I never thought that I would be stringing together the words “mild” and “chile” in the same sentence. And, no, I am not referring to some wimpy green bell pepper. I mean jalapeños, baby, and maybe habaneros or serranos, or any kind of chile that you speak of in hushed tones with a trace of trembling fear in some back room with the lights on.
You can and will conquer chiles with a little help of Mexican crema, a tangy sauce that is closer to crème fraîche than to sour cream. It is the sauce that gives that cool creamy edge to Baja-style fish tacos and enchiladas and other dishes that call for a touch of dairy.
Perhaps it is an exaggeration to say that crema will completely douse the fire of a hot chile, but instead of crying and calling for the paramedics, you will be making so many yummy sounds that everybody will tell you to shut up. For once, chiles con crema will help you to fully enjoy the chile flavors you were missing out on as you were busy jumping up and down from the pain: the sweetness, the spicy yumminess, the cool-hot-romance of chiles and crema together. Try these chiles with some creamy refried beans, some corn tortillas and una cerveza, and it will be only love you will feel for the mean little chile that once scared you to death.
Use any hot or mild fresh chile you have on hand. If you cannot find Mexican crema, no problem. Sour cream is good enough in a pinch. If you need to reheat this dish but the sauce has become too thick for your liking, you can always add a bit of crema or milk to thin it.
CHILES CON CREMA
6 poblano chiles
4 jalapeño chiles (optional)
2 T vegetable oil
1/3 onion, sliced into strips (optional)
One jar of Mexican Crema (about 15 fl. oz); or the equivalent of sour cream or crème fraîche
Salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Put the chiles in the pot, and parboil the Poblanos for about 6 minutes (only 4 or 5 minutes for smaller chiles like jalapeños), constantly pushing them under the boiling water. Remove the chiles and place them on a platter.
- Using a pair of metal tongs, take each chile and hold it over the flame of the gas burner of your stove. The skin of the chiles will burst almost instantly. Do the same for the jalapeños. Quickly place the chiles in a plastic bag and lightly cover with a towel.
- Do not wait for the chiles to cool completely. When they are still warm to the touch, remove them from the plastic bag. Chiles should be rather firm-fleshed. Use a knife to scrape off the charred outer skin of each chile. Cut off the stems and remove the seeds. Slice the chiles into strips.
- Over medium heat, heat vegetable oil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the chiles and the onion. When the chiles soften and the onion starts to caramelize, lower the heat and add the crema to cover. Once the crema is just hot, remove from the heat and season with salt to taste. Pour into a large bowl and serve right away.