Sunday, January 20, 2013

Everything's Better with Crema

Some people go to the store or the farmers' market with a list and stick to it. Milk, eggs, bread. Peppers, chard, cheese.

I have a list, too, and diligently check off the items as they pile up in my cart. But what I'm really looking for when I go shopping is inspiration, some ingredient that will spark a new dish or give me a reason to explore new territory.

That's what happened the other day when I saw a big pile of dark green poblanos at my neighborhood supermarket. Sometimes the peppers in the bins are a little tired and wrinkled, but these were shiny and firm to the touch, begging to be roasted.

So when I braised a pork shoulder in chile sauce a couple of nights later, the idea of frying up a mess of rajas, or roasted, slivered poblanos and onions, seemed like a natural. I've done straight rajas before, but I'd never made rajas con crema before, a traditional condiment of southern and central Mexico. Then a thought bubbled up that it would make a lovely sauce if I processed the rajas into a crema to drizzle on the tacos.

See what I mean about inspiration? A little experimentation, a touch of exploration, and I've got a new addition to taco nights. Sweet!

Poblano Lime Crema

4 medium-sized poblano chiles
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 med. onion, quartered and sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 lime, juiced
1 c. sour cream or tofu sour cream, divided
Salt to taste
Milk (or water) to thin (optional)

Roast peppers over gas flame or in the broiler until blackened. Place in paper bag and allow to steam for 10 min. Using your hands (I'd recommend rubber gloves…these babies can be surprisingly hot), rub off most of the charred skin but don't worry about cleaning it all off—it'll add a smoky flavor to the finished sauce. Remove stems and seeds from peppers and slice thinly.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add onions and sauté till golden, about 15 min., until reduced to about half of their original volume. Stir frequently to prevent browning. Add sliced peppers and garlic and sauté about 1 min., then stir in cumin and oregano. Add 1/2 c. of sour cream and simmer another minute or two.

Pour mixture into food processor with the remaining sour cream and lime juice. Purée mixture until smooth. Add salt to taste and milk or water to thin if desired.

Get a recipe for a killer chile-braised pork that's great with this sauce.

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