Written by Alan Zox Tuesday, 16 October 2012 00:00
It’s a pleasure to introduce myself to the readers of this column. I have been thinking about food since childhood when I helped my family grow vegetable gardens in Iowa, and later as a professor of cultural anthropology and as a private chef and caterer for families.
Food evokes many happy memories. My grandmother who lived with us during my childhood brought many recipes from her home in Eastern Europe to our new home in Iowa. She taught me to pickle cucumbers, make noodle pudding, and savor matzoh ball soup. Friends and colleagues introduced me to other culinary delights. My Indian friend Vivian introduced me to Tandoori chicken. I never heard of eggplant parmesan until my Italian friends introduced it to me. And southern-style BBQ became a special treat when I visited my best high school buddy, Sonny, who had moved to Iowa from Kansas City where cooking BBQ “low and slow” not grilled, was the norm.
Like others, over time I have become more self-conscious of my own health but no less interested in flavorful cuisine. Now, however, I am paying more attention to my sodium intake, and to low-fat, healthy eating. These days you will see me reading ingredients in the grocery aisle of the local Stop and Shop. This column will reflect this focus and attention on low sugar, healthy, nutritious food that retains flavor. For me this doesn’t mean trying to escape our roots and the foods that bring comfort and nostalgia. Rather, it can merely mean eating less meat, macaroni and cheese, or eggplant parmesan and becoming more aware of what we consume. Let’s explore these choices together.
I invite you to contact me through my blog found on www.zoxkitchen.com or email me directly about a food topic of interest. This should be fun and personal. I look forward to hearing from you.
- Chef Alan Zox
Chiles come in different flavors. Some are mild; some are not. One especially appetizing is called the poblano. It’s not without heat but not that much - about 500 - 2,000 on the Scoville heat scale compared to 5000 - 8000 for the popular chipotle chile. But most important to know is that the poblano has an earthy flavor year-round that has limitless culinary possibilities.
One is called the Chile Relleno or Stuffed Chile. I always loved eating them but couldn’t tolerate more than one without suffering indigestion. Between the frying, the eggs and the stuffed pork, I wondered if I could reconfigure this special treat without losing the flavor.
I was after less fat and more flavor - meaning no frying, no whites, no oil. Alas, I would have to give up the crispiness but it seemed like a good start - blissful flavor without the agita that followed. Roasting the peppers first in the oven and then peeling the skin after steaming them always improves the flavor. I stuffed the peppers with shredded chicken I had roasted rather than pork. Then I created a roast tomato sauce with one chipotle blended with balsamic vinegar and sweet butter. I could roast the chicken stuffed peppers without adding oil or egg whites. Next I pour the blended tomato and chipotle sauce over the poblanos with one tablespoon of shredded soft cheese and reheat them in the oven.
4 large poblano chiles – approximately 6 inches in length
2 large organic chicken breasts, 12-16 oz. in total
3 roasted tomatoes (cut in half leaving skin) and 1 roasted jalapeno
5 oz. butter; ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup soft cheese like Finlandia or your favorite melting cheese.
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Carefully cut an opening in the side of each breast and insert 1 oz. of butter. Roast at 375 F for 50 minutes. Add another 4-5 minutes if you prefer more well-done. Let cool, and shred the chicken with a fork and set aside. Next roast the poblanos, tomatoes and jalapeno at 425 F for approximately 30 minutes. Turn over after 15 minutes. Remove from oven and steam poblanos by covering with a towel for 10-15 minutes. When cool, remove skin, seeds and veins. This can be done under a kitchen faucet. Leave stems in place. Carefully stuff each poblano with 3 tablespoons of shredded chicken. There should be plenty of chicken for all 4 poblano chilies. Close all stuffed chiles by folding over the skin. If any skin is torn, merely place it back where it belongs. Using a spatula, carefully place all stuffed poblanos in a 9” x 12” casserole dish for reheating and set aside. Next puree the roasted tomatoes and jalapeno, 1 oz. butter, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and pour over each poblano. Finally when ready to eat, spread 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese on each chile and reheat for 10 to 12 minutes at 400 F until cheese has melted.