Road trip? Chile Rellenos? Travel with a weakness? Nothing better spells excitement & motivation for a "Fool for Chile" like me! Ok, a few words of orientation before launching into Tales of the Road Rellenos Journey. The core word is "CHILE". Implying that a Chile Relleno will have a balance of flavors yet showcase the "CHILE". It's an attitude. Granted, a very personal one. I love the chile; I have a nose for the chile; I seek out the chile. I will pull over and spend quality time with a plate of Rellenos that are nicely done no matter the location.
This was a bit of a travel loop, part aeroplane-part auto - SLC, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas, Lubbock, Santa Fe, Durango and back to SLC. For the purpose of this Road Relleno Journey story, we concentrate on States where the rellenos can be found: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado. To my surprise, it was harder to find a GOOD Chile Relleno in the Southwest then one would think.
Texas: Yet more evidence that Tex-Mex is the numbing down of Mexican Food so gringos will like it, too. General experience, too much cheese, gobs of greasy egg batter and plates drowning in the ubiquitous canned & bland red sauce. First question? Does your cook suffer the fear of CHILE? Chile lost! Balance lost! Two stops, both disappointing.
New Mexico: Spent more time here. Many stops. Michael's in Taos (good). In Santa Fe, Horseman's Haven, tia Sophia's and the Tecolote Cafe, all serve Southwest Classics (great). Favorite - The Pantry: Breakfast & Brunch 1820 Cerrillos Rd Santa Fe, NM 87505 fon: 505. 986.0022. Over the years, the Pantry has added more to the menu so now even kids and grandmothers will find something that will please. Regarding the Rellenos, good use of cornmeal to achieve a crispy exterior, nice balance of chile to cheese filling to CHILE flavor. Add rice, beans and eggs and morning in Santa Fe can be so very good! http://www.pantrysantafe.com/
Colorado: Short time, Durango. Winner of the Heaviest Batter Award. Large Mexican restaurant on the main drag, well known. Relleno delivered, I asked for a sharp knife. A long incision and delicate surgery allowed me to locate the chile. No balance! Paradise missed!
Chile Relleno, I thought, had two approaches. Mexcian - wheat flour used only to coat the chile before being wrapped in peaky, whipped egg batter. Delectable y delicioso. New Mexican - wheat flour, corn meal and a bit of egg, much crispiness and great balance. Wow!
Third approach? Google helped me here. There are a slurry of recipes on-line for what appears to be pancake batter (as coating for Relleno?). I suspect this is the Colorado style I encountered in Durango. Upon returning to Colorado, I'll stick to what they do best. Cow Country? Steak?
True, no great length of time was spent in any one location to dig deep and find the Mom-and-Pop Dives that kick out the incredible (this being the opportunity for residents of poo-pooed locations to argue the reverse). I am a firm believer in the gems. I love ferreting them out and I spend much time, joyfully, eating in those spots all over the world. You'll find my favorites here (as they are uncovered) at All Accordin'.