Rajas con crema, a hearty dish made with poblano chiles, onion, Mexican sour cream and a little bit of cheese, is a favorite in my house. And by favorite, I mean that over the last few months we’ve been eating it at least once a week. As one friend puts it, “anything that comes out of your kitchen at least once a week has got to be good.”
There are two tests for me to know if I’ve made a good batch: first, whether I get a “que rico,” and second, whether I get a “pica.” I know it’s particularly yummy when I get a groan with the first bite and a “pica bien rico!” According to José, rajas con crema are the best when the poblanos have a spicy bite, but they’re not too hot. Usually you can tell how hot the poblanos are when you’re removing the seeds after roasting because the heat will burn your skin and if you breathe in too deeply, you might cough. If those two things don’t happen, sometimes I skip the vinegar and water soak after roasting the chiles. If you soak them too long and all the heat dissipates, the chiles are a little sweet rather than spicy but still delicious nonetheless.
Rajas are particularly popular in central and Southern Mexico, so I’m told, and are so versatile I’ve seen them served as breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can’t speak for all of Mexico, but at least in Mexico City when someone is talking about rajas, they are usually talking about strips of poblanos or this dish specifically.
Some recipes call only for cream, and lots of it; others call for so much cheese that it’s more of a queso fundido in disguise. My version, based on a recipe José grew up eating, strikes a perfect balance. Some people like to eat rajas con crema over rice, or as a side dish with meat like carne tampiqueña (a grilled filet or skirt steak) or cecina (a thinly-cut aged salted beef). Some people like to put tomatoes in it, which is not my style–pero lo que sea de cada quien–but to each his own. In our house, as you may already be fully aware if you’re a regular reader, the taco is king. However you decide to serve it, though, I guarantee it won’t be long before you’re making it again.
First, follow my directions on how to roast poblano chiles.
You’ll need a total of 5-6 poblanos, depending on how big they are. Get them to the stage where they are done sweating, you’ve removed the skins and seeds and placed them in the vinegar/water solution to take some of the heat out if necessary.
- 1/2 of a large white onion, sliced into rings and then cut in half (to make half moon strips)
- 2 tbsp salted butter (do not substitute margarine)
- A third of a 15 oz. container of crema Mexicana
- About a half cup of coarsely shredded Chihuahua cheese
- A pinch of salt if desired
Finish with the chiles. You’re going to remove them from the vinegar/water solution and rinse them with cool water if you soaked them to remove some of the heat. Then cut them into strips. I like to cut them about as wide as my pinky finger, and not too long so they’re bite size.
Put the chile strips (rajas) in the pan with the onion, stir to coat well with the remaining butter, and warm over medium heat until the rajas are warm and a little wilted.
Add about a third of a 15 oz container of crema and stir in well (Mexican sour cream isn’t actually sour like American sour cream; it has a less acidic taste. I buy V&V Supremo brand). Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then reduce heat to low and add a half cup of coarsely grated Chihuahua cheese (queso para fundir). The cheese should melt slowly and not be gooey, and it should be barely visible once incorporated. It’s really more of a bonding agent so the cream doesn’t get soupy. Once the cheese is melted, turn your burner as low as it will go, just so it is on to keep the rajas warm.
We like to serve them in corn tortillas as tacos. Sometimes I make cecina to accompany the rajas but they can stand up as a vegetarian meal on their own or as a hearty side with rice, beans, meat or whatever else you’d like.
Yields about 12-15 tacos.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and reheated on the stove over medium heat or in the microwave at 30-second intervals.
- How do you like your rajas?