On Keeping Your Cool

ancho pork chops and chile relleno

The weather outside is telling us that those pretty green leaves over yonder might be turning into something even prettier soon – red, orange, and yellow. Boy do I love the fall. When I lived in North Carolina, fall was without a doubt my favorite season. Here in Chicago though, I lean towards the summer since I’m less inclined to apply deodorant ten times a day here as I am back in NC. Even that fancy hi-intensity stuff doesn’t cut it there. Here, I don’t walk out of my house at 7:30 in the morning with sweat glistening on my forehead or running down my back. We don’t need to carry around battery-powered fans and we surely don’t need sunscreen to go to the grocery store.

Heck, this summer I probably could have worn a jacket every day and been just fine. For cryin’ out loud – what did you do with my summer, Chicago?! And already, already you’re letting that gentle fall breeze come right in and send you packing until next June? We waited so long for you and all you did was tease us. I am disappointed….I want my summer back!! I want my leaves to be green, and quite frankly, I’d like to sweat a little longer. If you must know.

roasted poblano

Forgive me, pals. I’ve been a little angry these past couple of days and I’m trying to hide it as best I can. It isn’t just this crazy cool weather that’s gotten me all up in arms. I tell you in all honesty – I think my face has gotten as red as this ancho chile powder you see in that there bowl down there. I don’t like to be angry, I really don’t. Being angry just makes me mad and even sad. Being angry and hurt – it literally engulfs your entire being and every single thought. Even what you type. But don’t worry, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. Hoping real hard.

But until that feeling dissipates, maybe it’s fittin’ to talk about these poblanos I managed to stuff full as a tick with potatoes, cheese, and cumin this past weekend. Or maybe instead, I’ll talk about the dried poblano powder, or ancho chile powder, that I rubbed all over those juicy pork chops. And I can’t forget the sauce that tied these two pieces together so artistically – the slowly reduced pot of orange juice, cinnamon, tomato, and ancho chile powder that I think might even be good on pancakes if given the chance. Well…maybe.

chile relleno mix

I’m sure you’ve eaten or used poblanos before, right? Or am I assuming too much here? Either way, here’s the low-down: They’re fairly mild, for chiles, but every once and a while they pack some surprising and intense heat. There is no way to tell if you’re gonna get a hot one or not. Sorta like me, as I like to generally consider myself a nice, mild-tempered person. Seriously. But if pushed close enough to a flame, I can really catch on fire (like the first batch of tostadas from Friday night’s dinner).

Poblanos are used in a number of ways: dried (think ancho powder or ancho chile), fried (think Mexican restaurants and peppers dripping with lovely tasty fry oil), in sauces (think mole), or like here, stuffed and grilled (think healthy relleno) to a perfect state of cheesy gooey goodness.

ancho spice rub for pork

And that sauce. And those chops. A perfect trio, for rizzle. The ancho-salt rub adds just enough flavor to the chops to stand on their own in a pinch, but enough lingering flavor to welcome that yummy sauce with the sweet, peppery, spicy, wicked loveliness.

And for you gluten-free kids, it’s your lucky day. This recipe is gluten-free as-is. Dairy free – it is not. So for my gluten/lactose/soy intolerant buddy, his wife happily provided some rice cheese that melted into those chiles almost as good as the white cheddar on ours. He didn’t seem to notice as he gulped his last bite, winning the ‘who finishes first’ race by a landslide.

grilled pork choppies

For all of you looking to maintain your cool in this crazy weather, this chop and chile combo is sure to satisfy. Packed with spice but low on the Richter, or rather Scoville, scale. Here’s to better days with less heat, in more ways than one.

Pork Chops w/ Chile Rellenos & Ancho Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2009; serves 4

4 large poblano chiles
1 t ground cumin
8 oz unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 c coarsely grated sharp white cheddar cheese*
1 T chopped fresh marjoram or oregano, plus leaves for garnish
1 c low sodium chicken broth (Swanson for g-free)
1/2 c orange juice
5 t ancho chile powder, divided
1 T honey
1 T Italian double-concentrated tomato paste (in tubes)
1 cinnamon stick
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 T coarse kosher salt
4 1-inch thick pork loin chops on bone, frenched
olive oil

Char chiles over gas flame or in broiler until blackened all over. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let steam 15 minutes. Peel carefully, leaving stem intact and not ripping chiles. Using small knife cut slit down one side of each chile and take out seeds.

Toast cumin in small skillet over med-hi until dark and fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.

Line baking sheet with foil. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. Transfer to medium bowl and let cool. Add cumin, oregano/marjoram, cheese and stir. Season w/ salt and pepper. Carefully fill chiles with mixture. After filling, squeeze gently to compress chiles slightly and place on baking sheet.

Combine broth, juice, 2 t chile powder, and next 4 ingredients in small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until slightly thickened and reduced to 2/3 cup, ~9-10 minutes. (I took the cinnamon stick out halfway through). Strain and sit aside.

Mix 3 t chile powder and 1 T coarse salt in bowl. Rub over pork chops on both sides and let stand at room temp up to 2 hours.

Prepare grill to medium. Brush chops with oil and place on one side of grill. Transfer chiles (on foil) to the other side. Grill chops ~4 minutes on each side and grill chiles until cheese is melty and bubbly and looking delicious, about 15 minutes. Let pork sit 10 minutes.

If sauce is cooled, rewarm. Drizzle over chops and chiles. Sprinkle with oregano and serve.

*if preparing for dairy/soy free needs, can use a pre-shredded rice cheese as needed. I used enough for 1 poblano and the other 3/4 cheddar

8 thoughts on “On Keeping Your Cool

  1. Jenn Sutherland says:

    Wow – this looks amazing! Thanks for thinking of us gluten-freers! I hope whatever is going on in your life is resolved quickly and smoothly.

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