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Roasted Poblano Chile Salad with Smoked Fish or Chicken
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    Roasted Poblano Chile Salad with Smoked Fish or Chicken

    Across Central and West-Central Mexico bowls of chile strips, often roastes poblanos mixed with half-pickled onions, show up on tables to offer a spicy accent to a fried steak or soft taco. That wonderfully textured combination- soft, spicy chile against sharp, crunchy onion- makes an easy transition into an elegant first course or light main dish, especially when tossed with smoked chicken or fish and nestled in lettuce. In winter, I put the salad together with the chiles still warm. For causual summer entertaining, it's great as a cold buffet dish.

    Though a crusty bolillo roll would be the typical accompaniment to a salad elegantly served in Mexico, I'd still choose warm corn tortillas. And a beer seems less appropriate to me here than does chilled Hermitage blanc (or other Rhone or Rhone-style white- Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne) or full Sauvignon Blanc.

  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 tbsp sherry vinegar or 4 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • For 2 cups Essential Roasted Poblano Rajas:
  • 1 pound (6 medium-large) fresh poblano chiles
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferbaly Mexican Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon
  • About 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 4 sprigs for garnish (optional)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely shredded smoked fish (like whitefish or trout)or 3/4 cup coarsely shredded smoked chicken
  • 16 small lettuce leaves, for lining the plates
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Mexican quueso fresco or pressed, salted farmer's cheese
  • 1. "Deflaming" the raw onion. Separate the onion into rings, then mix with the vinegar in a small bowl and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes (this takes away some of their bite).

    2. Making 2 cups Essential Poblano Rajas. Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning until blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for open flame, about 10 minutes for broiler. Cover with a kitchen towl and let stand 5 minutes. Peel, pull out the stem and seed pod, then rinse briefly to remove bits of skin and seeds. Slice into 1/4-inch strips.
    In a large (10- to 12- inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium to medium-high, add the white onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until nicely browned but still a little crunchy, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano, toss a minute longer, then stir in the chiles and just heat through. Taste and season with salt. Cool, if not planning to serve the salad warm.

    3. Finishing the salad. Add the red onion mixture to the rajas. Stir in the optional chopped thyme and fish or chicken. Taste and season with a little more salt if needed.

    Line 4 plates with the lettuce leaves. Spoon 1/4 of your aromatic, spicy concoction in the center of each plate, sprinkle with cheese and garnish with sprigs of thyme if you have them. Set them before you guests and pass warm tortillas.

    Serves 2 as main dish, 4 for appeitzer.
    Advance Preparation- The onion can sit in the juice in the refrigerator for a day or so before using; the poblano rajas keep for several days when covered and refrigerated.
    Variations and Improvisations- You can replace the chicken or fish with 4 cups of cubed potatoes and/or pasrnips that have been tossed with a little oil and salt and roasted on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 25 or 30 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. The smoked fish could be replaced with crab or smoked mussels, scallops, shrimp, turkey or sausage. Replace the bed of lettuce with sliced tomatoes (yellow ones are great here) and watercress. And all sorts of chiles and peppers, from cubanelle to bell, can stand in for the poblanos.

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