Geezer Celebrates Labor Day in the Island City


For many of us ancient Baby Boomers, Labor Day is simply another wistful milestone on the grisly journey to Geezerville. Lamentably, on this Labor Day, some of us are too old and infirm to work. Lots of us have seen our once-lucrative job skills rendered obsolete by technology.

As the late, great Alameda pundit Dennis Green often said, “Geezerville ain’t for sissies!”

For Alameda Boomers with culinary abilities, a fine way to beat the Labor Day and Geezerville blues is to perform a labor of love, by recreating a long-lost, delicious dish from Alameda’s past, and sharing it with those too new to Alameda to remember it.

There are many such dishes. There was the Osso Buco and polenta at Alameda Joe’s, the veal marsala at Lino’s Wine Rack, the Portuguese rice at Patusco’s and, perhaps, most famously, the Quintero family restaurant’s chile relleno. For 58 years, the Quinteros made their version of the chile relleno Alameda’s signature dish. Their chile relleno was famous nationwide. I once shared a long, passionate discussion about it with a desk clerk at the Newark, N.J., Holiday Inn. He longingly called it “the best in the country!” 

Because the family is as protective of the recipe as a certain orange-hued politician is of his tax returns, the following version is a painstakingly researched, labor-of-love replica. 

Alameda’s Labor of Love Chile Relleno 
Chile Relleno Tomato Sauce: 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder.
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, 
    (juice included)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper

Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, chili powder, cayenne and garlic, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute longer. 

Add the chicken stock, and the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil for 1 to 2 minutes. 
Remove from the heat and cool a few minutes. 

Mix in the blender for 10 seconds. Add the cilantro, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and pulse just to blend. 

Strain the sauce and save the liquid. Mix in ½ cup of the strained vegetables.

The Chile Relleno itself:
1 7-oz can Ortega fire-roasted canned 
   whole chiles (about three chiles) 
   (This is not chile relleno heresy   
   as the famous chile relleno never 
   had a fresh chile stem.)
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated 
¼ tsp garlic powder
Salt to taste
½ cup all purpose flour 
2 cups Monterey Jack or queso 
   fresco cheese
1 cup grated cotija cheese.
1 ½ cups vegetable oil, for frying

Stuff the peppers with the Monterey Jack or queso fresco cheese. 

Beat the egg whites until stiff, then beat in the yolks, garlic powder and salt. 

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. 

Gently roll the stuffed peppers in the flour. 

Ladle about 1/3 cup of the eggs into the pan. 

Place a pepper in the eggs. Spoon hot oil over the pepper. 

After two minutes, flip the pepper. Cook another two minutes, then remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chiles.

Place the rellenos in the sauce and marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours. To serve, heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the rellenos on a plate and spoon sauce to cover. 

Sprinkle cotija cheese all over rellenos, and heat for 20 minutes. Eat immediately.