Chile Rellenos Are A Major Green Flag For Mexican Restaurant Menus

When most people walk into a Mexican restaurant, they have an idea of what the menu will offer. Tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa, and the ubiquitous margarita are sure to be present no matter where you are. Occasionally, you come across dishes listed as "house specialties" and wonder if you should forgo your usual chimichanga and try something new. If you happen to see chiles rellenos as an option, it's almost always worth trying.

Chiles rellenos are roasted poblano peppers that are stuffed with cheese, coated in an egg batter and fried until golden brown. Sometimes the filling includes other things, such as meat and raisins, and they're often served with a red or green salsa. Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they're also a major chore to prepare at home. So ordering them in a Mexican restaurant where professional chefs do the work for you is a no-brainer. 

There are many steps in creating a good chile relleno; they're time-consuming, not to mention they involve potentially sputtering hot oil. If you can sit back and sip a cold cerveza while it's all done behind the scenes, why wouldn't you?

The many steps of chile rellenos

The first step in making chiles rellenos is roasting the peppers. This can be done in the oven, or you can place the chiles directly on a gas flame until the skin is blistered and charred. Next, the peppers need to steam, so they are put in a paper bag or in a bowl with plastic wrap on top until the skin peels off easily. Once skinned, a large slit is made in the pepper so that the seeds and membranes can be removed. The inside of the pepper is then stuffed with a good melting cheese, such as Monterey Jack or Oaxaca, and the slit is closed and secured with toothpicks.

The stuffed peppers are coated in flour and then fully dipped into a frothy egg batter that requires the egg whites to be beaten first with the yolks gently blended in. The coated peppers are then gently placed in hot oil and fried for a few minutes on each side until they are golden brown. They should be served immediately when they are still hot and the cheese is melted but don't forget to remove those toothpicks first. 

If it's all done right, chiles rellenos are one of the tastiest Mexican dishes you can find. Plenty of people make them right at home, but it's a nice little luxury being able to have them prepared for you and not deal with the prep, cooking, and cleanup of such a complicated dish.

Other dishes to keep your eye out for

Once you've sampled the chiles rellenos and had your eyes opened with realization, you might wonder what else you might be missing out on at your favorite Mexican restaurant. Every place is different, of course, but some of the things to look out for when it comes to dishes that might be worth trying are anything made with freshly made tortillas, house-made tortilla chips, table-side guacamole, specialty meats such as al pastor or barbacoa, and tamales.

No store-bought tortilla can compete with a freshly made one. If a restaurant is taking the extra effort to produce their own, they're likely putting in as much thought into the rest of their dishes. Even the simplest tacos and tostadas will be sublime with them. Plus, if they're advertising house-made tortilla chips, they're likely coming from those fresh tortillas. Table-side guacamole is made by a server or chef who comes to your table with all of the ingredients for the popular starter and makes it right in front of your eyes. In this case, you know you're getting something fresh and homemade. 

Specialty meats aren't available at all Mexican restaurants, so it's safe to assume that if they are available, the eatery knows how to do it well. Finally, tamales are very time-consuming to produce and are usually made around the holidays. If you can get them any other time of year, they're certainly worth trying.