Every now and then it’s good to challenge yourself, and this is especially true in the kitchen. This challenge can vary from kitchen to kitchen, but it can perhaps look like this:
- Challenging yourself to cook out of your comfort zone,
- Fusing cuisines together to create new flavor combinations,
- Using one ingredient in completely different ways.
The last is the challenge I decided to take on over the course of a few months, and it was a very tasty outcome each time!
Growing up as a Rocha, with grandparents that have lived in Mexico my whole life and a father that cooked a lot of Mexican food, I ate a lot of poblanos. That's why I chose to do this challenge; I wanted to reinvent the pepper itself, change the way I cooked with it, and change the way I enjoyed eating it.
The first step in my challenge was to deviate from any type of Mexican dish, and to use the poblanos in another one of my favorite dishes: meatloaf!
I roasted poblanos, serranos, garlic, and onions to put into my meatloaf. Roasting the poblano peppers really can bring out a beautiful smoky and sweet flavor, and adding that to my spicy meatloaf was one of my best creations yet! One of my favorite flavor combinations is sweet and spicy, so I added some brown sugar into a sauté pan with the roasted and sliced peppers, onions, and garlic before I added them to my meatloaf mixture.
The goal of my second dish was to use the pepper in a familiar way but adding something different to the recipe. I was on a puff pastry kick around the time of my challenge, and so I decided to try a verde carnitas tart. I braised some pork in my roasted poblano (among other secret ingredients) salsa, put it on top of puff pastry with lots of cheese, and that was definitely all gone in a few bites.
The last part of my challenge involved one of my greatest loves: pasta. I decided to create a cream-based sauce with blended roasted poblanos and also added lots of cheese. This was almost like an alfredo sauce, but it was smoky, a little spicy, and so delightful!
What’s most important is what I learned during this challenge: don’t be afraid to use something familiar in a different way, change is good, and reinventing yourself in the kitchen will help build your confidence as a cook. This also translates to other parts of your life, and it can help you think more critically and outside the norm. It’s liberating!
If you want to get familiar with other Mexican ingredients, check out The Chopping Block's Grilling Fiesta grilling class at Lincoln Square this Sunday. There's just one more month of grilling classes to go!