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Recipe: Chiles Rellenos Casserole

December 30th, 2008 · 7 Comments

The holidays are about traditions as much as anything else, and my family had a particular way to celebrate them.  While I was growing up, our house was the evening stop on Christmas Eve for relatives and friends, who would congregate in the late afternoon and early evening for a meal centered on the contents of two very large pots on my mother’s stovetop.  One contained pinto beans, soaked and seasoned for a couple of days, and piping hot.  The other contained her wonderful chili, a crock-pot treatment of which I have perfected over the ensuing decades.  The meal also had a few other key ingredients.

Tortillas?  Check.

Sweet green chili cornbread?  Check.

And the secret weapon…the chiles rellenos casserole.

It was a memorable feast that rarely happened more than once a year.  It was no wonder that our house was the last stop of the day for most of the attendees; after that bounty, it was tough to move anywhere else but towards home.  I can remember many a member of my extended family crapped out on their backs on the living room floor, moaning, for an hour or two after eating that meal.

This year, I found myself in a position to cook the Christmas meals, and these feasts came immediately to mind.  I had never made either the casserole or the cornbread, and decided to try them both.  I am proud to state that the entire meal turned out beautifully and was a tremendous hit, and may very well have re-established my Mom’s Christmas Eve Mexican food feast as a new tradition in my house.

Chiles Rellenos Casserole (the Osuna version)
(photo: spitballarmy.com)

In the spirit of giving, here is the chiles rellenos recipe that I inherited from my mother, with my edits added in square brackets:


1½ lb. jack cheese
1 cup milk
3 eggs
3 tsp. flour
2 cans (about 7 oz.) whole Ortega green chili peppers [Next time, I will use three cans, just to pretend that I’m getting more green vegetables.]
a dash of salt
a dash of pepper

• Cut the cheese (!!) into strips about ¼ inch thick and 2 inches long.  [You can play with that measurement, of course, as the cheese will melt while cooking.]
• Clear the seeds from the peppers. [I did not do this, as I like the taste of the seeds.  These peppers are not jalapeño-hot, but have a roasted, rustic taste to them, and their seeds are not “the enemy.”]
• Cut the peppers into 3 thin strips.  [I also suggest patting the peppers good and dry.  I did not do this, and the water from the peppers made the first cut into the casserole really watery.]
• Put repeated layers of cheese and peppers into a greased 9″ x 9″ casserole pan.  [Glass or Pyrex works best.]
• Beat the egg whites until stiff.  [That’s not nearly as fun as it sounds.]
• Add flour, salt and pepper and beat.
• Add milk and egg yolks and beat again.
• Pour the mixture over the cheese and pepper layers in the casserole pan.
• Bake in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. [I cooked my dish for close to an hour, which gave the top of the dish a thin, brown, crusty cheese coating that contrasted nicely with the soft texture of the body of the casserole.  It tasted really good, too.]
• Let stand at least 15 minutes to allow setting.
• Cut into squares and serve with all of that other good stuff you’ve been preparing.

This dish tastes profoundly great with an icy bottle of Dos Equis, or a hearty and robust red wine.

I also found that if there is any left over the next day, it tastes great heated and rolled in a flour tortilla burrito-style.  Yum!

For dessert – back in the “old” days – we would enjoy my Granny’s empanadas, which she stuffed with sugary refried beans.  I know that sounds totally bizarre and unappetizing to anyone who’s never tried them, but it was one of the best things I’d eat all year until the following Chrismas or, maybe, Easter.  Does anyone have a good and tested recipe for that?

Tags: family · food · house

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brentski // Dec 30, 2008 at 8:21 AM

    Boy, that sounds good!

  • 2 Evelyn // Dec 30, 2008 at 4:32 PM

    It is good!!!!

  • 3 TommyT // Dec 30, 2008 at 4:46 PM

    Looks and sounds very appetizing. I’m gonna have to try cooking that myself – thanks for the recipe!

  • 4 spitballarmy // Dec 31, 2008 at 4:56 PM

    Let me know how it turns out for you, Tommy!

  • 5 Margy // Jan 2, 2009 at 6:10 PM

    I will send the empanada recipe – and I have a bit easier version of this casserole – thanks for the wonderful reminders of Christmas Eve’s past – don’t forget we would then go off to midnight mass to sing carols enthusiastically!

  • 6 spitballarmy // Jan 2, 2009 at 9:05 PM

    As Buddy the Elf would say: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”

  • 7 kay jacoby // Jun 1, 2009 at 9:52 AM

    I’m making that chile relleno dish asap!

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