Chile Rellenos Balls
Many New Mexicans, especially those who grew up in the central third of the state, know these party treats simply as “chiles rellenos.” They include chile, but they are not stuffed at all. Instead, these are batter-dipped beef-and-chile fritters, most likely created as an expedient way to mimic the flavor of a meaty relleno when serving crowds gathered for holidays and other celebrations. Typically, they are made ahead in big batches, cooled, then stored in paper-lined coffee cans to enjoy at room temperature over a few days. However, they are at their very best when fresh and hot.
Makes about 3 dozen
1 3/4 pound slab beef chuck
Kosher salt or sea salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup chopped roasted mild, medium, or hot New Mexican green chile, fresh or thawed frozen
1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional)
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
Vegetable oil or lard, for deep frying
For Rellenos Balls
Warm a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over high heat. Salt meat and then place it in skillet and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Scatter garlic cloves around meat. Pour in stock, and scrape up browned bits from bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, until tender. Check after about 1 hour and if liquid is in danger of evaporating completely, pour in a few tablespoons of hot water. Let meat cool in pan liquid and when it’s cool enough to handle, discard fat and pull meat into at least a half dozen chunks. Reduce remaining cooking liquid to about 2 tablespoons.
Chop together in meat and cooking liquid a food processor, pulsing just until meat is chopped uniformly. Add chile and pulse in several short bursts until chile is mixed in evenly. Mixture should be fairly finely chopped, but pieces of chile should be still visible. Mixture should be well-seasoned too. Add salt if you wish. Check texture of mixture. If it holds together when compacted tightly, it’s ready. If not, add 1 tablespoon of flour, and pulse once more until flour is mixed in. Test again. If not holding together, add up to 1 more tablespoon of flour and pulse again.
Form balls of meat-and-chile mixture just a smidgen smaller than golf balls. Arrange on a baking sheet. Refrigerate briefly while you ready the batter and oil.
Beat egg whites with a mixer until soft peaks form. Stop mixer, add egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of flour, then mix again just until combined.
Warm about 3 inches of oil in a broad saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat to 350° F. Place 1/2 cup flour in a shallow bowl. Arrange several thicknesses of paper towels within easy reach of stove.
Dredge balls first in flour, then in egg batter. Your first few may look a bit free-form rather than like perfect spheres. Experiment to see if you find batter-dipping easiest with fingers, using a small spoon as a scoop, or spearing the balls with a thin-tined fork.
Gently add balls to oil, a few at a time. Balls will sink to bottom, then rise back up to top of oil. Fry until batter coating is puffed, golden-brown, and lightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Nudge balls around a bit with a slotted spoon as needed to fry evenly. Using slotted spoon, drain them on paper towels. Continue until all chiles rellenos balls are fried, adjusting oil temperature as needed to keep it steady. Eat warm.
Adapted from Tasting New Mexico, © 2012, Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, Museum of New Mexico Press.