Chorizo-stuffed Poblano Peppers

I remember a time when I thought that a farmers’ market was the local feed mill, railroad shipping point or dairy. My grandfathers were both farmers. Grandpa Hopp milked eight to ten cows, called them all by name and stored the day’s milk in cans immersed in cold well water until the milkman arrived with his truck to pick up the milk and deliver butter and cheese to grandma and grandpa.

Grandpa Rang was older and retired from farming, but grandpa milked a couple of cows and babied the team of horses he loved. Grandma and Grandpa (and we grandkids) drank the milk and Grandma churned the cream into butter. Occasionally she sold some eggs to the feed mill in Hayward where my mother also sold extra eggs. Before I was born, Grandpa Rang raised potatoes, of which he was very proud. He and Grandma still planted a big garden which produced enough potatoes to fill a few bags for storage in the enormous root cellar that could hold enough potatoes to fill a train car.

Growing up near a small city where most families had gardens, I never saw anything like the farmers’ markets one finds today in cities throughout the United States. I saw my first farmers’ market on a September morning in Bad Reichenhall, Germany, where I was a student on a fellowship in Germany. It was not called a Bauernmarkt (farmers market) but simply der Markt (the market). Like our farmers’ markets today, local vendors sold food, flowers and some handicrafts.

After I moved to Münster, which is a much larger city than Bad Reichenhall, I was quickly introduced to a market that was the primary source of fresh food and flowers for many residents in that city of over 180,000 people. You could buy fish, fowl, meats, breads, pastries, cheese and a wide variety of household necessities ranging from hot pads and tablecloths to vases, coffee cups and tableware made by local artisans. Here are two photos that we took at the market when we visited Münster in 2014.

At the Münster market
At the Münster market
Sausages at the Münster market
Sausages at the Münster market

My new student acquaintances taught me how to bargain with salespeople to stretch my limited budget as they did. One technique I still use was to arrive near the end of the market day when vendors were willing to cut prices on their inventories. One of my favorite memories from that year was of a rather stout farm woman in a gray dress who was negotiating with a thin old man in a dark suit. She was selling eggs. As I walked by, he exclaimed to her, “Sie sehen wie Taubeneier aus!” (They look like pigeon eggs!) The two were smiling, so I think it was a familiar routine for both buyer and seller.

I still look for bargains at our local farmers’ markets. Not long ago I found some small poblano peppers. They were about four and a half inches long, so I got four of them for a dollar. I planned to make chile rellanos with them, but they were really too small for that, so decided to stuff them with a mixture of chorizo and rice. The result was a delicious main course for Jerri and me. If you enjoy Mexican dishes, you should try this recipe soon.

INGREDIENTS:

4 small poblano peppers, four to five inches long
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 lb. bulk chorizo sausage
1/2 cup cooked rice
3 T diced onion
5 T taco sauce, divided
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 T cold water

PROCEDURE:

Start by cooking some rice, if necessary. To make about a cup of cooked rice, put a half cup of uncooked rice into a one quart saucepan, add a half teaspoon of salt and a cup of water. Bring the pan to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer covered until most of the water is absorbed, about fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the rice in the covered pan for five minutes before serving.

Peel the peppers while the rice is cooking. It’s not difficult. Preheat the oven broiler to 450º and rinse the peppers. When the broiler is hot, place the peppers on a baking sheet and set them under the broiler for about four minutes. Turn the peppers and broil them for another four minutes. The skin of the peppers should have begun to blister. Put the peppers in a paper bag and let the peppers cool for a few minutes in the closed bag.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.

While the peppers are cooling, make the stuffing. Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet and cook the meat slowly over low heat, breaking it into small pieces. Clean and dice about three tablespoons of onion and shred the cheese while the meat is cooking.

Peel the transparent outer skin from the peppers and cut them lengthwise halfway through. Remove the seeds and pulp from the peppers and butterfly them with the stems on.

When the meat is a uniform gray, remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the rice, onion, cheese, cumin and three tablespoons of taco sauce.

Lightly grease a glass baking dish and put the butterflied peppers into the pan. Stuff each pepper with a generous portion of the meat mixture. Top each one with a teaspoon or two of taco sauce and pour a couple tablespoons of water around the peppers. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake the peppers for about fifteen minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the peppers to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with the extra rice, bread and salad for a light dinner.

Pan-fried Chicken Breast

When Jerri’s family moved from their farm into the village of Rosalia, Kansas, they gave some farmer friends a chicken coop. The friends insisted upon paying for the coop—which they did with live chickens.

For the next couple of years, Caroline, who was in charge of the chickens, would stop from time to time at their home in town with a live chicken in a gunny sack. Jerri’s mother knew how to dress chickens, but she really did not like killing, plucking and cleaning those birds.

Jerri remembers her mother saying, when she saw Caroline’s car stop at their house, “I hope that she didn’t bring another chicken!” But Jerri’s mother was always polite and thanked her friend for the bird, and Jerri’s family had another chicken dinner.

If you have an extra chicken in the freezer, or really just a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, here is the way to turn them into a wonderful dinner.

INGREDIENTS:

About a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour.
1/4 cup corn meal
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. tarragon
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/16 tsp. cayenne
1/16 tsp. black pepper
2 – 3 T milk
3 – 4 T vegetable oil

PROCEDURE:

Cut the breast into serving-size cutlets, about a quarter pound each. I like to flatten the pieces a little with a meat pounder or tenderizer before breading them. If you don’t have one of these, you can use the side of a heavy knife or even a rolling pin.

Make the breading by mixing the flour, corn meal, salt and spices in a shallow plate or a small pan and put the milk in a shallow bowl.

Coat a skillet with the oil and set it over moderately high heat. Flick a drop or two of water into the pan after it has heated. If the water sizzles and bounces around, the oil is at the right temperature.

Moisten each piece of chicken in the milk and press it into the flour mixture. Put the pieces into the skillet and fry them for about five minutes on each side. When they are golden brown on both sides, the meat will be done.

Serve with your choice of starch, a glass of white wine and a salad. Beans and Rice go well with pan-fried chicken breasts, and Riesling is a good choice for the wine.

NOTES: Chicken has overtaken beef in the diets of Americans. On average, we now eat about ninety pounds of chicken each year. Chicken is low in fat and calories and has one of the smallest carbon footprints of any meat. Breading and frying the chicken adds some calories, but they are still healthful, better for the environment than beef or pork, and they taste wonderful.