I love new experiences. Branching out. Discovering new tastes. Savoring each bite. I love that moment… You know that moment when something new, something exciting hits your taste buds and a part of your brain you didn’t know existed comes alive and the world just seems that much brighter, that much crisper. I do love those moments. But I don’t know if they’d be half as rewarding if it weren’t for those other moments–the ones in which you sink back into your favorite chair, grab the remote, turn on a rerun of your favorite show, and begin devouring mouthfuls of a dish you’ve been eating since childhood. I guess you’d call those comfort food moments.
This is definitely one of the latter. I’ve been having this Chile Relleno Casserole since the days when I wore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tank tops. But back to things I’d like to remember: namely, the eclectic range of comfort food dishes I had growing up. By “eclectic comfort food” I mean dishes that may have originated in different parts of the world, but have since become Americanized, a process that usually involves turning various exotic dishes into casseroles and adding lots of cheese (none of which is a bad thing in my book). All of them remind me of warm childhood moments. Most of them have a glorious simplicity. A good many of them have generous amounts of cheese. Spanakopita. Macaroni & Cheese. Egg & Cheese Souffle. Chicken pot roast. And Chile Relleno.
It’s easy enough to make. Big enough for a whole family. And yet, convenient as it is, I get the feeling that that’s not why I keep coming back to it. Rather I think it has more to do with the name itself: comfort food. When life gets a bit too crazy, when the bad things in the world seem to overwhelm the good, when it feels as if I’ve lost my footing, I come back to these old favorites. And for at least one moment, everything seems to be alright. It’s those moments that prepare me for the rest of life. For lack of a better phrase, they recharge my batteries, and get me itching for more exciting adventures in culinary wonderlands.
Chile Relleno Casserole
- 1 (28 oz) can whole jalapenos, drained, halved, and seeded
- 2 (7 oz) cans whole green chilies, drained, halved and seeded
- 2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated, separated
- 2 1/2 cups jalapeno-jack cheese, grated, separated
- 6 eggs, separated
- 2 1/4 cups evaporated milk
- 4 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 2 (6 0z) cans tomato paste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Whisk egg yolks, evaporated milk and flour into a medium bowl.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks in a large bowl. Place 1/3 of egg mixture over egg whites. Fold in. Place next 1/3 of egg yolk mixture and fold. Place last 1/3 and fold again.
Place 1/2 of jalapenos and 1/2 of green chilies, equally spaced on top of cooking spray in baking dish. Top with 2 cups of cheddar cheese.
Place the other 1/2 o the jalapenos and green chilies, spaced equally over cheddar cheese. Top with 2 cups of jalapeno-jack cheese.
Mix the rest of the 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup of jalapeno-jack cheese together in a small bowl.
Place all of egg white/yolk mixture on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until top is golden brown, springs back to touch and custard is completely set.
Remove from oven and top with all of the tomato paste and sprinkle with the cheeses.
Return to oven 10-20 minutes, until cheeses are melted and bubbling.