About once a week, I'll receive a text from my wife that simply says, "I feel like Mexican food." The last twenty years, I have received this little message by voice mail, email and anything in between. I'll bet if she tried, she could smoke signal a 911 for chicken enchiladas.
What is it about this food that Texas folks like me have become so addicted to? I can't get enough of the stuff and throw in a frozen margarita or two and I'm the happiest man on the planet.
One of my favorite Mexican food joints of all time will always be Matt's Rancho Martinez located in Lakewood which is a little neighborhood community just east of Dallas. It's where my wife and I had are first home and given Matt's location, access to this melted cheese utopia was way too easy. We were just a few blocks away from Mexican Heaven.
The Martinez family spans six generations of Tex-Mex tradition dating back to Delfino Martinez who sold tamales and pralines from a push cart on the steps of the State Capital in Austin, Texas back in the 1920s.
Matt's signature dish, if you ever make it to Lakewood, is the Chile Rellenos with Tomatillo Sauce. The thing that threw me the first time I ever had it was the use of raisins and pecans which are sprinkled on the top. I know what you're thinking but man it's freagin' good.
This is a challenge recipe and it's not for a novice. I spent all day making Tomatillo Salsa and it's a whippin'. If you have the time, get together with friends and carve out an afternoon for creating some authentic Mexican cuisine. Make sure you have the Margarita recipe I posted a while back. You'll need it.
Matt's Chile Rellenos
For the Meat:
1 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet white onion
3 Tablespoons finely chopped celery
3 Tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
For the Rest:
1 batch Tomatillo Salsa (see below at bottom)
Oil for frying
6 fresh Anaheim peppers
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups grated American cheese
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans
To prepare the meat: Combine the ingredients in a 10-inch skillet. Saute' the meat over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until thoroughly cooked.
Prepare the salsa. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Completely wipe down and dry the Anaheim peppers. In a skillet, heat oil to a depth of 3/4 to 1 inch to 375 degrees. Roll the whole peppers around in the hot oil for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, causing them to blister. Remove the peppers, wrap them in a damp cloth, and let them sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, remove the pepper skins, split each pepper, seed, and remove all the membranes.
In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and black pepper. Dust the peppers in the flour mixture, roll them in the buttermilk, and dust each again in the flour. Fry the peppers in the oil over moderate heat until the batter is golden brown.
Arrange the fried peppers in an oven-proof dish. Divide the meat evenly over the tops of the pepper, then sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes, until the cheese starts to melt. While the dish is still in the oven, add the raisins and pecans, and continue baking for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese starts to bubble. Serve immediately.
Tomatillo Salsa (Green Sauce)
3 tablespoons oil of your choice
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 lb tomatillos finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno or serrano chile pepper
1 tablespoon crushed and finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro loosely packed
3 cups Chicken Broth
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat the oil in a heavy sauce pot and brown the onions. Mix in the tomatillos, chile peppers, garlic, and cilantro. Add 2 1/2 cups of the broth, and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Drizzle in the cornstarch, sugar, ad the last 1/2 cup of broth, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes on low heat while the salsa thickens.
If the sauce is too thick, add a little more broth to taste, just so it's not runny.