking sheet and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil; top each tortilla with another one and brush or spray those with oil. Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.
Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken up in each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dish(es).
Douse evenly with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 20 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro and serve without hesitation.
Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless' "Mexico: One Plate at a Time"
Who's got the recipe?
Marie Link of Ridgeville called, asking about an older recipe for homemade caramel cake that called for sweetened condensed milk that was boiled in the can. Today, for safety reasons, that's no longer recommended. Does anyone have an alternative method for caramel cake with sweetened condensed milk?