Makes 6 servings
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total preparation time: 45 minutes
Seven 6 ounce bags (or six 7 ounce bags) baby spinach or 2 1/2 pounds loose baby spinach or 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen
6 large poblano chiles (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/4 cup mild olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups Ranchera Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup crema, creme fraiche, or thinned sour cream
Half of an 11-ounce long, plain goat cheese log, cut into 6 slices.
1/4 cup coarsely chopped epazote (see Ingredients below) or cilantro
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Roast, peel, split lengthwise and remove seeds from the chiles while the water is coming to a boil and the spinach is cooking.
When the water has come to a boil, stir in the spinach a bagful at a time (or in 6 or 7 batches) and cook just until bright green, about 1 minute or thaw frozen. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Working in batches, squeeze as much water from the spinach as possible (be very serious about squeezing!). Coarsely chop the spinach. There will be about 2 very tightly packed cups.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the raisins and pine nuts and cook just until the raisins are puffy and the pine nuts are starting to toast. Add the spinach and cook, stirring to break up the clumps of spinach, until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
Season the spinach with salt, then pour in 3/4 cup water and cook until the water has evaporated. (It may seem off to add water after taking the time to cook of the liquid, but there is a sound reason: the addition of water helps carry the salt evenly thought the dense spinach mixture.) Remove from the heat and let cool.
Pour the Ranchera Sauce into an 11- by 9-inch baking dish or other baking dish that will hold the stuffed chiles snugly. Divide the spinach filling among the chiles, filling them loosely. Put them in a baking dish, open side up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 25 minutes.
Drizzle the crema over the chiles while they are still in the baking dish, and then transfer them to serving plates, spooning some of the cream-enriched sauce over and around them. (It is not necessary to blend the cream completely with the Ranchera Sauce; in fact the plate will look nicer with a streaky sauce). Top each chile with a round of goat cheese and some chopped epazote and serve.
Ranchera Sauce (Salsa Ranchera)
Makes about 3 cups
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Total preparation time: 40 minutes
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, roasted, peeled and cored
2 Serrano chiles
2 large garlic cloves
A 2-inch piece of Mexican cinnamon stick
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or as needed
1 teaspoon sugar, or as needed
Working in batches if necessary, combine the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic in a blender and blend until smooth. Center the cinnamon stick on a 6-inch square of cheesecloth and tie the corner of the square together to make a neat bundle. (Mexican cinnamon will fall apart during cooking and the pieces can be difficult to remove from the finished dish. Wrapping the cinnamon in cheesecloth makes it easy to remove it all after cooking).
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the pureed tomato mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in the salt, sugar, and cinnamon bundle. Adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering. Cook until slightly thickened (just enough to coat a spoon), about 30 minutes. If the sauce thickens too much before that time, lower the heat slightly and add water, a tablespoon or two at a time.
Remove the sauce from the heat and check the seasoning, adding more salt and sugar if you like. The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat over low heat, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary to return the sauce to the right consistency.