For the Pickled Red Onions:
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons wine or white vinegar
For the Warm Charred Salsa Rosa:
8 Roma or small vine tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small white onion, quartered
1 large jalapeño pepper, halved
2 fresh bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
A pinch of ground cinnamon or smoked cinnamon (¼ teaspoon)
EVOO non-aerosol spray
1 small handful of cilantro
1 teaspoon light agave or honey
For the Crema Chicken Filling (optional):
1 tablespoon EVOO
½ white or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ cup crema
½ cup chicken broth or stock
1 small rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed and meat pulled into small bite-sized pieces
For the Chile Rellenos:
8 large poblano peppers
8 ounces each Oaxaca or asadero cheese and pepper Jack cheese (note: if making the optional crema chicken filling, use only the Oaxaca or asadero cheese)
Crema Chicken Filling, optional
Frying oil, about 1 quart
6 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
For Garnish (optional):
Wedges of lime
Crema or sour cream
For the pickled red onions, combine ingredients in small bowl and let stand 30 to 60 minutes.
Preheat broiler with rack at center of oven.
For the warm charred salsa rosa, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and parchment. Arrange tomatoes with garlic at center of tray, add onions and jalapeño pepper and tuck in bay leaves. Season with salt, oregano, cumin, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon or smoked cinnamon, spray with EVOO and char-roast 12 to 15 minutes, until tomatoes are slumped and charred at the edges. Remove bay leaves, add to high-power blender or food processor, add cilantro and agave or honey and process until smooth. Place in small pot to keep warm over low simmer until ready to serve.
If making the optional crema chicken filling, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, salt, bay, cumin and coriander, soften a couple of minutes, then add ½ cup water and let it fully evaporate and cook into the onions. Add crema, stock and the chicken and simmer 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool a bit to handle before filling the peppers.
For the chile rellenos, broil peppers or char on open flame and cool in a covered bowl.
Cut cheese or cheeses into sticks about 4 inches long and no more than ½ inch squared/wide.
Peel peppers and carefully split the length on one side. Remove seeds and fill with 2 cheese sticks or, if using optional crema chicken filling, 1 cheese stick and chicken. Secure with toothpicks as needed.
Heat a few inches of oil in large cast-iron frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.
Separate eggs into two bowls and combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. With a hand mixer, beat whites until frothy and soft-medium peaks form, add the yolks one at a time to combine on medium-low speed, then add flour mixture on low or fold in to combine.
Carefully coat the rellenos in batter and fry two at a time 6 to 7 minutes, 4 minutes on first side. Drain on wire rack set inside a sheet tray lined with foil and continue. Remove toothpicks.
Serve warm salsa on dinner plates topped with two chile rellenos, garnishes of choice and pickled red onions with pinto beans and rice on the side (optional).