I was raised eating Mexican food on Christmas Eve. Yes, it seems a little strange coming from a family that doesn’t have any Hispanic heritage in our blood, except for being raised in Anaheim where there is a large Mexican population. Even my Grandma Bell, who was born in Arkansas, after moving to Southern California as a young gal, made ground beef tacos every holiday.
Tamales are another Mexcian favorite and traditionally are a big part of many Christmas Eve dinners. Some years, we buy them from a local Mexican market or restaurant and serve them with tacos. Recently, I found some of the best tamales on a taco truck next to my house (because my neighbors are under construction) and these are wrapped in banana leaf, just like they make in Zihuatanejo. These tamales are delicate and tender and taste as if they were mixed with chicken broth and stuffed with shredded chicken.
A few weeks back, I was in Santa Barbara with friends and decided to change things up and ordered a stuffed pepper from our favorite Mexican restaurant, Los Agaves. Yes, I know La Superica gets all the press because it was Julia Child’s favorite place, however I beg to differ. This stuffed pepper was one of the best things I have eaten in awhile – lightly spicy, meaty and cheesy. The Mexican food at Los Agaves is superb, not to mention it has the worlds best salsa bar!
After reflecting about that meal for days, I decided to create my own version of Carnitas Stuffed Poblanos and share it with you to make on Christmas Eve, or another date. The pork is a simple preparation and you can do it on your stove top or cut down the cooking time and use the Instant Pot! Then, a quick char of poblano peppers and fill with meat and cheese.
You can prepare the peppers a day ahead and store in the refrigerator, and bake and broil right before serving. Feel free to double or triple the recipe for larger groups too. I can’t wait for you to try these, they are divine and a great way to celebrate the season!
1 pound boneless pork ribs
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 white onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
4 poblano or pasilla peppers
1 1/2 cups grated pepper jack cheese
8 corn tortillas
sour cream, optional
1. In a large Dutch oven, add 2 teaspoons of oil and place over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, cayenne, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Dust each ribs on all sides with herb mixture. When the oil is hot, add the ribs to the pot searing on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the onions and garlic to the pot and stir. Cook for 2 minutes.
2. Pour broth over top of ribs and reduce to simmer. Cover pot with lid and cook for 1 1/2 hours. If using the Instant Pot, cook for 40 minutes. Using tongs, break meat apart and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat.
3. Place poblanos on gas grates and char on all sides. If you have an electric stove, char under broiler. Put charred peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers and using fingers slide the charred skin off on all sides of pepper. Slit the pepper 3/4 down on one side and remove the seeds.
3. Cover sheet pan with foil and place pepper on top of 2 corn tortillas. Repeat until all the peppers are ready to stuff. Using a slotted spoon, fill each pepper with carnitas.
4. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese and place under the broiler for 3 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. If refrigerating ahead, bake peppers in the oven for 20 minutes first to warm, then broil. Remove from sheet pan and place on serving platter. Serve with salsa and sour cream, Enjoy!