Roasted Poblanos in Cream Sauce (Rajas con Crema)
The first time I had poblanos in a cream sauce (rajas de poblano con crema), it was at the breakfast buffet at a resort in Ixtapa, Mexico. Now, as you can tell from the photo, this isn’t the most attractive dish in the world. But I promise you, if you like poblano chile peppers, this is a fabulous way to serve them.
There’s a good reason spicy Mexican food is often served with dairy. Milk proteins neutralize the spicy capsaicin molecules in hot chilies. So you get less of the bite of the chile and more of the actual flavor of it. Meaning you will be able to better taste the wonderful roasted poblano chiles if they are bathed in a creamy sauce.
In this case, the sauce is made with Mexican “crema”, a sort of sour cream that’s a lot like crème fraîche, along with milk, and Monterey Jack cheese. First you roast the poblanos directly over flame to get them charred, for flavor and to make the easier to peel. Then you cut them into strips, and simmer them with sliced onions in the cream sauce. Serve them as a side to Mexican dishes, or rolled up in warmed tortillas. So good!
Poblanos in my garden
Most of the recipes I’ve found online for this dish have the strips cut fairly thin, about 1/2 inch thick or so. But in Ixtapa, where I was first introduced to poblanos in crema, the peppers were sliced thick, one or two inch wide strips. So that’s how I’ve reproduced them here. You can find Crema Mexicana at any Mexican market, or in California, any major grocery store. If you can’t find it where you are, you can substitute with creme fraiche, which is very similar.
- 6 fresh poblano chiles
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 white onion, sliced lengthwise (root to tip), 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Mexcian crema (Mexican sour cream) or crème fraîche
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 Char the whole poblano chile peppers on all sides. The best way to do this is over an open flame of a gas stove. Just place the raw whole chile peppers directly on the grate covering the flame and let the flame blacken the outside skin of the peppers. When one side has blackened, use tongs to turn the chile over a little so the flame can blacken another side. You can also use a broiler to blacken the chile peppers, but direct flame is the best way. Sometimes with a broiler the chiles end up cooking too much before they blacken. They should still be a little firm. This is easier to control when you cook them directly over flame. Once the peppers are blackened all over (you can still have a few green spots), place them in a paper bag or a thick plastic bag, close the bag, and let the chiles steam in their own heat for a few minutes.
2 When the chiles are cool to touch, remove them from the bag. Working over a sink (this part is messy) use your fingers or a damp towel to strip off the blackened parts. Try to avoid running the chiles themselves under water, as that may wash away some good flavor. But you may find it easier to rinse your hands with water as you are stripping the blackened bits off.
3 Once the blackened outer skin is removed, open up the chiles and cut out and discard the stems, seeds, and inner veins. Cut the chiles into long strips, about an inch wide. Many recipes call for thin strips, about a half inch wide, which you can do if you want. I just like them with thicker strips. Set aside.
4 Heat the butter (can use vegetable oil instead if you want) in a large cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.
5 Add the poblano chiles to the onions. Sprinkle the chiles with salt. Add the Mexican crema and the milk. Gently stir to coat the chiles. Let cook for several minutes, until the chiles are completely cooked through and the sauce is bubbly and a little reduced, then sprinkle in the grated jack cheese. Stir with the hot crema sauce until the cheese has melted and mixed in with the crema sauce.
Serve with warmed corn or flour tortillas.