American Regional Cooking: Poblanos Rellenos

Finally, a weekend at home! I have been keeping up with my cooking, but I feel like I just haven’t been giving it the right attention while I have been traveling these past two weeks. Time to rectify that. This week I will be cooking from American Regional Cookery. This book was published in 1946 and was written by Sheila Hibben. One of the things that I love about this book as a concept is that as you skim through the pages, each recipe is attributed to a particular state, regional, or area such as Washington DC, Boston, or Manhattan.

Regional cooking has always been a very interesting concept to me. My mother, step-father, sisters, twin step brothers, and I all moved to Atlanta from Alabama right before I was to start middle school. You would think that would be enough time for me to have solid opinions and knowledge on Georgia holiday food by now right? Wrong. Prior to getting married to my Georgia-born-and-raised husband, I had never been in the state of Georgia for Thanksgiving or Christmas, despite living having lived here for more than a decade. So when it comes to my holiday cooking, Alabama has that part of my life pretty well locked down. However, this did provide some funny realizations as my husband and I began cooking together when we were dating and I made cornbread. I grew up in a world where you cook cornbread in a cast iron skillet, and if you poured it more than 3 inches thick you would scoop it back in the mixing bowl and try again. This I learned was not the only way to do things. My husband had several questions, 1 – why did I need cast iron (um, which I still don’t understand as being a valid question) and 2 – why was my cornbread so thin? Turns out, his family uses a loaf pan, so it winds up looking more like a pound cake when it is done.

Anyway, by any regional definition of the United States as a whole, I have lived in “The South” my whole life. However, differences in cooking techniques in as little distance as Alexander City, Alabama to Marietta, Georgia show up all the time. With Georgia and Alabama not being that far apart and still having differences, you have to wonder how a biscuit made from Virginia, versus one from Georgia, versus one from New England will all compare to one another. And, how do the memories the contributors have with these recipes compare to my own?

I decided for this recipe I would reach for a cuisine that has a special place in my heart in both Georgia and Alabama. I’m going to cook some Mexican. Specifically, I am going to make Poblanos Rellenos with Red Enchilada Sauce.

The Book:

American Regional Cookery

Sheila Hibben, 1946

Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

This recipe comes from Santa Fe, according to this 1946 regional cooking book. I also had to update the recipe quite a bit, as I do not cook with “lard” per-se. However, I added a tablespoon of bacon grease (what southern girl doesn’t have that in the fridge?) as a substitute.

2 Cans diced tomatoes

3 finely diced mini sweet peppers

2 tablespoons bacon grease

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

1 sprig of thyme

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

Add the tomatoes, peppers, and onion to a large pot. I then used my ever-so-handy KitchenAid Immersion Blender to break up the larger pieces and create a more sauce-like texture (if you don’t have one of these, just put the ingredients into a blender or a food processor to accomplish the same thing). Heat the bacon grease in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the tomato mixture, along with the garlic, salt, thyme, and parsley. Cook slowly for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce just starts to thicken. (note: if you are using this sauce for another recipe, such as eggs rancheros, you should cook the sauce down longer).

Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Poblanos Rellenos

For those of you interested, this recipe does not come from Santa Fe specifically, but rather is attributed to all of New Mexico!

4 large Poblanos peppers

4 cups mozzarella cheese (shredded)

3 eggs


Salt and pepper

Before beginning:

Take a second frying pan and heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. If you are cooking this at the same time as the Red Enchilada Sauce above, this is a second frying pan.

Step 1: Prepare the peppers

Put the peppers on a wire broiler over low fire (this can also be done on a gas burner or on a grill, and for the record we I threw them on the grill). When the skins rise and begin to blister, remove the peppers and stick them into a large Ziploc bag. Seal immediately. When the peppers have sweated inside the bag and become cool enough to handle, remove the peppers, and take the skins off with a sharp knife. Make a slit in one side of the peppers to remove veins and seeds.

Step 2: Stuff

Fill the peppers with cheese. Once filled, close the peppers and seal with a toothpick

Step 3: Cook

Beat the eggs. Carefully dip the peppers into the eggs. Sift peppers lightly with flour, along with a little salt and cayenne pepper. Once that is done, add the peppers to the hot skillet with the oil. Fry the peppers, browning on all sides. As the peppers are done, take them out of the oil and place them carefully into the enchilada sauce. Let them cook in the sauce for ~15 minutes. Plate the peppers and pour remaining sauce over them to serve.

1940s Poblanos Rellanos

That’s all there is to it! I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as we did.

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