Binghamton has a farmers’ market each Tuesday and Friday during the summer and early fall. At this time of year the stands are full of sweet corn, tomatoes, and peppers. One farmer had beautiful heirloom tomatoes; another, gorgeous Anaheim peppers—long triangular, mild chilies ideal for chiles rellenos. Now we usually think of chiles rellenos as cheese-stuffed peppers dipped in a corn meal batter and deep fried but Rick Bayless, in his wonderful cookbook Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (Scribner, NY 1996), offers a tasty, healthier alternative: Bacalao-stuffed chilies with tomatoes and olives. Here is my adaptation of his recipe.
½ pound frozen cod loins, two medium-sized pieces[i]
1 large tomato or two medium tomatoes, about one pound
Olive oil, about 2 tbsp.
2 medium yellow onions, diced
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup manzanillo (green) olives, sliced
2 pickled jalapeño chilies, seeded and sliced
¼ tsp. dried marjoram
¼ tsp. dried thyme
4 medium Anaheim chilies
2 medium boiling potatoes, about ½ pound, scrubbed and cut into ½” dice
Thaw the fish in cold water for about 15 minutes or use your microwaves thawing function. Place in a steaming basket over boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Place the tomato(es) on a baking sheet 4” below a hot broiler. When the first side has blackened, about 6 minutes, turn and blacken the other. Cool until you can handle then remove the skin and cut out the stem(s). Puree the tomato(es) and any juices left on the baking sheet in a food processor.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan with a lid (I used a 3-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the pureed tomato and cook for about 15 minutes until somewhat thickened. Stir from time to time to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Stir the parsley, olives, jalapeños, marjoram, and thyme into the tomato mixture. Add enough water to that you can just submerge the cod in the sauce, about ½ cup. Simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.
Break up the cod into small chunks and add the diced potatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15 more minutes or until the potatoes are done. If sauce is watery, simmer with the cover off for a few minutes, watching it carefully so it doesn’t stick or burn. Set aside to cool a bit.
While the sauce is cooking, prepare the chilies by blackening their skin under a very hot broiler or, as I do, with a plumber’s propane torch. When black all over, put under a kitchen towel for about 5 minutes then peel off the skin. Make a slit the length of each pepper and carefully remove the seeds.
Heat the oven to 350° (325° for a convection oven). Spoon the cod mixture into the peppers, place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes.
Serve warm over rice or at room temperature as an appetizer.
Serves 4 as a light dinner.
The original recipe calls for boneless, skinless salt cod soaked overnight to remove most of the salt then simmered for a few minutes before being added to the sauce.