Thanks for posting today, Cricket! Cricket is the author of the Home Crafting Mystery Series featuring protagonist Sophie Mae. The fourth book in the series, Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, releases July 1 from Midnight Ink.
Amidst the murder, mayhem, soap making and spinning, the characters in my Sophie Mae Reynolds Home Crafting Mysteries eat pretty well. That's especially the case when the home craft that provides the backdrop for the murder plot involves food. And in Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, to be released on July 1st, it does: cheese making.
Sophie Mae travels back to her home town of Spring Creek, Colorado to look into her brother's suicide eighteen years after the fact. A suicide notes has surfaced, and with her penchant for investigation she hopes to bring closure to her parents after nearly two decades of wondering.
It's August when she arrives, which means lots of fresh garden produce. She's learning how to make cheese at the local dairy, so there is plenty of fresh cheese available. And it's Colorado, so Mexican food is popular. Her father, Calvin Watson, takes over most of the cooking in this book. One of his specialties is baked chile rellenos.
Baked Chile Rellenos
8-10 fresh poblano chiles (also known as ancho chiles)
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon nitrate-free bacon grease
1 small onion, diced (about a cup)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
29 ounces canned, diced tomatoes (2 cans)
1 cup chorizo (or other spicy sausage), cooked and drained
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 cup crumbled queso fresco (found near the ricotta in most grocery stores)
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced (or if you have epazote -- Mexican oregano -- use that)
12 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups Monterey jack or mild Cheddar, shredded
If you can find the chiles already roasted at a grocery store or farmer's market, snap them up. Otherwise, wash the fresh chiles thoroughly and place on a hot grill, turning often with tongs, until the skin blisters and begins to blacken. You're not looking to cook them so much as loosen the skins without burning holes in the peppers you'll be stuffing. When blistered all over, put in a plastic bag to cool. The peppers will have softened and the skins should rinse right off. And if you leave a bit of skin here and there, no big deal. Carefully remove the stems and as many seeds as possible. Pat dry.
Heat canola oil and bacon grease (or 2 Tablespoons of canola oil if the idea of bacon grease is verboten) and cook onion until just translucent over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two until the aroma is released. Add the tomatoes, with juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Pour thickened sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan, spreading evenly.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine cooked chorizo, chicken, queso fresco and oregano. Salt to taste. I usually add at least a teaspoon, since the cheese isn't salted. Carefully stuff the mixture into the peppers and lay them on top of the tomato sauce. There will be splits and occasional holes in the peppers -- don't worry. Like paneer, queso fresco doesn't melt and dribble out when heated! So the peppers will still retain integrity when baked.
Spread half the shredded cheese over the peppers.
Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl, or use the low setting on an electric mixer. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt, incorporating thoroughly. Pour egg mixture over the peppers. Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over the top and bake the chile rellenos until the egg mixture is set but still tender, about 40 minutes. Start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.
My favorite accompaniments are homemade refried beans (http://www.hearthcricket.com/2010/04/refried-beans.html
), a simple salad, guacamole and sour cream. Oh, and maybe a pale ale.
I should mention that poblanos vary in heat, so it's hard to predict how hot these will be. If you like heat, go for it. Use all chorizo and leave out the chicken, use pepper jack instead of plain. But if you like less heat, use all chicken, or stuff with sauteed mushrooms, more shredded Monterey jack or Cheddar, or pork carnitas. You can even use chopped shrimp if that's the way you roll. After all, the best recipes are the ones you can make your own, right?
Look for other recipes from the Home Crafting Mystery Series, along with my ramblings on writing and all things domestic over at www.hearthcricket.com
. For more information about my books, check out www.cricketmcrae.com
Avery's "You Be The Sleuth" Contest!
Avery’s first book in A Cheese Shop Mystery series, The Long Quiche Goodbye, debuts July 6. To celebrate its release, Avery is running a contest from June 9 to July 6! You be the sleuth! Track down the recipe on Avery's website that includes eggs, Edam, and white pepper. Enter your answer by clicking on this link: CONTEST ENTRY FORM.
One of you will win a $25 gift certificate at your favorite bookstore. Two of you will win signed copies of The Long Quiche Goodbye. Three of you will win a Long Quiche Goodbye magnet. You can ask friends for help. Spread the word and share the fun. And while you're there, consider pre-ordering a book on Avery's booksellers page.
Here is the link to Avery’s website to help get you started.