Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chiles en nogada

chiles en nogada

I used to be scared of chiles en nogada. Not to eat them—heck, I’d devour this dish anytime it was on offer. But making chiles en nogada seemed like a very frightening proposition. I’d read stories about people spending days soaking the fruit for the piccadillo filling. I’d hear tales about how difficult it was to peel the walnuts for the sauce. And I’d see people argue about how one’s interpretation of chiles en nogada wasn’t nearly as authentic as another’s version of the dish. It was enough to put me off from ever making it.

If you’re not familiar with chiles en nogada, it’s a Mexican dish traditionally served in late August and early September that’s said to have been created by Pueblan nuns back in the 1820s. The dish is comprised of a poblano chile that's stuffed with a sweet and savory pork picadillo that’s studded with nuts, in-season fruits and dried fruits as well. And then the filled chile pepper is draped in an elegant walnut-cream sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds that sparkle like rubies.

Because of the dish’s seasonality, gorgeous presentation and its Mexican-flag color scheme of red, green and white, it’s the traditional dish served on Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16 or as its known in Spanish, Diez y Seis de Septiembre. And this year’s celebration marks Mexico’s bicentennial, which means it’s a very big day.



Even though Texas successfully fought for its own independence from Mexico, we were once a part of this splendid country and so I definitely plan on celebrating this momentous holiday. And, well, because a bicentennial is quite an anniversary, I decided it was time to take a stab at Mexico’s national dish.

Now, let me preface by saying that my version of chiles en nogada, which was adapted from a Zarela Martinez recipe, takes very little time, which I think is a good thing although others may argue that it’s too simple. But I don’t mind, as my picadillo is flavorful, my walnut sauce is creamy and the ripe pomegranate seeds glisten and pop. And if you’re busy, you can get this version on the table in about an hour.

I wish I were going to be in Mexico on September 16 as I reckon it’s going to be a fine, fine party. But since I can’t be there, I will at least be there in spirit with plates of chiles en nogada on the table—a wonderful way to mark Mexico’s 200 years.

chiles en nogada

Are you having a Diez y Seis celebration? What are your plans? And if you make chiles en nogada, please feel free to share how you make this stupendous dish!

Chiles en nogada (Stuffed chile peppers in a walnut sauce)
For the chiles:
4 medium-sized poblano chiles
2 teaspoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 Roma tomato, cored and chopped (or 1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes, drained)
1 medium green apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup raisins, chopped
1/4 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the walnut sauce:
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk, plus more if desired

For serving:
Seeds from 1 ripe pomegranate
Chopped cilantro

Method:
Roast the poblano chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place chile in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chile steam for 20 minutes.

While the chiles are steaming, in a large skillet, on medium, heat up the fat and then add the ground pork. Cook until lightly browned (about 5 minutes) and then add the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 2-3 minutes and then stir in the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and allspice. Add the chopped tomato, apple, raisins, dried apricots and pecans and add salt to taste. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Take the chiles out of the bag and rub off the skin. Cut a slit into each chile, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and pith. Stuff each chile with one fourth of the picadillo filling.

To make the sauce, place the walnuts in an oven set at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove the walnuts, allow them to cool and then rub them to peel off the skin. (Even though it’s traditional to completely peel the walnuts, I wouldn’t stress too much if bits of skin stay on the nuts.) Place the walnuts in a blender along with the sour cream, cream cheese and milk and blend until a smooth, slightly thick sauce forms. Add the cinnamon and salt to taste. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add more milk.

To serve, place a stuffed chile on each plate and pour over it some of the walnut sauce. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and cilantro for garnish.

Serve at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings

Notes: It’s traditional to add peaches, pears, bananas, potatoes and candied citrus dried fruits to their filling, as well, but to save time I did not. Other variations: For the picadillo, some use shredded pork, while others use ground beef; for the sauce, some people add sherry while others add Worcestershire; and finally, some believe that the chile should be battered and fried.

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54 comments:

Heather (Heather's Dish) said...

what better way to celebrate than this? this dish is GORGEOUS!

Phoo-D said...

I have only had this dish a few times in restaurants but remember the wonderful cinnamon scented filling fondly. Your presentation is absolutely stunning!

Natalie said...

Beautiful!

Celeste said...

It's lovely; at first I thought I was seeing flower petals strewn across it.

Lesley said...

I'm glad you got over your chile en nogada fear. :-) You also gave it a Tex-Mex twist with sour cream in the walnut sauce. Just to add another variation to your list at the end: some folks add pine nuts instead of pecans. Feliz Bicentenario!

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

This is gorgeous and I love that you've made it more approachable - something that I'd actually attempt. Yay Mexico and yay Zarela!!

squirrelbread said...

i've always wanted to try making this at home. actually never eaten it, but it never fails to look fabulous and incredibly enticing. including yours.

cheers,

*heather*

Pau F said...

OMG. they look so good! I miss Puebla so badly! I agree with you on that they're a simpler and far quicker version of the original but they must sure taste amazing! I'm craving them so much I might as well make them this weekend. for our 16 de Septiembre party we're having Pozole Rojo along with some tacos de chicharron.

Chris said...

I am so happy you posted this. I was in Puebla a couple of years ago when these were in season, and really enjoyed it! Most of the Mexican restaurants in Austin don't seem to have the dish, though -- I can't WAIT to try this out!!

Kristen Tucker said...

So I think that it is very funny (and coincidental) that this should be your post for today. I just finished reading the book "Like Water for Chocolate" and the very last chapter in the book is surrounded with the main character making this dish. The whole time I was reading the chapter (at nighttime right before bed, mind you), I was craving this delicious dish that I've heard so much about but have yet to try. And here you should post a recipe the very next day. Thank you for saving me the hassle of googling recipes! I trust yours to turn out splendidly! :)

Sandra said...

Looks as if I will be of to the market for poblanos...what a gorgeous reminder of what we can prepare at home.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Heather--Isn't it a beauty?

Phoo-D--The cinnamon makes the dish. And thank you!

Natalie--Isn't it? Those pomegranate seeds are like little jewels.

Celeste--It does look like that a bit. I bet rose petals would also be good with this dish.

Lesley--Ha! That was Zarela's inclusion and didn't even make the Tex-Mex connection but considering she grew up in El Paso that makes sense!

Miss Meat and Potatoes--Exactly! It had intimidated me for so long I was pleased that an easier version could be done in much less time.

Squirrelbread--There's a lot of ingredients and steps, but it's not that difficult.

Pau F--Oh, yes! I'm a big fan of pozole rojo. Enjoy!

Kristen--Ha! So happy to help! And I've never read "Like Water for Chocolate," something that needs to change and soon!

Sandra--Poblanos shouldn't be hard to find as they're in season right now. Enjoy!

Sharon M said...

So funny -- my mother-in-law and I were just talking about this dish earlier today. She was telling me about her first experience making it in Puebla. This version looks much easier than the one she described!!! Maybe she'll be up for making it with me.

Jenn from Much to My Delight said...

I learn more about my home state by reading your blog than I did in my 5th grade Texas history class. And I learn about so many dishes eaten in other parts of Texas that I'd never seen in my neck 'o the woods (Galveston). Love this site. Can't wait for the book.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Sharon--This is a definitely an easier version, and while I may be biased, it tasted as good as the ones I've had in restaurants. Though I have to admit I've never had a home-cooked version that's taken days to prepare, which I imagine is quite the treat!

SweetSavoryPlanet said...

I love any dish that has the addition of dried fruit and nuts to spicy peppers. I have heard of this dish before and was resistant to try it because of the time it takes (like a well done mole!). Looks delicious.

Belinda @zomppa said...

A gorgeous dish and what a neat story behind it. Thanks for sharing!

lisa is cooking said...

I didn't know it was the bicentennial. Now, I feel like I need to plan some kind of celebration! I love the pomegranate seeds on top, and I'm plotting ways of incorporating this walnut sauce into all kinds of things.

Heather @ chiknpastry said...

have never heard of this, but it looks scrumptious! maybe i'll have an impromptu 9/16 celebration, after all!

DessertForTwo said...

I'm so glad you posted this! I can't wait to celebrate Independence Day! We Texans really do have some roots in Mexico still.

I've been addicted to Fany Gerson's Mexican recipes lately. Have you heard of her? She's worth checking out :)

Ashley said...

Yummty! I'm a transplanted Dallasite from San Antonio and can't find it anywhere here. However, if ever in San Antonio you MUST stop and have it at Picante Grill on Broadway.

Lea Ann said...

With that lineup of ingredients this has got to be wonderful. I'm a big pablano fan and that cream sauce! Would love to try to make it.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I've never had the pleasure of trying this dish. It sounds so complex - full of flavors, textures, and a gorgeous treat to the eyes. I love it!

Tracy said...

Ever since reading about this dish in the book "Like Water for Chocolate," I have had such a desire to try it - but also felt too intimidated to attempt it as well. I mean, having never had it, how would I know if my version tastes right. My in-laws moved to a village outside Guadalajara several years ago, but I found that this dish appears seasonally on the menus there still never tasted it!

I think the first cool snap that makes its way here this dish is on the menu!

Dee Bee said...

wow. this looks insanely good. the walnut sauce sounds great. i made cabbage rolls today. that sauce might go nicely. thanks for the post :)

Lindsay said...

This is just gorgeous! My Texan co-workers mom sent her this link to share her favorite blogger with us :) We are actually featuring a Chiles en Nogada recipe is our POM Wonderful chef series this year.

I work at POM and recently e-mailed you with a special invite for a dinner party we're throwing in NY to celebrate the beginning of Pomegranate season on October 8. I'm sure you get tons of e-mail but if you are interested in attending just e-mail me ljones@pomwonderful.com

Cheers and well done!

Lindsay

Farmer Jen said...

This sounds delicious! I must try it.

yakalom said...

We are making these immediately. We have looked for a recipe like this for a long time! Thank you!
Fellow Homesick Texans

Dee said...

This is such a wonderful dish, one of our faves here. Your food photos are wonderful. Looks like a true Mexican feast.

SeattleDee said...

Omigosh, heaven on a plate! Thanks for two chile recipes in a row, and especially this approachable version of chiles en nogada.

Jade said...

Just posted a link to your recipe on my blog! Really looking forward to making your version.

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

This looks amazing. I have never had chiles en nogada, but I really want to make it! I love the fruity/savory combo. Interesting that it's served at room temp...

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Sweet Savory Planet--It's a great combination, isn't it?

Belinda--You're very welcome!

Lisa--I think the sauce is very versatile. Can't wait to hear what you do with it!

Heather--Hope you did!

DessertforTwo--Yes we do! And I have not heard of Fany Gerson--I will definitely check her out.

Ashley--I will definitely try it there next time I'm in SA.

Gabriel--Thanks!

Lea Ann--Hope you do!

Tasty Eats at Home--It is complex but not so difficult. Hope you try it!

Tracy--I really, really need to read "Like Water for Chocolate!"

Dee Bee--Oh! I'll have to try that!

Lindsay--I might be out of town, but will let you know. Thanks!

Farmer Jen--I hope you do!

Yakalom--Enjoy!

Dee--When a dish is this pretty, it's hard to not take a gorgeous photo!

SeattleDee--Heck, every recipe should have chiles!

Jade--Gracias!

Katie--It's hard to beat the combo, I agree.

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Wow! Needed a good look at this recipe as I'd never heard of it before, but it sounds delicious!

Eldy said...

Wow, what a beautiful dish! I can't wait to try this. By the way, when are you going to do a fajita marinade to make those fajitas we get from H-Town Carnicerias? :)

Shelley said...

The people in my Texas story could only afford beans, but the photograph of this dish is so beautiful that I immediately pictured setting it down in the middle on the table for Christmas dinner!

Annabel Manners said...

Wow, that's really impressive! Hope you have a fun celebration and a great weekend!

Anne in Houston said...

Lisa, I haven't tried your recipe yet, but Chiles en Nogada are one of my favorite fall menu items at Hugo's in Houston. Yum. I also think your King Ranch Casserole (fancy pants version) is superb.

Anne

Maren said...

I get this at Pico's in Houston! So good!

Kathi D said...

Oh my! I discovered your blog today while searching for flour tortilla-making tips, and it makes me homesick for Arizona! I've been printing out recipes all day long--where is your BOOK?? I can't wait to start cooking!

I am touched and warmed by the photos of your grandma's hands, so much like my own (late) sweet mother's.

Deanna said...

I love chiles en nogada. I've only had it once, but I was defending my plate the whole time. Everyone else was regretting their choice once they tried the sauce.

Ren-Yi said...

thanks for sharing the history of the dish and the significance it has. it looks delicious. can't wait to try something like this!

The Thomps said...

I just found your blog and I am in heaven! I am a recently displaced Autinite and have been mourning my loss of Chuy's, Hula Hut and Torchy's Tacos for weeks now. I can't wait to try your recipes! :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Scott--Hope you try it and enjoy it!

Eldy--I use this marinade from my my tacos al carbon recipe.

Shelley--Beans aren't bad either!

Annabel Manners--Thank you!

Anne--I'd love to try Hugo's version--definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Houston.

Maren--You know, I've never been to Pico's. I'll need to fix that!

Kathi--Thank you! My book will be out next fall and I'll keep everyone posted right here on the blog.

Deanna--Yep, it's a definitely a dish that can inspire envy from those not fortunate enough to have ordered it.

Ren-Yi--Thank you--it's a pretty nifty dish, I think.

The Thomps--Welcome and hope the recipes help curb some of your homesickness!

Anonymous said...

I made these chiles this weekend.
What a delicious treat! My whole family loved them and the dish is so so beautiful. Thank you for making it easy for us.

Soma said...

So perfect and beautiful. I have this in my mind for the longest time, but never ever made it. I should now.

Melanie said...

Great recipe! I made this dish last night for my brother-in-law's birthday feast, and it was a real crowd-pleaser. I stuffed half with pulled pork and half with ground beef. I added some of the things you mentioned in the variation paragraph: potatoes (which I diced and parboiled), bananas, and pears. I also added a diced zucchini because my garden only had one left for the season. I served the chiles with some chipotle mashed potatoes, and the extra walnut sauce made an excellent gravy. Thanks for mentioning in the recipe that it isn't necessary to be too fussy about the walnut skins--that's a tough job, and because I tripled the recipe it would've taken forever. I've got some leftover filling so I'm going to use it to make some breakfast tacos this weekend. Thanks for your terrific blog!

Nishta said...

totally stunning, lisa. I'm impressed you conquered this one!

Eva said...

The presentation is gorgeous. And judging by the ingredients, it must taste amazing to boot! They just started carrying whole pomegranates at my local grocery store, so I will be giving this a try in the near/immediate future :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa, I made your Chiles en Nogada the night after Christmas and they were wonderful. Most friends here in Palm Springs had never had them before so they were QUITE impressed with the visual as well as the wonderful flavors. Thanks so much and Happy New Year.

Carrie said...

What a wonderful, wonderful dish! We made this over the weekend, and it's one of our new favorites. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

My kid (and the Bolivian neighbor kid) hated this but loved the "pomegrannnies". Oh well, more for me, right? My chef husband and I devoured it and it will go in the repertoire at LEAST once a year for Independence Day. Thanks for posting!

Mindy

Dragana said...

Making this today and topping it off with my first home grown pomegranate! My house smells of cinnamon and spices, toasted nuts, and roasted poblanos. What can be better than that?

Anonymous said...

We have made this a couple of times and it is unbelievably good. We had it in a restaurant several times and this recipe is right up there. We are going to make it again tonight for my husband's Aunt and Uncle .... yummy!

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