Milk is the best antidote to chilies’ heat. In this recipe, named for chili enthusiast R. J. Nichol, the cheese is a counter to a light touch of heat.
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Several grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup squash purée (see note below)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1 cup Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
4 poblano chilies
Place the jalapeno, bell pepper, half the onion (1/3 cup), garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, salt and pepper in a blender. With a potato masher, press the tomatoes to release their juices. Blend to a purée. Measure and add water to make 2 cups. Pour into a 9x9 inch baking dish.
In a bowl, mix the squash, cornmeal, remaining onions, cayenne, cumin and half the cheese (1/2 cup). Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions.
Cut the poblano chilies in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Fill each half with squash mixture and place in the sauce, cut side up. Spread the remaining cheese. Cover with tinfoil. Bake at 400F for 45 min., until the poblanos are tender. Uncover and broil until the cheese is lightly brown.
Note: To make squash purée, cut a squash in half. Scrape out the seeds. Bake, cut side down, at 375F until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Baking times vary with the squash, about 45 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and mash well. In this dish, I used pumpkin, a slightly sweet squash.