Sep 11, 2003, 9:04 AM
Post #1 of 10
Well gang, it's nearly Independence Day here in México. Those of you who live here have probably noticed the proliferation of ambulatory flag vendors which began toward the end of August. There's everything available, from a baby-size flag on a stick to a giant one to fly proudly from your rooftop. Buy a little red plush chile wearing a huge sombrero, or a Virgen de Guadalupe on a banner with flags flying from the sides, either trinket attached to a suction cup to dangle like dice from your windshield. The important thing is to show the colors, especially this time of year.
¡VIVA MEXICO!~Independence Day and Its Special Food
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When IS Mexican Independence Day? A lot of foreigners (especially those from the USA) seem to think that it's May 5~Cinco de Mayo. The peculiarly well-known Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day: Cinco de Mayo is the commemoration of the Battle of Puebla, when Mexican forces defeated the French in 1862, more than 50 years after the start of independence here in Mexico.
The actual Mexican Independence Day celebration starts in every town square on the late night of September 15 with a costumed reenactment of the Grito, Miguel Hidalgo's cry for independence from the native Spanish (los gachopines) that happened near midnight on September 15, 1810 in the town of Dolores, Guanajuato (now known as Dolores Hidalgo). Hidalgo's grito: "Mexicanos, ¡Viva México!" Therefore, Independence Day here in México begins with a huge celebration and speeches on the night of the 15th and continues on the day of the 16th with parades and other kinds of celebrations, including bailes folklóricos and concerts.
If you're lucky, you'll be invited to a traditional Noche Mexicana, a celebration not unlike an American or Canadian New Year's Eve party. There'll be music, dancing, possibly a show, and a late-night dinner which might feature one of the foods most associated with this season of the year: Chiles En Nogada (Stuffed Chiles Pobalano in Walnut Sauce). The recipe is complicated, but well worth the effort. If you don't make them yourself, look for them on the menu of a restaurant. I ate them on Sunday at Los Itacates (on the east side of Ave Chapultepec near Ave México in Guadalajara) and they were delicious.
Here's one version of Chiles En Nogada, courtesy of Cocina de la Familia: More Than 200 Authentic Recipes from Mexican-American Home Kitchens by Marilyn Tausend with Miguel Ravago. Copyright © Fireside, Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, NY.
This festive dish, resplendent with the colors of the Mexican flag, is traditionally served on September 15 or 16 in honor of Mexico's Independence Day, though it is popular anytime in the late summer and fall when the walnuts are fresh and the pomegranates abundant. During August and September in the highlands of Mexico, particularly in Mexico City and Puebla on the streets bordering the markets, village women can be seen sitting on blankets painstakingly peeling off the brown skin from each individual walnut. It is important to use the freshest walnuts possible, as they produce such a creamy, rich sauce that it is worth the effort demanded to peel them.
For the Meat
- 2 pounds beef brisket or other stew meat or 1 pound beef and 1 pound pork butt
- 1 small white onion, quartered
- 2 large cloves garlic
- about 1 Tablespoon sea salt
For the Picadillo
- 4 Tablespoons safflower or canola oil
- 1/3 cup chopped white onion
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (cassia)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 heaping Tablespoons raisins
- 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
- 2 Tablespoons chopped candied pineapple
- 1 fresh pear, peeled and chopped
- 1 apple, peeled and chopped
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced
- 3 large, ripe tomatoes roasted, peeled and chopped, or 1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
- kosher salt to taste
For the Chiles
- 6 fresh poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded, leaving the stem intact
For the Walnut Sauce
- 1 cup fresh walnuts
- 6 ounces cream cheese (not fat free) at room temperature
- 1-1/2 cups Mexican crema or 1-1/4 cups sour cream thinned with milk
- about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (cassia) (optional)
- 1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
For the Garnish
- 1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Cut the meat into large chunks, removing any excess fat. Place the meat into a large Dutch oven with the onion, garlic, and salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface. Lower the heat and allow the water to simmer about 45 minutes, until the meat is just tender. Take the pot off the stove and let the meat cool in the broth. Remove the pieces of meat and finely shred them. (If making stuffed chiles with a tomato sauce rather than the walnut sauce, save the broth.)
Warm the oil in a large, heavy skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until they turn a pale gold. Stir in the shredded meat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, pepper, and cloves, then, stir in the raisins, the 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts. Add the chopped pear, apple, and potato, and mix well. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste, and continue cooking over medium-high heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. Stir often so that the mixture doesn't stick. Let cool, cover, and set aside. The picadillo may be made 1 day in advance.
Make a slit down the side of each chile, just long enough to remove the seeds and veins. Keep the stem end intact. Drain the chiles on absorbent paper until completely dry. Cover and set aside. The chiles may be prepared 1 day in advance.
At least 3 hours in advance, place the 1 cup walnuts in a small pan of boiling water. Remove from the heat and let them sit for 5 minutes. Drain the nuts and, when cool, rub off as much of the dark skin as possible. Chop into small pieces. Place the nuts, cream cheese, crema, and salt in a blender and purée thoroughly. Stir in the optional sugar, cinnamon, and sherry, if using, until thoroughly combined. Chill for several hours.
Preheat the oven to 250ºF. When ready to serve, reheat the meat filling and stuff the chiles until plump and just barely closed. Put the filled chiles, covered, to warm in the oven. After they are thoroughly heated, place the chiles on a serving platter or on individual plates, cover with the chilled walnut sauce, and sprinkle with the cilantro (or parsley) and pomegranate seeds.
This dish may also be served at room temperature, or it may be served chilled.
Enjoy your Chiles En Nogada, and ¡VIVA MEXICO! ¡QUE VIVA!
(This post was edited by esperanza on Sep 11, 2003, 1:20 PM)