Rajas are a Mexican dish, generally consisting of grilled, roasted, or otherwise charred peppers and onions in a creamy sauce made from, well, cream. Or crema, which is more like crème fraîche. I saw a lot of them on menus while living in Los Angeles and Dallas, but seem to have forgotten about them entirely until this week.
Which is a shame, because all the ingredients are readily available in Paris, it’s a snap to prepare, and it scratches that Mexican food itch in a major way. Rajas are a versatile beast, used as both a sauce for meats and as a stand-alone side dish. Faced with a green bell pepper challenge from the CSA panier, I thought that rajas might be a hitherto unexplored green bell pepper-hiding device.
I mean, it fits my criteria: a) charred beyond recognition, and b) combined with lots of other tasty things (in this case, poblano-like red corne peppers, red onions, and crème fraîche). Using the raja mixture as a sauce for the green beans languishing in the crisper seemed like the right thing to do – I thought about adding some corn as well, but decided it would be overkill. Plus, corn just isn’t the right shape.
I had planned to serve these over rice, with slices of seared flank steak on the side. As it happened, a last-minute movie date with Meg and Barbra caused the dinner to morph into a picnic-able rice bowl (Mexican bento?), which I topped with sliced tomatoes. The green beans didn’t seem at all out of place dressed in the smoky, creamy sauce, and were delicious with the spicy meat and juicy tomatoes. Having given it a little more thought, I think these would be excellent topped with crumbled goat cheese, at which point they could nearly qualify as a main dish.
Read on for the (simple, and easily adaptable) recipe.
Raja Green Beans
The word “rajas” literally means “strips,” so the julienned vegetables make perfect sense paired with naturally strip-like green beans. You can really use any peppers you like here, but at least one should be a spicy variety. It’s also nice to have a range of colors – the red onion helps in this regard as well – though that’s really more of an aesthetic choice.
1 medium red onion, julienned (as in, sliced thinly, pole-to-pole)
1 green bell pepper, julienned
2 red corne peppers (or other mildly spicy peppers), julienned
12 oz. / 340 g green beans, trimmed and halved
5 oz. / 150 ml crème fraîche, Mexican crema, or sour cream
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil or other neutral oil such as grapeseed oil
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Squeeze of lime juice
- Heat a large skillet over very high heat. Add the oil and when it shimmers, throw in the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are charred and softened.
- Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the green beans. Cook, covered, until the green beans are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the vegetables to a bowl and dress with the crème fraîche. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes enough for 3-4 people as a side dish, 2 as a main course.
On this day in 2008: Chicken Pot Pie – Another Classic French Dish
Originally published on Croque-Camille.