Creamy potatoes with a hit of smoke and heat from charred poblano chiles make for a great side dish to accompany roasted chicken or grilled fish and steak. As to the charring, the flame over a gas burner is easiest but make sure to open a window for potential smoke. A heavy cast-iron skillet also works or slip the chiles under a broiler until just charred and browned. This twist on papas con rajas can also star as a main in tacos or as an enchilada filling, or as a brunch with eggs and salsa. Although this comes together rather quickly, leftover cooked potatoes — also consider beets, squash, yam and carrots — make for an even faster feast. And lime crema adds a perfect refreshing note. Just add chilled margaritas! — Kim Sunée
Papas con rajas
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 to 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or white potatoes (or combo sweet potato and Yukon gold/white potato)
4 to 5 medium poblano chiles (about 12 ounces)
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil such as olive, grapeseed, or avocado
1 large white or yellow onion (about 1/2 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Lime, juice and zest; more wedges for serving
8 to 10 ounces crème fraîche or Mexican crema (sour cream is thicker but can be used if thinned a bit with extra lime juice) Note: for dairy-free, sub with a nut-based thick cream
For serving: lime wedges; cilantro; warm tortillas
• If not using leftover cooked potatoes, cut raw potatoes into thirds, or large, equal-sized pieces. Place potatoes in a large pot with water to cover by about two inches set over medium-high heat; add some salt and bring to a gentle boil. Check potatoes after about 8-10 minutes using the tip of a sharp knife or a fork; potatoes should be tender but not falling apart. When potatoes are done, drain well and peel; cut into cubes or slices; set aside.
• While potatoes are cooking, roast poblanos. The quickest and easiest way, if you have a gas burner: place whole poblanos over open flame and, using metal tongs, carefully and gently turn poblanos every few minutes so that all sides get charred but poblanos don’t get too “cooked” or mushy. This should only take a few minutes. Otherwise, roast poblanos in oven under broiler, turning to char and blister on all sides, a few minutes, until skin is nicely browned but chiles are not too soft and tender. It’s OK if some parts of chile remain uncharred. Once chiles are nice and browned place in a heat-proof bowl or paper bag; cover bowl or seal bag and let “steam”; this helps with easy removal of skin and cooks chiles a bit.
• While chiles steam, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan and add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn golden. Turn off heat and peel poblanos: scrape skins with a serrated knife and remove as much of charred parts as possible. Don’t worry if some of the peel doesn’t come off. Remove stems and seeds, if desired, and slice poblanos into thin strips. Place onions back in pan over medium heat. Add poblano strips and potatoes; season with salt and pepper, some oregano, and garlic. If poblanos are not tender enough, add a few tablespoons of water and cover pan; let steam a few minutes. In a small bowl, stir together crème fraîche or Mexican crema with juice and zest of lime. Note: if using sour cream, add a bit more lime juice to thin it out like a heavy cream. Once vegetables are just tender, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of lime crema to the potatoes and stir. Taste and add more salt, pepper, garlic, or a dash of hot sauce. Serve warm as a side or pile onto tortillas for tacos.