I first saw Chiles en Nogada on my favorite cooking show and was immediately entranced. How had I been living each day, not knowing this deliciousness from south of the border?!
Nogada is the Spanish word for nut tree, which refers to the walnuts in the sauce. Charred green poblano peppers are stuffed with picadillo, which is ground meat flavored with seasonal fruit, cinnamon, raisins, almonds then the whole thing is dipped into an egg batter and fried. The final finish with a walnut cream sauce, fresh parsley and pomegranate seeds hails the colors of the Mexican flag.
This stunning dish is fabled to be the creation of Santa Monica Mission nuns in the 1800s with walnuts the Spanish brought to Mexico and typically appears in August when pomegranates are in season.
Chiles en Nogada is as visually stunning as it is delicious, but its preparation is time-consuming, which is especially impressive since Bobby Flay plated it in 45 minutes, but he’s The Great Bobby Flay who he can do anything. The rest of us can, too, Done in steps, it’s totally manageable even on a busy weeknight.
Cooking the filling ahead of time also gives the flavors a chance to develop beautifully. Skipping the batter frying step not only saves time, but also calories.
If fresh pomegranates are not in season or are hard to find, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses will do the trick beautifully. This recipe is my interpretation of Chiles en Nogada. The ingredients have been simplified. The filling, sauce and preparation of the peppers can all be done ahead of time. When you intend to serve this dish, all you have to do is stuff the peppers, warm them, garnish and serve! It may not be entirely traditional, but this recipe is so delicious that I hope it wins me the favor of Mexican grandmas everywhere.
Chiles en Nogada
Feeds: 4 hungry adventurers
prep 45 mins
cook 60 mins
6 large poblano chiles, about 6″ long
1 lb pasture-raised beef
1/2 lb humanely raised bacon
1 medium onion
1 Tb tomato paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 medium tart apple (Granny Smith)
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1 tsp each salt & pepper or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shelled walnuts, toasted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cups pomegranate seeds or 3 Tb pomegranate syrup
3 Tb chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Place a large pan over medium heat.
Chop bacon into small bits and add to the pan.
Add ground beef.
Peel and chop onion.
Add to pan and sauté til brown and caramelized.
Cook 10 mins.
Peel and cut apple into small cubes.
Add to the pan along with the raisins.
Continue cooking until apple softens and raisins plump up.
Add toasted almonds to the filling and remove it from the stove.
Wash and place peppers onto a charcoal griller to stovetop burner.
Turn to blister the skin on all sides.
Collect the peppers in a large bowl and cover with plastic. The steam from the peppers will help the skin separate from the flesh.
Gently remove as much of the charred peel as possible.
Cut a slit lengthwise, but stop short of the area near the tip and stem.
Fill each pepper with enough filling so that it plumps up, gently pushing the stuffing into any gaps.
Make the sauce.
Toast and grind walnuts.
Mix with heavy cream and cinnamon.
Transfer to the fridge until time for plating.
Preheat oven to 250 *F.
Wash and chop parsley.
Reserve a few whole leaves.
Clean a pomegranate or purchase pomegranate seeds.
Transfer stuffed peppers to the oven and heat @ 250* for 15 mins.
Spoon the sauce over the stuffed chile until the chile is completely covered.
Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley the sauce and drop a whole parsley leaf here and there.
Serve with sweet fried plantains and fluffy rice.