I was in Durango at a small restaurant in which they served a dish of rajas con crema as a condiment with other assorted salsas and chiles en escabeche. I tasted it and was so completely taken, I kept asking them to bring me more. It was creamy and spicy, with a tiny bit of sweetness from the charred chiles and the onion. The poblanos here in the northern states seem to be hotter than those in the US, so it does read a little more like a hot condiment, but I love the extra heat and am crazy for these rajas as a taco filling or as a side dish for grilled meat or fish. But honestly, I could eat this right out of the skillet wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. This to me is pure comfort food.
8 large chiles poblanos (2.2 lb/1 kg)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 oz/28 g)
½ large white onion (6 oz/180 g),thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 1/8 teaspoons Morton kosher salt (0.28 oz/8 g)
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup crema, crème fraîche, or sour cream
Tortillas de Harina con Mantequilla (see below)
1. To roast the chiles on a gas stove: Turn all of the burners on to high and set 2 chiles poblanos on each grate. Char, using tongs to turn them occasionally, until all sides are charred, for about 4 minutes per side. To roast the chiles in the broiler: Arrange a rack in the top position and preheat the broiler to high. Arrange the chiles poblanos on a sheet pan and char under the broiler, turning occasionally, until all sides are charred, for 2 to 4 minutes per side. To roast the chiles on a grill: Preheat a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Set the chiles poblanos directly on the grate. Char, using tongs to turn them as they char on all sides, for about 4 minutes per side.
2. Transfer the chiles poblanos to a large bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes.
3. Carefully remove the stems, peel, and seeds from each chile (use gloves if you have them—poblanos can be spicy; don’t be tempted to rinse with water, you’ll wash off all of the flavor). Cut the chiles lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and set the rajas aside until ready to use.
4. In a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic, and salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, for 6 to 8 minutes.
5. Add the rajas, milk, and crema and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, for about 10 minutes.
6. Make tacos with the warm tortillas de harina and rajas con crema.
Tortillas de Harina con Mantequilla
I love all tortillas, but tortillas de harina have a special place in my heart. My family is from Monterrey and Torreón in the north of México, where flour tortillas are more common than corn tortillas; the climate and geography of the northern states is more suitable for growing wheat than corn. When I was little, my mom would make flour tortillas from scratch, but by the 1980s, packaged flour tortillas were becoming more common. My mom started buying them and would only make homemade ones on special occasions. When I visited home from college, she always asked me what I wanted her to make. I always said chile colorado and flour tortillas. I remember opening the door to hear her rolling pin clicking on the granite countertop. I’d walk in and she’d greet me with a long hug, a kiss, and a warm tortilla.
To get a lighter and softer tortilla, I added a little baking powder for additional lift and some milk to tenderize the dough. And I swapped in butter for lard or shortening, which is more traditional, because I love butter and because butter is used in flour tortillas in communities with large dairy farms. But you can substitute vegetable shortening or lard if you prefer.
MAKES 16 TORTILLAS
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon Morton kosher salt (0.21 oz/6 g)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (2.5 oz/70 g) or shortening
3 cups all-purpose flour (13.2 oz/375 g), plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and salt until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan (the milk should be 180°F), for 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter until it melts. Let cool for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder until combined.
3. Pour in the warm milk mixture and stir using a rubber spatula until a shaggy dough forms. When cool enough to handle, knead the dough in the bowl until smooth, for about 3 minutes. The dough should be soft and only very slightly elastic but not sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour to relax the dough.
4. Divide the dough into 16 portions the size of Ping-Pong balls (about a scant 3 tablespoons or 46 g each). Arrange on a sheet pan and keep covered with a damp kitchen towel until ready to use. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 7-inch round.
5. Heat a comal, medium cast-iron skillet, or griddle over medium-high heat. Cook the tortillas one at a time (unless you’re using a large griddle), reducing the heat if they get dark too quickly, or until air bubbles form on the surface and there are brown spots on the bottom, for about 30 seconds. Poke any large bubbles with a fork to release the steam. Flip the tortillas and continue to cook until there are brown spots on the bottom of the second side, for about 30 seconds. Remove from the skillet and set in the center of a kitchen towel, wrapping it to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, continuing to stack the tortillas as they finish cooking.
6. Serve warm. Wrap any leftover tortillas tightly in plastic and refrigerate. Reheat on a comal, cast-iron skillet, or griddle until soft and warm.
Reprinted with permission from Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martinez copyright © 2022. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Ren Fuller. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
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