Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Roasted Poblano Peppers and Mushroom Queso Fundido Tacos

We had the most amazing trip to Santa Barbara for a very dear friend's wedding. Congrats again, RR + MS! RR you made my last couple years in Chicago unforgettable, and I will never forget our crazy adventures! Lots of love and best wishes to you both!

While in Santa Barbara, we absolutely had to go to La Super-Rica Taqueria, a tiny taqueria that Julia Child frequented when she spent time in Santa Barbara. We stood in line for an hour, hungry and hungover from the incredibly awesome wedding festivities. As we waited, we watched the tiny kitchen make fresh tortillas and talked to the locals about their favorite taco. The consensus was one word, rajas.

Rajas is a style of preparing poblano peppers. The rajas tacos were fabulous: roasted poblano peppers and melted cheese on top of a fresh tortilla. I haven't come across Mexican food like this in San Francisco (I miss having these back in Chicago).  Satisfied and ridiculously happy, we spent the rest of the day soaking up sun on the beach.

The rajas at La Super-Rica reminded me of having warm tortillas with queso fundido, melted cheese with roasted poblano peppers and mushrooms. I first had queso fundido in Chicago at Rick Bayless's restaurant Frontera. It was absolutely wonderful, but seriously, what is there not to love about melty, cheesy goodness? We couldn't wait to have a night of queso fundido con rajas y hongos (queso with roasted poblano peppers and mushrooms) and roasted corn tacos.

The approach for roasting poblano peppers is pretty straightforward. Place the peppers on a baking sheet under the broiler and turn them occasionally until charred on all sides.  Remove the peppers from the oven and place them in a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap, peel off the charred skin and remove the stem and seeds. Avoiding washing the peppers or you will lose some of the flavor. Slice into 1/4" wide 2" long strips.

We spooned the queso fundido deliciousness onto a warm white corn tortilla, topped it with a heaping spoon of roasted corn, a sliced avocado drizzled with lime juice, and sprinkle some queso fresco and fresh chopped cilantro on top.

Add one of these. Fabulousness.

Roasted poblano peppers and mushroom queso fundido and roasted corn tacos

For the queso fundido
2 poblano chiles
1/2 yellow or white onion, sliced thinly
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
6 oz wild mushrooms (I used a mix of oyster, shiitake, and cremini), stemmed and sliced
1/2 tsp oregano or fresh epazote leaves
6 oz Monterrey jack cheese or Chihuahua cheese
olive oil
kosher salt and ground black pepper

about a dozen small tortillas

For the taco
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 ear)
olive oil
sea salt
handful of cilantro
lime wedges
1 avocado, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled

Preheat the broiler. Wash and dry the poblano peppers. Place them on a baking sheet in a single layer without overcrowding and place on the rack about 6" from the broiler. Turn peppers occasionally until charred on all sides.  Remove from oven and place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, peel off the charred skin and remove the stem and seeds. Do not wash the peppers or you will lose some of the flavor. Cut the peppers into 1/4 inch wide strips about 2 inches long.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Shuck the corn. In a medium bowl, toss the corn with 1 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread the corn in the hot skillet and let it roast without stirring for about 1 minute. Give the corn a quick stir or two and remove from the pan. Transfer to bowl for serving.

In the same pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add sliced onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes; add garlic, and cook about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir constantly until softened and any juice released is cooked off. Stir in the poblano strips, taste and season with salt.

Transfer mixture to an au gratin dish or a casuela. Stir cheese into the mixture. Set in the oven and bake until the cheese is just melted but has not begun to separate or look greasy, between 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with oregano and serve immediately with warm tortillas (microwave wrapped in a paper towel for 20-30 seconds until pliable, keep covered until use).

To assemble the tacos, spoon some queso fundido onto a tortilla. Top with a heaping spoon of roasted corn, a slice of avocado, and sprinkle some queso fresco and cilantro on top.

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