Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Trader Joe's Chile Relleno

One of the better things about living in Southern California is the fact that, at any given time, good -- and sometimes great -- Mexican food is plentiful, cheap, and often located within minutes of wherever you may happen to be. And yes, if the jones is strong enough, I will happily brave the sometimes close to an hour wait for a fix of one of my favorites: King Taco.

Because of that, it is seldom that I look for frozen or ready-made Mexican items. But we all know I am a sucker for trying things in the name of "well, I could try it for a review." Yeah, that phrase comes up a minimum of once a day.

Tonight's trip to Trader Joe's was no exception. I already had dinner planned. But sitting seductively in the frozen food bin were boxed, frozen chile rellenos...

Hmmm...well, if it's for a review....

If you have never had a chile relleno, it is a poblano pepper that has been grilled and then stuffed with a variety of fillings, be it cheese, meat, etc. Then the pepper is dipped in an simple batter and fried until golden brown. It's occasionally served bare, but almost always it's topped with either red or green salsa (I like both, but am partial to green). I've noticed that in restaurants here in SoCal, and in the southwestern U.S. generally, the stuffing is almost always simply cheese or a cheese blend. But when I was living in Georgia, the restaurant version was nearly always stuffed with meat; whereas the cheese version I prefer was referred to on the menu as a "chile poblano." I don't know why that is -- but if you are in the Deep South and you want one with cheese rather than meat, be sure to read that menu (unlike me, who ordered blindly and got surprised).

The Trader Joe's version is covered in a red salsa and sprinkled with a little bit of cheese. It was also free of the batter that I would otherwise be expecting. Considering that the battered versions are fried and this one is to be baked (or microwaved), that was probably a smart move.

The poblano pepper itself tasted fresh and had a nice "grilled" flavor to it. Not spicy hot in the least -- but poblanos are not hot as a rule. It was perhaps a little crunchier than what I am used to, but not so much that it bothered me.

The cheese is plentiful. It's stringy. It's also dense in parts. There's not really much flavor to it; more kinda salty than anything else. It reminded me of the cheese in Trader Joe's Paneer Tikka Masala, only not so solid.

The salsa topping was excellent. It has a very fresh, zesty tomato taste. There's a little cilantro and onion.

Is this chile relleno as good as one that I could get just by walking down the street? Obviously not...but for a frozen version, this is quite tasty.

Trader Joe's




350 calories per serving.


Labeled as vegetarian.


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