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The piquant flavor of mediocrity: Chiles Rellenos…casserole

All week I was craving Chiles Rellenos. You know what? I still am.

Oh, they were going to be brilliant in their wild inauthenticity. Stuffed with a beautifully balanced medley of Spanish-style chorizo (not even Mexican!), broccoli collards (who’s ever heard of such a thing!) and queso blanco (who knew the kind you buy at Whole Foods doesn’t melt at ALL!) – you were going to be stunned by the way the American south oozed gloriously out of perfectly pan-fried bundles of south of the border.


Saturday night. 9 p.m. Justifiably exhausted, oddly self-aware, weepy preschooler (“I’m only crying because I’m tired!”). Old-school broiler under the stove – a sick, inaccessible joke on the very pregnant – cooks the poblanos too much instead of just blistering the skin. Surgical slit, precisely cut to remove the seeds from inside the chiles, enlarges to gaping, chile-length gash. Six times. In the interest of not feeding the preschooler PB&J, homemade heirloom tomato sauce comes off the stove before thoroughly reduced, the pool of drippy liquid underneath each theoretically plated, exploded chile already visible in the mind’s eye. It’s five o’clock somewhere…casserole time. Chiles Rellenos Casserole, it will be called, more by way of memorial than description – since the chiles are in fact splayed out limply in the casserole dish and fit to be rellenos (meaning “stuffed,” in case I’m not alone in wisely having chosen super-practical French and Italian over the ability to say good morning to 20.2 percent of my neighbors) with nada.

I will burden you not with a recipe for this deeply imperfect casserole, but merely with a weakly convincing moral: despite it all, the casserole tasted really pretty decent (though I am supposed to tell you that it triggered umami boy’s sweat response) and, with all those mutilated fresh veggies oozing out everywhere, was really a very nutritious dinner to feed a growing family. So enjoy the glorious tastes of summer as you will, secure in the knowledge that, even in the worst of times, the piquant flavor of mediocrity will shine through. Good night, and good luck.


Hi there, I'm Carolyn, and I'm delighted you're here. I'm a NYC-area food, travel, yoga, coffee, wine, running, music making and book obsessive with a great family and a love for sharing it all with you. Grab a drink and come on in. Learn more.

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