Poblanos Peppers Stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche

Poblano Peppers stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche

Inspiration: Growing up, my parents always let us kids choose whatever dinner that we wanted my Mom to cook for our birthdays. I always got so excited about that and loved the tradition, so I plan to do the same for my kids one day. For now, I keep the tradition alive by letting Brandon pick a special dinner, and for his birthday a few days ago, he chose quite the meal – this fabulous recipe from a local chef, Eve Aronoff. We just bought her cookbook from her old restaurant, Eve (so sad that it closed down!), and the recipes in that book all sound so good that I’m tempted to cook from no other source for a couple of months. I’m sure that the husband would not object. Happy 28th, Brandon!

What We Loved: Everything. There was not a single aspect of this dish that was anything less than perfect, so I don’t really even know where to start. The concept of the meal is awesome in its own right – a sort of Indian/Mexican fusion – and the end result has great components of each of those cuisines that work perfectly together. The poblano peppers have that spicy, earthy flavor that I’ve come to associate with Mexican food, and the filling is flavored with both Mexican and Indian spices. To top everything off, melted smoked mozzarella and creme fraiche bring back that Mexican feel, while the carrot puree is again something that I would more closely associate with an Indian dish. Fantastic! As for the flavors of the meal, we were completely blown away by all of the layers and how well everything worked together. The seafood was perfectly succulent and tender (which really surprised me – I was worried about the seafood overcooking since it is sauteed and then baked), the andouille provided just a little heat, and the rest of the seasonings and spices added this rich, intense flavor that I can only describe as a Mexican curry. The carrot puree on top was another surprising aspect of the dish, because it didn’t have a strong carrot flavor in the slightest (and for two people like us who don’t love carrots, that’s a great thing). Instead, it had a very mellow vegetable flavor that was very crisp and refreshing atop the stronger, bolder flavors of the stuffed peppers. The dollop of cool creme fraiche (I just love how it melted down into the hot peppers like it did!) was the perfect finishing touch. This meal as a whole is quite truthfully one of the best things that I have ever made.

Tips: The original recipe calls for two separate seasoning mixes. Instead of making the mixes in big batches as they’re written in the cookbook and having a lot of leftovers, I basically just sprinkled the spices into the pan in what I thought were the appropriate proportions (to total about 2-3 teaspoons of spice). I’ll list the spices below that I included, but as a general guideline I went heavy on the curry powder, chili powder, and paprika, with smaller sprinklings of the rest of the seasonings. I used the same method with the carrot puree, scaling everything down to make about 1/2 cup. I’ll list the approximate amounts that I used, but the amounts are very rough estimates. It would be best to taste test as you go along, and adjust the levels as you see fit.

Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and Topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche 
Source: Eve The Cookbook

3 poblano peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small jalapeno, minced
Curry powder
Chili powder
Garlic powder
4 fresh jumbo gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, finely chopped
4 large fresh sea scallops, finely chopped
1 andouille sausage link, finely chopped
1 cup smoked mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon sriracha
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Carrot lime puree, recipe follows
Creme fraiche

1. Drizzle the halved poblanos with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. Heat a pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos, and cook for about 3-4 minutes on low until softened. Season with Kosher salt, black pepper, curry powder, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and oregano (to total about 2-3 teaspoons of spice).

3. Add the seafood and andouille, and saute until the seafood just barely loses translucency.

4. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the contents to a mixing bowl. Add the green onions and sriracha, and stir to combine. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

5. Divide the stuffing between the six poblano halves. Sprinkle each with shredded smoked mozzarella. Bake in a 425 oven for 15 minutes.

6. Serve topped with a dollop of carrot lime puree and creme fraiche.

Carrot Lime Puree
1/3 small green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/8 – 1/4 cup onions, roughly chopped
Juice from 1 small lime
1 larger carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Place the bell peppers, onions, lime juice, carrot, and garlic in a food processor.

2. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is running to emulsify.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Carnivore Burger

Inspiration: We have this great little brewpub in town called Blue Tractor that serves craft beer and delicious Southern-style food. I love Southern food and can never choose between pulled pork or sauteed catfish, sweet potatoes or baked beans, etc. For Brandon, the Carnivore Burger is always at the top of his list when we go to Blue Tractor. Usually, it’s what he ends up choosing, and he always proclaims it as one of the best burgers that he’s ever had. When we had just a little bit of leftover pulled pork to be used at home, this burger was the obvious choice.

What We Loved: Really, what’s not to love about this decadent burger? Ground beef; gooey cheddar cheese; rich and salty bacon; smoky pulled pork; and spicy, buttery jalapenos? I think Blue Tractor knew what they were doing when they came up with that combination of ingredients, and with three different kinds of meats, the title of Carnivore Burger is certainly fitting. We thought that the smoked cheddar worked so well with the complementary smoky flavors of the meats, and we just loved the spicy bite of the buttery jalapenos. This is one heck of a burger!

Tips: Since you only need a small amount of pulled pork for this burger, I would recommend making this when you have some extra pulled pork from a previous recipe in the fridge or freezer. Also, given the title of this post and the ingredients used, I’d like to take a minute to advocate making sure that you know where the meats that you purchase come from. We get most of our meats from a local CSA that humanely raises its animals, and otherwise, we supplement with the best local, grass-fed meats that we can get at Whole Foods and other local stores.

Carnivore Burger
Source: Inspired from Blue Tractor to serve two

About 2/3 lb ground beef
Pulled pork, about 1/2 cup (this is a great use for leftovers)
3 slices bacon, sliced in half to form 6 burger-sized pieces
About 1/2 cup freshly grated smoked cheddar cheese
1 small jalapeno, sliced into rings

1. Form the ground beef into two hamburger patties. Grill the burgers until cooked through.

2. While the burgers are cooking, cook the bacon in a saute pan, heat the pulled pork in a second pan, and saute the jalapenos in a bit of butter until browned and slightly crispy (about five minutes).

3. Serve the burgers topped with the cheese, bacon, pulled pork, and jalapeno rings.

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

*Photo Updated October 2012*

Inspiration: Learning to love mustard is one of my culinary projects right now. There’s always something out there that you’ve never had a taste for, have never quite appreciated, or have never even tried, right? I’ve been working on brown mustard for several months now, and I’m happy to say that I’m finally beginning to identify it as a food that I enjoy. The true test? Cooking with it and using it as a main ingredient, versus dolloping a touch on a slice of cheese or sausage.

What We Loved: I was more than hesitant to eat this meal. I knew that Brandon would love it (he really loves mustard), but I figured that I would probably feel pretty “meh” about the whole thing. But what a surprise. This one instantly became one of our favorite chicken breast recipes (yes, mine too!). Since the chicken is simply cooked in some butter, salt, and pepper, the pan sauce is really the star. It’s creamy, rich, and has some great herbal undertones – all of the things that we love about pan sauces. We used an organic brown mustard made with apple cider vinegar, and those tangy and rich mustard flavors were really the backbone of the sauce and the main flavors of the dish.

Tips:I would say to make sure that you use a really good mustard for this sauce, since it’s the dominating flavor in the dish. That said, the sauce is really very versatile. It’s also good on pork chops, and I’m sure that it would be good on cubed or shredded chicken as well. The smaller pieces of chicken would provide a lot more surface area to soak up all of that delicious flavor.

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce
Source: Let’s Dish, originally from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano

1. Add a good pat of butter to a saute pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan. Saute until cooked through, turning once, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

2. Add the chicken stock into the pan. Whisk in the cream, mustard, and oregano. Cook and stir for about two minutes, until thickened. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

French-Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Inspiration: This inspiration for this meal was a lovely bottle of Dierberg Chardonnay. Brandon and I have our favorites when it comes to wine varietals – I would probably list a super dry and earthy cabernet franc as my top choice, and I think he would list a really good, spicy pinot noir – but we’ve both been in love with oaked chardonnay lately, too. That buttery oak flavor just hasn’t been topped for us when it comes to whites. And a good bottle of wine always deserves a good meal, right?

What We Loved: This was the best fancy meal that we’ve made in a really long time. There are so many wonderful aspects to this dish that I don’t even know where to start. So I’ll begin with the tenderness of the chicken, which is what immediately jumped out at us as being remarkable. I really couldn’t even believe how moist and tender the final result was – I never knew that a chicken breast (which is really the toughest part of the bird) could be so ridiculously tender. It was fabulous! Add to that the earthy, herbal mushroom flavor of the filling and the rich, salty pan sauce with a nice white wine flavor, and this meal was just perfect. It truly felt like something that you might order at a restaurant. We paired this with some creamy lima beans mixed with butter, salt, and pepper and our gorgeous bottle of chardonnay for a perfect Saturday night supper.

Tips: I think this is the first time that I’ve had stuffed and rolled chicken breasts turn out properly shape-wise – that is, in a nice, neat spiral. I’ve tried many times, and do you know what the problem usually is? I hurry through it. As I’ve found in most things that are cooking-related, if you take your time, the results are really just so much better. So I would suggest being really patient with pounding the chicken nice and flat, spreading the mushroom mixture neatly and flatly, and rolling up the chicken carefully (even undoing and re-rolling if you need to). It’s worth the extra time for such a pretty result.

French-Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Cooks Illustrated

I cut the original recipe in half to serve two and made some further modifications. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (with tenderloins attached)
4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small leek, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1/3 cup dry white wine (I used a chardonnay)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard

1. Remove the tenderloins from the chicken breasts and roughly chop. Place into a food processor, and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Butterfly each chicken breast horizontally, leaving the two halves attached. Open the butterflied breasts, and lay them flat. Place the chicken into a large ziplock bag, squeeze out the air, and seal. Pound the chicken to 1/4 inch thickness.

3. Heat some butter in a saute pan. Add the mushrooms, and cook until the moisture evaporates and the mushrooms brown. Add the leek and more butter, if necessary, and cook for a few more minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook for about a minute. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and stir.

4. Transfer the mushroom mixture to the food processor. Return the pan to the heat, add the wine, and scrape the pan to loosen the browned bits. Transfer the wine mixture to a bowl and set aside.

5. Pulse the mushroom mixture in the food processor until finely chopped. Add to the bowl with the pureed chicken. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

6. Spread half of the filling into each chicken breast, smoothing if flat and leaving an edge around the perimeter. Roll up each breast as tightly as possible, and place seam side down. Tie with kitchen twine if desired.

7. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat some more butter in the saute pan, carefully add the chicken seam-side down, and brown. Flip, brown the other side, and then flip one more time so that the seam-side is down again. Add the chicken stock and the reserved wine mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil.

8. Whisk the mustard into the cooking liquid in the pan. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan to incorporate them into the sauce. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and whisk in the butter and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

9. Slice the chicken, and serve it with the sauce spooned over top.

Michigan Burgers with Goat Cheese and Cherry Salsa

Inspiration: One of my favorite things about living in Michigan is the fresh, local cherries, which are probably the top food item that Michigan is known for. They’re gorgeous and they’re everywhere at this time of year, and I can never get enough. I kind of get all sentimental just thinking about it – I love living here and love everything that the local farmers, chefs, brewers, etc. provide us. And I find it really awesome that no matter where you live, there are always going to be those local items, personalities, restaurants, etc. that are just really unique to the area. I love that.

What We Loved: For those who like sweet and savory combinations, this recipe is perfect. The cherry salsa is actually just very mildly sweet, so it lends a subtle fruit flavor to the dish and just a touch of spice from the minced jalapenos. Goat cheese is always fabulous in my book, but I particularly love it in applications where it melts, like atop burgers. The texture gets so creamy and fabulous. And of course, a hamburger grilled on a charcoal grill has a wonderful charred and smoky flavor that just can’t be matched. A bite of smoky burger with some creamy cheese and a bit of rich, fruity salsa – well, that’s just perfect.

Tips: As you can see in the picture, I like to pick out the deepest, darkest, ripest looking cherries – in my opinion, they’re the best! The cherries that are redder or brighter in color look prettier but they aren’t quite as ripe and are usually harder/have less flavor. The deep, richly colored ones are nice and soft and are bursting with juice and flavor. They turn your fingertips purple and are just magnificent.

Burgers with Goat Cheese and Cherry Salsa
Source: Cherry Salsa from Living Tastefully

I made enough cherry salsa for two burgers. See the link above for a full recipe.

10-15 sweet cherries, pits removed and diced
1/2 tablespoon or so minced jalapeno (seeded first)
Few leaves fresh basil, minced
Dash balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 lb ground beef, shaped into two burgers
2-3 oz fresh goat cheese, cut into thick slices
Garlic powder
Seasoning salt

1. Combine the cherries, jalapeno, basil, and vinegar in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. Season the burgers with garlic powder and seasoning salt. Cook/grill as desired.

3. Top the burgers with the goat cheese and cherry salsa.

Mexican/Southwest-Style Sampler Plate

Inspiration: I can be very lazy with dinner sometimes, usually on a Friday night. It’s been a long week at that point, and like everyone else, I’m tired. A lot of times we’ll go grab a beer at a pub after work or stop in somewhere for a glass of wine, and after that, it’s all over. Long week + beer/wine = lazy. So what the heck do we do for dinner on those kinds of nights? Yes!

What we Loved: This is just a fun meal all around. Being able to sample so many different items is really a treat. There’s such a variance in flavors – spicy sausage, creamy cheese and avocado, crisp lettuce, sweet tomatoes, rich baked beans, a little of this and a little of that. We loved mixing and matching the different flavors. This is a good Friday or Saturday night dinner that’s fun and delicious, and it’s already one of our favorites.

Tips: The possibilities are endless with a meal like this. We’ve actually had this meal three times before it even made it onto the blog, and the other couple of times I switched out some of the ingredients for some sauteed poblano peppers and onions, a dollop of sour cream, and sliced green chiles. And if I wouldn’t have gotten lazy last time, I would have added a nice sunny-side up egg as well. I also think that pico de gallo, pickled red onions, guacamole, roasted sweet potatoes, or crumbled Mexican chorizo are some great options. So yes, there are a million roads to take with this fun dinner. In fact, I’m going to have to use some of those options to make a completely different Mexican/Southwest-style plate. I’m also excited to use this idea to try different variations of all of our favorite cuisines, with Mediterranean being next (homemade hummus, cucumber slices, black olives, chunks of feta cheese, maybe some white beans with oregano….).

Mexican/Southwest-Style Sampler Plate
Source: Inspired by Bunny.Eats.Design.

Load up a plate with all of your favorite ingredients. I used: Spanish chorizo, grape tomatoes seasoned with salt and pepper, chopped romaine hearts topped with salsa verde, leftover white beans cooked in Belgian style beer, avocado slices seasoned with salt, goat cheese, and cilantro.

Charcoal-Grilled Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic

Inspiration: Sundays were just made for dinners like these, right? A meal that’s a little more involved, something fancy or some good comfort food, a nice bottle of wine. What a perfect way to wind down from the weekend and start the week.

What We Loved: There were a few aspects of this dish that we really enjoyed – the charcoal/grilled flavor that was absorbed into the meat, the seasoned crust, and the taste of the lamb itself. When we each took our first bites, we were somewhat surprised by how much of the charcoal flavor that the lamb picked up. It was extremely noticeable and fabulous. And as lamb has a somewhat earthy flavor on its own, earthy rosemary is always a super pairing. This recipe combines rosemary with plenty of garlic to add a nice depth of flavor and seasoning to the lamb, and the meat itself is rich and tender. I roasted some zucchini, yellow squash, and onions and served them alongside this lamb with a side of tzatziki sauce for an all-around great meal.

Tips: We grilled this directly over the coals for the entire duration without flipping, which resulted in a charred crust on the bottom. In spots it was a little too charred, so we might suggest flipping the meat a time or two to create more even browning. The reason that we didn’t flip the meat was because we had a meat thermometer inserted into the middle and sticking out of the top, and I didn’t want to mess with moving it around after we started cooking. Sticking the thermometer into the end or side of the meat would be a nice way to solve that problem and allow you to flip the meat as needed. Also – we had a  small cut of meat (2.25 lbs), so the cooking time was relatively short – about an hour. If you use a large cut, grilling over indirect heat would probably be necessary.

Charcoal-Grilled Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic
Source: Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 leg of lamb, bone in (ours was about 2.25 lbs)
Juice from 1/2 small lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Remove the lamb from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice, using your hands to rub the liquids into the meat.

2. Using your hands, pat the rosemary and garlic all over the outside of the lamb. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.

3. Insert a meat thermometer into the end of the lamb, inserting it into the middle and away from the bone. Grill on a charcoal grill until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees for rare, about an hour. Flip while cooking to ensure even browning.

Cheesy Mexican Chicken Salad

Inspiration: We’ve certainly been eating a lot of summery salads lately. I sure do love winter comfort foods, but with the first signs of sunshine in the spring, I’m always more than ready to give them the boot. Light, casual food is one of our favorite things about summer, though there sure are a lot of things to love. Walks in the park, weekends downtown in the sunshine, cocktails, vacations, flip-flops, BBQs. I hope that everyone who celebrates Memorial Day this weekend gets a good dose of all of the summer things that make them happy!

What We Loved: Brandon just couldn’t get enough of this meal. He’s been really into the entrée type salads lately – those with a nice bed of lettuce, plenty of protein, and some great veggies. Like the shredded beef salad we had a few weeks ago, this salad is so full of flavors that it doesn’t even need a dressing. The chicken is mixed with three kinds of cheeses – cream cheese, cheddar, and Monterey Jack – and there are all kinds of Mexican spices and seasonings thrown in. The result is a rich, cheesy, spicy chicken mixture that is warm and wonderful. Combined with fresh and crisp romaine hearts, creamy avocado, and sweet tomatoes, this salad is just packed full of protein, vegetables, and flavor – which is really all that you need.

Helpful Hints: Though we loved this salad exactly as it was, anything that you would normally throw into a Mexican meal would probably be a good addition – sour cream, black olives, additional salsa, minced onions, pickled jalapenos, etc.

Cheesy Mexican Chicken Salad
Source: Chicken recipe adapted from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen, originally from Our Best Bites 

Olive oil or butter
1 slice onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup salsa
Juice of 1 small lime
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese
Romaine hearts or other greens, chopped
Grape tomatoes, sliced
Avocado, sliced

1. Heat some oil or butter in a saute pan over medium heat, and then add the onion. Cook until softened. Add the garlic, and stir to combine.

2. Add the cream cheese, salsa, lime, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, chicken, and cheeses. Mix well to combine, and cook over low heat until heated through.

3. Serve the chicken mixture over the romaine hearts with grape tomatoes and avocado.

Breakfast Bell Peppers

Inspiration: Believe it or not, we’re still going strong with the Mexican-inspired dishes. We didn’t even get them all in before Cinco de Mayo came and went last week. Bear with us (or rejoice!).

What We Loved: I can always get behind a stuffed pepper/stuffed mushroom/stuffed chicken breast/etc. recipe. The flavor combinations are endless, and I always think that it’s so fun to experiment. Brandon and I both really enjoyed the rich filling in this particular recipe – namely salty chorizo, fluffy scrambled eggs, and creamy goat cheese. There’s just something about those savory, cheesy breakfast flavors that I crave every now and again. I also thought that the mild, sweet peppers were a really nice complement to those stronger flavors. This is a solid, easy recipe that I think would be great for either breakfast or dinner.

Helpful Hints: We ate these with some Frontera Double Roasted Tomato salsa, which was a great pairing, and I also think that sour cream would be a good garnish. I cooked our peppers for 30 minutes at 350, and they still had a nice crunch to them. If you’d like your peppers to be softer/have more of a roasted/charred texture, cook them longer or increase the temperature to about 400.

Breakfast Bell Peppers
Source: Original Recipe

2 links Mexican chorizo, removed from casing
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 eggs
Splash of milk or cream
Kosher salt and black pepper
3-4 oz goat cheese
2 bell peppers, sliced in half and seeded
Cilantro, salsa, and/or sour cream, to garnish

1. Crumble the chorizo into a saute pan over medium heat. Saute until cooked through. Drain some of the grease if it is excessive.

2. Add the onions to the pan, and continue cooking until just softened and slightly browned.

3. Add the garlic to the pan, stir to incorporate, and remove from the heat.

4. Mix the eggs with a splash of milk and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Scramble the eggs in a separate saute pan.

5. Gently fold the eggs and the goat cheese into the chorizo mixture. Do this gently so that you do not to break apart the eggs/cheese too much.

6. Divide the mixture evenly between the four pepper halves. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes (longer for softer peppers).

7. Serve garnished with cilantro, salsa, and/or sour cream.

Mexican Poblano Casserole

Inspiration: Since throwing away processed carbohydrates for the most part, there are a few things that we’ve really missed – and one of them is enchiladas. Oh, how we both love enchiladas. I was flipping through one of my Rick Bayless cookbooks the other day, and as an intro to one of the sections, he said something along the lines of, “Let’s face it. When we’re craving Mexican food, we usually want something with tortillas.” And I think the man is right. While an authentic Mexican chicken breast with a great mole sauce is wonderful….it just doesn’t satisfy that Mexican food craving like a pile of cheesy enchiladas or quesadillas, does it? Brandon and I both love, love, love Brandon’s Mom’s beef and bean enchiladas, so the idea struck me to try out the main components in a casserole form using poblano peppers instead of tortillas.

What We Loved: This dish completely satisfied that craving for delicious and cheesy Mexican food. The poblano pepper layers were smoky, earthy, and spicy (and provided an entirely new and pleasant flavor dimension than you would find in something like an enchilada), the meat filling was creamy and rich, and the deep red sauce was just packed full of flavor. The sauce was really a wonderful suprrise. I expected it to be good, but it was just so rich, garlicy, spicy, and intense – everything that I love about Mexican food. And when you cover all of these components with cheese and then throw in sour cream and fresh cilantro as garnishes, this really makes for the perfect meal when you’re craving that certain style of Mexican food.

Helpful Hints: Don’t think of this as a replacement for enchiladas. It’s not, nor is it intended to be. That said, we thought that this was really a great meal in its own right and a great way to get a lot of the flavors of enchiladas into a simliar meal that better suits our lifestyle. Also, this might not hold together perfectly (or maybe I’m always just too impatient to let the pan cool long enough before serving), but no matter. The taste is fab and I simply don’t know if I can wait any longer for the leftovers.

Happy Cinco de Mayo all!

Mexican Poblano Casserole
Source: Inspired by Brandon’s Mom’s enchiladas; with the sauce recipe adapted from blogchef.net.

6 poblano peppers
2 cups colby cheese, more if desired
Cilantro and sour cream, to garnish

For the meat filling
1 lb ground beef
1/2 small onion
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 can pinto beans

For the sauce
Olive oil or butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 slice onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup salsa (I used Fronterra’s double roasted tomato)
6 oz tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water

1. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil until blackened, about 5-8 minutes per side. Place the peppers in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for 15 minutes. Peel the peppers, then slice them in half. Remove the seeds and insides, then flatten each pepper and set aside.

2. Cook the ground beef in a saute pan. When the beef is cooked, add the onions and cook for a few more minutes to soften. Add a bit of water to the pan, and then season everything well with cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine, adding more water if necessary.

3. Puree the beans with a bit of water in a food processor. Mix the beans into the ground beef mixture.

4. To make the sauce, heat a bit of oil in a sauce pan. Add the onion, and saute until softened. Add the garlic, spices, salsa, tomato sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, then cook for about 15-20 minutes, until thickened.

5. Spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Add half of the poblano peppers in a layer, followed by half of the ground beef mixture and half of the cheese. Add the second layer of poblano peppers and the second layer of the ground beef mixture. Pour the sauce over top, and then top with the remaining cheese.

6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing. Top with sour cream and cilantro.