Stuffed chiles in walnut sauce: Chiles en nogada
There are probably about as many recipes for this dish as there are cooks in Puebla, where it originated. It is always associated with September, el mes patrio, because it features the red, white and green colors of the Mexican flag. An invention of the colonial Poblana nuns, chiles en nogada can be difficult but don't have to be. I obtained several different versions, the most complicated of which contained forty different ingredients and the simplest of which had ten. The following recipe is an authentic, uncomplicated version of the Puebla classic.
- For the filling:
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1/2 lb. ground pork
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
- 1 medium apple, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 medium pear, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 2 ounces blanched almonds, slivered
- 2 ounces raisins, soaked until soft, then drained
- 1 stick cinnamon
- salt and pepper to taste
For the chiles:
- 8 large poblano chiles, prepared for stuffing (See Note)
- 4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Oil for frying
For the sauce:
- 1 quart unsweetened heavy cream
- 4 ounces walnut meat, soaked in milk, drained and chopped
For the garnish:
- 2 pomegranates, peeled and separated into seeds
- 4 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped fine
After preparing chiles as described in the note below, pat them dry and set them aside while you make the filling. The batter will not adhere to them properly if the chiles are not dry.
Melt the lard or oil in a large skillet; saute beef, pork, garlic, onion, apple, pear, almonds, raisins and cinnamon stick until the meat has lost its pink color. Remove the cinnamon stick, add salt and pepper to taste and allow the filling to cool to room temperature. When cool, fill the chiles, dividing the mixture evenly.
You will have fluffier and more uniform coating if you make the egg batter and fry the chiles in two batches. Beat two of the egg whites al punto de turron - that is, until they stand up in peaks, stiff but not dry. Lightly beat two yolks and half the salt together; fold them gently into the beaten egg whites. Dip each of four filled chiles into the mixture, turning them gently to coat evenly. Place each one immediately into a large skillet with hot oil. Fry them until golden on the bottom side (lift gently with a spatula to check) then turn and fry on the other side. Repeat this process with the rest of the chiles and the other two eggs. Remove and drain on paper towels before placing on serving dish.
Put the cream and the walnuts in a blender or food processor and puree untill smooth. Pour over the chiles, and decorate with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
NOTE: The chiles are prepared for stuffing by roasting over a gas flame or under a broiler until charred all over. They are then placed in a plastic bag for 10-15 minutes. Peel by rubbing them gently, using rubber gloves, under a stream of running water. (Stems are not removed, but can be trimmed beforehand if very long.) After the chiles have been roasted and cleaned, make a lengthwise slit up one side of each and carefully remove the seed sac and any loose seeds. Avoid over-handling the chiles.