Just char a few chiles and wrap them tightly in foil to steam; peel off the blackened skins; slice the tender flesh into lengths (“rajas” means “strips”); and sauté them in butter with sliced onion and perhaps garlic, tomatoes, or corn. Then, pour in “a copious amount” of tangy-salty Mexican crema—a genius move that tempers the chile’s capsaicin with casein. “You feel a little heat, but at the same time the cream is cooling you down,” Jinich said.
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Chile selection depends on the region. In Mexico City, where Jinich is from, poblanos—the earthy, vegetal peppers with a mild kick—are typical. As I made a plan for blackening a pound of the dark‑emerald beauties, I remembered that she compared this step to roasting marshmallows: “You want the outside to really char and burn and roast, but you don’t want to burn the inside.”
The usual routine is to rotate whole chiles over a fire, but since not everyone has access to an open flame, I opted to use our method for roasted bell peppers: After halving and seeding the poblanos, I pressed them flat on a foil-lined baking sheet and slid them under the broiler, where the skins charred quickly and evenly. For easy cleanup, I wrapped the chiles in the foil on which they were broiled to steam.
Ten minutes later, the paper-thin, blistered skins lifted easily from the flesh, which was now infused with a gentle smokiness but not burnt. Perfect. I cut the poblanos into meaty 1/2-inch strips (just right for tucking into a tortilla) and then sliced half of a white onion, the allium of choice in Mexican cuisine. I sautéed the onion, along with minced garlic, in a couple pats of butter before stirring in the rajas.
Crema time. The pourable condiment, sometimes dubbed “table cream,” lies somewhere between heavy cream and sour cream: It’s more viscous and savory than the former but thinner and less acidic than the latter. Once reduced, 3/4 cup of the dairy hugged the vegetables in a velvety embrace.
The slightly spicy poblanos were heady with charred complexity, and the sweet, buttery onion and crema provided modest richness. I often eat rajas straight from the skillet, but lucky for me, they hold well in the fridge, so there’s always a chance to try them another way—and then another.