Updated: Mar 2
¡Viva México! Chiles en Nogada has been the traditional Independence Day dish in Mexico for the last two centuries. It is said to have been created by a goup of nuns in Puebla who prepared this unique dish to honor the colors of the Mexican flag (green, red and white) for the leader of the Mexican Army when he visited them in 1821. Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th, and this dish can be found in many restaurants and home kitchens a few weeks before and after the month of September, which also coincides with pomegranate season. If you're unable to find fresh pomegranate, a common substitute is finely chopped strawberry.
This is a dramatic and festive dish full of history.
Everyone has strong opinions on just how sweet Chiles en Nogada should be, and it took me years to come up with my own perfect balance of sweet and savory. Personally, I love the Nogada sauce slightly on the sweeter side and this recipe reflects it, but if you prefer yours more savory, just reduce the sweetened condensed milk to your liking.
CHILES EN NOGADA
16 fresh Poblano chile peppers
2 tsp olive oil 100gr chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1/4 cup white wine or sherry 780gr tomato, roasted and peeled 500 gr ground beef
500 gr ground pork 175gr (approx. 2 small) golden apples, peeled cored and diced 175gr (approx. 2) pears, peeled cored and diced
80gr toasted almond, finely chopped 110gr dehydrated apricot, chopped 60gr raisins 65gr pine nuts 4 whole cloves, freshly ground 5 pink peppercorns, freshly ground
1/4 tsp cumin powder
250 ml water 3 tsp chicken boullion powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
Nogada Sauce ½ of a 375g. can sweetened condensed milk 1 360 g. can evaporated milk 1 box / 190gr Philladelphia cream cheese 100gr plain goat cheese 250gr walnuts 450gr heavy cream 1/8 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
Nogada sauce, chopped fresh parsley, pomegranate seeds.
Rinse and dry the chili peppers.
Roast the peppers over an open flame, turning often, till blackened. Let them rest in a plastic bag till cool, to trap the smoky flavor and to help them sweat, which will loosen the skin. Remove and dispose of the blackened skin by wiping with a sturdy paper towel, your hands, or by carefully scraping with the back side of a knife, or a spoon. It’s ok if a few spots of blackened skin remain. Don't rinse them, as they will lose flavor.
Using a small paring knife, with gloved hands, create an opening from the stem, ¾ of the way to the tip. Remove the seeds and veins while maintaining the pocket shape of the chili so it can later be filled. Set aside.
Chili Pepper 101:
The heat of a chili pepper is concentrated mostly in the seeds and veins. With poblanos, even after removing these, it's still hard to tell if they're going to be super spicy or not till you taste them. If your mouth is currently on fire (it happens to the best of us), a spoonful of something lactose-based (yogurt, ice cream, sour cream) or a drink of milk should neutralize the burning sensation and calm it right down. If you don't wear gloves while working with chiles, the spice could stick to your hands and become an ever-increasing unpleasant slow burn that is impossible to remove with soap and water. Here's a tip I learned from experienced chefs in a Oaxaca restaurant: pour plain white vinegar on your hands and the burn will be immediately neutralized.
In an ungreased frying pan, roast the whole tomatoes over medium heat till softened. Let cool and remove the peel.
Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat and add the oil and onion. Cook till transparent. Deglaze the pan with the white wine (or sherry). Add the ground beef and ground pork. Smash the meat to get rid of large chunks. When the meat is halfway cooked, add the roasted tomato, spices, fruit, almonds, pine nuts, garlic, water and bullion. Cover and continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, till the water is absorbed and the meat is fully cooked. Adjust salt, if needed. Use immediately or make ahead and reheat before filling.
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend till combined. The mixture should be the consistency of eggnog. If necessary, thin with milk. Nogada sauce is traditionally served at room temperature.
When ready to serve: fill a chile with the warm meat filling and place onto rimmed plate or bowl. For a cleaner look, you can put the opening face down, but both presentations are acceptable. Add Nogada sauce around the chile. Garnish with parsley and pomegranate.
You can make them ahead by filling the chilis and storing, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Refrigerate the Nogada sauce separately. To plate: reheat in the microwave, then garnish with slightly warmed Nogada sauce, parsley and pomegranate.