My journey from burning agua to being a great cook!
chiles poblanos

Recipe for Chiles en Nogada

Chiles en Nogada is a traditional dish of Mexico prepared especially to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.  The dish is a stuffed pepper in walnut sauce with a garnish of pomegranate fruit on top.  The dish represents the colors of the Mexican flag, green pepper, red pomegranate and white walnut sauce.  The dish originates from the city of Puebla just as does the traditional mole of Mexico.

This is one of the first recipes I tried to make.  I experimented with the dish a couple of times and I think I’ve perfected it.  The dish is also very messy to make but I love the feel of the warm peppers in my hand as I peeled off the charred skin.  The pomegranate stained my hand after I peeled it and removed the fruit.  The sound of the blender makes me feel like a real cook.  I’ve included some short cuts that the traditional recipes from Mexico don’t use.  And, I picked the recipe because most of the ingredients were common in my household just a few special items.

pomegranate on a cutting board 

Most people would not have started with such an elaborate recipe.  I have to be really honest.  I received a couple of bags of walnuts from the food bank.  I couldn’t even use them at first because we were eating mostly rice and beans and whatever cheap cuts of meat I could afford.  But as things got better in the following couple of months, I decided to use them.  I wanted to really challenge myself.  I know that time is difficult to manage for working moms to cook this dish.  But, I wanted to perfect a signature dish that I can make for special occasions for my family.  I hope that you feel that you can do it too.  Remember, I was burning agua a couple of months ago, so if I can do it you can do it!

Ingredients:

Walnut Sauce
1 heaping cup of walnut pieces (from the baking section of the grocery store)
1 ½ cups of milk
¾ cups of milk (to soak walnuts overnight)
¼ lb of queso fresco
1 ½ cups of very thick sour cream (some of the Mexican brands are too watery)
2 Tbs of sugar (you can add more or less to taste)
¼ Tsp of cinnamon

6 large poblano peppers

Filling
1lb of ground meat (80% lean 20% fat)
1 Tbs of oil
¼ cup of raisins
1 medium potato diced
¼ cup of slivered almonds (from the baking section of the grocery store)
2 cloves of garlic
½ can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish
1 pomegranate

Night Before:
Soak walnuts in ¾ cups of milk in the refrigerator to soften

The Day of:
Poblano chiles or poblano peppers
Roast the peppers directly on the gas burner turning the chiles every minute or so until they are completely roasted and black overall.  Place the pepper in a plastic zip lock bag and seal for twenty minutes to allow the peppers to sweat and cool.  Then remove peppers from bag and lay on cutting board.  With a tablespoon begin to remove the blackened skin of the pepper gently.  Then slit the pepper and remove the seeds.  This is really a messy processed.  When all the peppers have been prepared, rinse in hot water to remove any remaining seeds.

poblano peppers roasting

poblano peppers sweating

Walnut Sauce or Nogada
Place the queso fresco, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon, milk and drained walnuts into a blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.

Filling or Picadillo
Chop the garlic and add to frying with oil and brown for a few seconds.  Add the ground meat and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the diced potatoes and 2 cups of water to the meat and cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until water is gone and potatoes are soft.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes and raisins and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the slivered almonds at the end.  Turn off heat.

Place the peppers on individual plates then begin to fill with the meat mixture.  Then pour the walnut sauce on top and garnish with the pomegranate fruit.

Try to make them for your family when the pomegranates are in season.  As I mentioned it is a bit involved with several steps in the process but the taste of the dish is well worth the effort.  Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

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