27 August 2012

Eats: creamy poblano pasta

The long-time-iest readers will recall that one of my 30 by 30 goals was to cook one meatless meal per week. Just one! We’ve had... varying success. But please recall, while my vegetarian readers recover from their doubled-over laughing fit of our inability to avoid meat just once per week, that Mr. P and I have very different tastes outside of meat. I don’t like mushrooms or olives. He doesn’t like beans or bell peppers. We’re both lukewarm on onions and eggplant and eggs-for-dinner. Those limitations make creative vegetarian meals a bit tricky.

So in an effort to avoid another round of macaroni and cheese or cheese pizza as the meatless meal, I decided to try this recipe for a creamy poblano pasta from that old Cooking Light magazine:

... which features poblano peppers! Totally not bell peppers, Mr. P. Promise. They are... uh.. somewhat different!

In all honesty, I’d never cooked with poblanos before – I even had to check on Wikipedia to see what they looked like. Basically they look like cross between a jalapeno and a bell pepper – and they taste like that, too.

So armed with the inspiration recipe above, I got my version of this dish started by dicing up a small-ish poblano (diced before I took a photo, sorry) and a few slices of red onion, and sautéing them in half a stick of butter (!!) with a few tablespoons of minced garlic.

Once the bits of poblano were soft and the onions were mostly translucent, I added a few tablespoons of flour dissolved in about a cup of chicken broth (you could use veggie broth if you are strict vegetarian):

I let it simmer for a few minutes so there would be no raw-flour taste. This thickened the sauce considerably!

But I thickened it even more with the next ingredient. The recipe calls for crème fraîche, and I’m sure that’s delicious. But I am from the south, and so after reducing the heat, I instead subbed in a tried-and-true southern staple:

Cream cheese. Totally not the same thing.. But it was tasty!

Finally, to thin the sauce again, I added a bit of half-and-half and a squirt of lemon juice:

Between the butter, the cream, and the cheese, you’ll forget that there are peppers and onions in the sauce. As a matter of fact, after tossing the sauce with cooked linguine noodles, I decided the poblanos weren’t offering enough heat on their own. So, a few sprinkles of red pepper gave the dish the kick it needed.

How did we like this? Well, if we had real crème fraîche, I’m sure it’d be even tastier, but as-is it was a nice introduction to a vegetable we hadn’t tried yet. Mr. P liked the poblano more than he would bell pepper – again, the poblano tastes like a mild jalapeno – but probably would have preferred the peppers to take a backseat to another ingredient (like, oh, say, the shrimp that was in the original recipe, or our household staple, chicken). I, on the other hand, was thrilled to have a cheesy, creamy dish that featured peppers.

So if you’re a pepper-lover, definitely give this a try! In the meantime, I’ll be figuring out ways to utilize poblanos in my cooking, meatless or not. As soon as it cools down, I have big plans to roast them... mmm. They’re too tasty to ignore anymore!