Puebla’s chiles en nogada, widely considered the national dish of Mexico, is traditionally served throughout the country from mid-July through September, and is a patriotic indulgence during Mexico’s independence celebrations. The dish reflects the colors of the present-day Mexican flag – though it was inspired by the banner of the unified, revolutionary Army of the Three Guarantees – in its green poblanos, white walnut sauce and red pomegranate seeds. Originally the poblanos were stuffed and fried in egg batter, as the dish is still served in Puebla. In this recipe from La Casita Mexicana restaurant in Bell, Calif., poblanos are charred and stuffed before being topped with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. The dish is served on warm plates at room temperature.
Chiles en nogada is a Mexican classic that celebrates past and present
NOTES:
Peeled walnuts produce the preferred bright white sauce. To peel them yourself, buy the freshest walnuts you can find. Line a platter with a towel. Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil, and drop the walnuts in for 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the nuts to the prepared platter. Use your fingers to peel the thin brown skin that covers each piece. It should peel off in fairly large pieces if the nuts are very fresh; use a toothpick or skewer to lift the skin out of the crevices. Transfer the nuts to an airtight container, cover them with milk and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and preferably overnight.
If the poblanos have a strong aroma, they are likely to be very hot. You can cut the heat by soaking the peppers overnight in lightly salted water before roasting.
Make Ahead: The walnuts must be soaked for at least 8 hours and preferably overnight before making the sauce. The picadillo can be made up to 3 days in advance.
Storage: Refrigerate the stuffed poblanos and the sauce separately for up to 3 days; the sauce may darken over time. Remove the sauce from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving, to take the chill off. Reheat the poblanos in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes until slightly warm.
Where to Buy: It is best to use fresh or frozen walnuts – nuez de castilla congelada – to avoid bitterness. The recipe calls for peeled ones, sometimes called skinless walnuts, which are available online and at well-stocked Latin markets. If you prefer to peel your own, see NOTES. Mexican crema is available at Latin markets and well-stocked supermarkets.
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For the sauce
For the poblanos and picadillo
Soak the walnuts: Place the walnuts in a bowl and cover them with 1 1/2 cups of milk. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to overnight.
Roast the poblanos: Place poblanos directly over a gas flame or on a medium-hot grill, turning them occasionally, until blistered and blackened on all sides but not soft, about 5 minutes per side total. (Alternatively, position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the oven’s broiler element and turn on the broiler. Place the poblanos on a large, rimmed baking sheet and broil, watching them carefully and turning them occasionally with tongs, about 5 minutes per side, or until they brown in spots and blister all over but are not charred.)
Transfer the poblanos to a heatproof bowl, cover with a plate to steam and set aside until cool enough to handle. Gently rub off the blackened skins, being careful to keep the stems and flesh intact. (If you’re sensitive to chiles, wear food-safe gloves when handling the peppers.) Cut a slit on one side of each poblano, starting near the stem and cutting most of the way down the side. Carefully reach in and use your hands and a paring knife to remove the seeds and pith, being careful not to dislodge the stem.
Make the picadillo: Line a large platter with a towel. In a 12-inch heavy-bottom skillet over medium-high heat, heat 3 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the plantains and fry until golden, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the prepared platter.
If the skillet seems dry, add more oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 10 seconds. Add the pork and beef, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the peaches, pear, apple, candied fruit, raisins, cinnamon and cloves. Add the broth and stir to combine. Cover the skillet and simmer until the apple and pear are tender but not mushy and the flavors have melded, about 10 minutes. Season with the remaining salt, taste and add more, if desired. Add the almonds and the fried plantain, and stir to combine. Remove the skillet from the heat, uncover and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Make the sauce: For the whitest sauce, prepare it about 15 minutes before serving. Drain the walnuts, reserving the soaking milk. In a blender, combine the nuts and 1 cup of the soaking milk, the sugar, sherry, salt and cinnamon. Blend on high until a drop of the puree no longer feels gritty when rubbed between your fingers, about 2 minutes. If the mixture is too thick to puree, add more of the reserved milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it becomes loose enough to easily blend. Add the crema or sour cream and queso fresco or chevre, and blend just until combined, a few seconds. If the sauce is still too thick, add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is as thick as heavy cream.
Taste, and season with more salt and sugar, as needed. The sauce should have a slightly sweet edge but should not taste salty. Set aside on the counter. Do not refrigerate.
Assemble the chiles: Place the peppers on a clean work surface and spoon the picadillo inside, gently pressing it with the back of a spoon, until full but without splitting the poblano. Use your hands to gently re-form the pepper into its original shape.
Place a stuffed poblano on a warm, rimmed plate. Spoon a generous portion of the sauce across the chile, leaving part of the pepper and stuffing exposed and allowing the sauce to pool on the plate. Repeat with the remaining poblanos and sauce. Generously sprinkle each poblano with the pomegranate seeds, garnish with a parsley sprig and serve.
Per serving, based on 8
Calories: 587; Total Fat: 42 g; Saturated Fat: 9 g; Cholesterol: 58 mg; Sodium: 580 mg; Carbohydrates: 38 g; Dietary Fiber: 7 g; Sugar: 23 g; Protein: 22 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Adapted from La Casita Mexicana restaurant in Bell, Calif.
Tested by Jim Webster; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.
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