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Why You Should Be Cooking with Poblanos

Get to know the perfect pepper for anyone who doesn’t like the heat

Photo: John Burgoyne

First birthday parties often have a theme. Say, Trucks! Or Unicorns! But when Christopher Patrick’s son, Fin, turned one in February, the chef went in a different direction—Tex-Mex. And he created a dish the adults would go gaga for: a deconstructed take on Mexican street corn, or elote. “I made a bar with all of the toppings,” says Patrick, the executive chef at Abacus in Dallas. “My wife called it Fin’s First Fiesta.” To give his recipe the ultimate smoky and slightly spicy flavor, Patrick relies on fresh-roasted poblano peppers, which are widely available in early summer. “I love any ingredients derived from Tex-Mex, Southwestern, or Mexican regional cuisines,” says the chef, who is inspired by his wife’s Mexican heritage (the poblano is thought to have originated in Puebla, Mexico). “There are so many interesting ingredients and so much diversity.” Poblanos often bring to mind chiles rellenos, but they also add smoky bite and mild warmth to ceviche, steak tartare, tartar sauce, or salads. They’re on the low end of the pepper-heat scale—above bell and banana, below Thai and serrano. “Poblanos can easily be used in place of jalapeños in most recipes,” Patrick says. “Personally, I like them in rice, salsa verde, sautéed with corn, or in cornbread.” When eyeing poblanos at the market, look for dark green peppers that are firm and blemish free, have a slight sheen, and are a bit bigger than your hand. If you can’t use them right away, roast, peel, seed, and freeze them for future salsas and sauces. Or store them in the refrigerator (up to a week) to work the versatile capsicums into your weekend supper plans. “There is an old saying that if veggies can naturally grow together in the same area, they will taste great together,” Patrick says. “Poblanos work well with tomatoes, corn, okra— essentially anything that can stand the Texas heat.”


Mexican Street Corn off the Cob

Yield: 4–6 servings

4 poblano peppers
6 ears of corn on the cob, in husk 1⁄4 cup salted butter, melted
1 cup crema Mexicana (available in the international foods aisle at most grocery stores)
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
1⁄2 cup cilantro, chopped
1⁄2 cup scallions, chopped
1⁄2 cup Cotija cheese, grated Valentina hot sauce, to taste

Place the peppers and the corn on a hot grill and turn frequently until charred on all sides. Move them to a large bowl and cover. Allow to steam for 20 minutes. Using a towel, remove the charred pepper skins and the stems. Cut open and remove white ribs and seeds. Cut into strips and dice into quarter-inch cubes. Remove husk from corn and cut kernels off the cob. In a large bowl, combine diced peppers, corn kernels, butter, crema, lime juice, cilantro, and scallions. Toss gently to mix. Garnish with cheese and hot sauce. Serve warm.