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Mexican Food: Chiles en Nogada—A Holiday Delicacy

Mexican Food:  Chiles en Nogada—A Holiday Delicacy

Chiles en nogada

Chiles en nogada

The best Mexican food is made of fresh ingredients in creative and innovative combinations.  They should be colorful, tasty, and maybe offer up a little surprise.  Nothing fits the bill better than that traditional holiday dish chiles en nogada, in which roasted poblano peppers are stuffed with roast beef and dried fruits, topped with a creamy nut sauce, and liberally sprinkled with gleaming gem-like pomegranites!
November 3, 2007

How Omar and I love chiles en nogada!  It is an unusual and unusually attractive dish, usually prepared around Christmastime, when the pomegranates are ripe.  Some restaurants make them all year long, but they are a special treat whenever they show up on your dinner plate.

Nogada is a nut sauce with brandy and cream.  Nogales are nut trees, hence nogada.

Medium size poblano peppers are roasted on top the stove until their skins darken and blister.  We have a gas stove and set the peppers directly in the flame, turning them frequently.  The trick is to loosen the skin and cook the flesh without losing its firmness.  Once the skin is blistered, put the peppers in a paper or plastic bag to rest a few minutes—this will help remove the skin.  When they are cool enough to handle, rub the peppers under water until all of the skin and burnt flecks are removed.  Then carefully slit them down one side and remove the seeds and strings inside.  You may want to do this step with gloves, because while most poblanos are relatively mild, you will run into the occasional feisty one.  I often feel my hands burn for a couple of days after this step.

Take a nice beef roast, cooked, and hash it—chop it up in very small pieces, like hamburg.  You could also used cooked pork, chicken, or turkey, but the traditional stuffing is roasted beef.

Chop fine a good grade of candied dried fruits and raisins, as you would for a fruitcake.  Good dried fruits should smell fruity and have bright, natural colors.  The cheaper ones have a chemical taste and less (or artificial) color.  If you don’t want to use candied fruits, you could substitute dried apples, pears, raisins, and pineapple.

Mix the beef and the fruits in the proportions you like, and stuff the mixture into the slit poblanos.

Make a thick sauce of cream, finely ground walnuts, a touch of sugar, and Jerez.

Arrange the stuffed peppers artistically on a handsome tray, and drizzle the sauce over each one.  To top off the dish, sprinkle with pomegranates—they look like shining garnets and give the dish a festive, Christmassy air.

What do they taste like?  Heaven.  It’s unusual to find beef and sweet candied fruits—the original mincemeat—in a stuffed pepper, but it is a real delight.  Chiles en nogada are generally served as a first course, to be followed by something more substantial.  They can almost be thought of as an amuse bouche—or in this case perhaps a “boca divertida.”  The sauce is delicious and moistens the meat to perfection.  The pomegranates look like rubies and garnets sprinkled atop a treasure chest.

Chiles en nogada is Mexican cooking at it’s best.

Dan and Omar


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