Happy (Belated) Independence Day, Mexico! Though I cannot claim its heritage as my own, I am Mexican at heart. I love everything about it, from celebrating ancestry on Day of the Dead, to pastel de tres leches, and the melodramatics of Telenovelas. Like any culture, there are few traditions more precious than food and naturally it is the most enjoyed by even those who can’t share decent. Yesterday, September 16th was the Mexican Day of Independence and the day when, in my opinion, the best Mexican dish is served: Chiles en Nogadas.
Literally translated as chiles in walnut sauce, this dish is prepared by stuffing a poblano chile with meat, nuts, and fruit and finishing it with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. Traditionally, the dish is served during the months of September and October, when pomegranates are in season. However, it is most commonly found during celebrations of Mexico’s independence as the colors of the dish mimic those of the national flag.
The history of the dish is unclear, but all legends agree that the first hungry diner to feast on Chiles en Nogadas was in the town of Puebla. Supposedly, it was a creation from the kitchen of local nuns cooking for the first emperor, Augustin de Iturbode on his journey to Mexico City after signing a treaty granting the country freedom from Spain.
Regardless of its origin, the dish packs an interesting flavor, lacking in the spice that is frequently tasted in Mexican cuisine and instead giving a sweet, salty, and nutty flavor that is hard to compare, while perfectly reflecting the local and seasonal items of Puebla. The addition of juicy red pomegranate seeds as a garnish, provides a burst of flavor that makes the dish unique through texture, while staying true to the tradition of stuffed chiles.
It’s not the easiest dish to prepare at home, so I recommend calling your local authentic Mexican restaurant this weekend and asking if they are serving it up! (For those in Manhattan, check out Barrio Chino in the Lower East Side). If not, here is a recipe for the adventurous cook.
To read Ashley’s original post, click here.
- 6 large green chiles, for stuffing
- 3/4 cup crema or sour cream
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 pomegranate, seeds separated
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 of an onion, peeled and diced
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp unsalted almonds, chopped
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
- 2 dried cranberries or golden raisins, softened in warm water
- 3 eggs
1. Roast the chiles and remove the skins and seeds.
2. Heat the oil or lard over medium heat in a large pan. Add in the beef or pork and brown until nearly done. Add in the garlic, onion, apple, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, pinch of salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks with a mixer or a whisk. Fold in the egg yolks and a generous pinch of salt. Dip each stuffed chile in the egg mixture and fry until golden brown.
4. Stuff the chiles with equal portions of the stuffing. Mix the crema, walnuts and sugar with the evaporated milk. Pour over the freshly cooked chiles and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.