As self-proclaimed foodies, we love the show Top Chef, including their “Top Chef Masters” series, in which they pit established chefs against each other. On the first season, a chef named Rick Bayless won. Chef Bayless is widely acclaimed as America’s biggest proponent of authentic Mexican cuisine. He also has two reportedly amazing restaurants in Chicago — Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. I personally wouldn’t be able to speak in detail about how amazing they are, since I have never been (someone forgot to make reservations far enough in advance of our most recent trip to Chicago. His name rhymes with pan). But, pan Dan was lucky enough to go to Topolobampo once with a couple of colleagues during a work trip and says it was exquisite. I guess the rest of us will just have to settle for the homemade version of Chef Bayless’ delicious recipe for “Rice with Roasted Poblano, Spinach and Fresh Cheese.”
This recipe comes from Chef Bayless’ book “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” We have only cooked a few recipes from this book so far, but it’s already a great addition to our collection, for this rice recipe alone. One of the reasons we decided to try this rice dish is because poblano chiles are one of the main ingredients and we still happen to have some in our garden. The first step is roasting the poblanos. Dan likes to cut them in half, length-wise and seed them before roasting.
Lay the poblano chiles on a cookie sheet and place the sheet under the broiler for about 10-15 minutes, until the chile skin gets blackened. If you are roasting them whole, you need to turn them often while they are under the broiler.
While the poblanos are roasting, you can begin heating the chicken broth for the rice. Heat about 1 & 1/4 cups chicken broth over low heat until steaming.
Poblano chiles roasting in the oven.
Once the chiles are done (upon reflection and looking at these photos, we probably would have roasted them a little longer), throw a kitchen towel over the them so they can rest for about 5 minutes. This will help steam the blackened skin a bit to make them easier to peel.
Peel the poblanos and chop them up so they will be ready to go in the rice.
To start the rice, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan (one that has a tight-fitting lid for later). When the oil is hot, add about a cup of uncooked white rice….
…..and about half of a small white onion, chopped. Cook the rice and onions for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Then add 1 minced garlic clove and cook for a few seconds, until you start to smell the garlic goodness.
Then add the warm chicken broth to the rice.
Next add the chopped poblano chiles. Stir all the ingredients together, cover, and cook over the lowest heat for about 15 minutes.
While the rice cooks, prepare the spinach. Yeah, we said spinach. We wouldn’t have believed this could be good either, but we already know how good wilted spinach can be in one of our favorite all-time soups, so we knew it would be delicious in this recipe too. Super nutritious as well.
Remove the stems from the spinach leaves and chop them into medium-sized pieces.
We used about 1 & 1/2 cups of chopped spinach.
Also while the rice cooks, crumble up the Mexican queso fresco. According to the recipe, you could use firm goat cheese or feta if you can’t find queso fresco ( but we found it at our local grocery store, no problem). You can crumble it by running short strokes over the big grate side of your cheese grater. (Which, incidentally, is really hard to photograph with one hand holding the camera and the other attempting to crumble the cheese).
When the rice is done, turn off the heat and distribute the spinach over the top of the rice (don’t stir it all together). Re-cover the pan and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
Then add the cheese.
Stir it all up and serve.
We served our poblano rice with the best fish tacos I have ever had. (We’ll do a post about those sometime soon, promise!)