Friday, November 2, 2012

Chiles en Nogada

I just came back from San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico where I enjoyed a classic seasonal Mexican dish called Chiles en Nogada.  Chiles en Nogada are roasted poblano peppers stuffed with picadillo, covered with a rich and creamy pureed walnut sauce, and garnished with parsley and pomegranate seeds.  The red pomegranate seeds and the fresh green parsley leaves against the creamy white sauce are said to symbolize the red, green and white of the Mexican flag.

Chiles en Nogada are often served cold or at room temperature, but personally, I prefer this dish warm.  It's a little bit of a production to make.  Fortunately, you can roast the peppers and make the picadillo ahead of time.  That way, you simply have to make the walnut sauce and assemble the dish.

Picadillo is a sweet-savory filling that's used in tacos and tamales as well as these stuffed peppers; and there are probably hundreds of recipes for picadillo.  It's typically made with ground meat, onions, garlic, raisins or currents, nuts, olives or capers, and spices.  I made my picadillo with ground lamb, but you can use ground beef or pork, shredded meat, or even tofu, if you prefer.

To roast the peppers:

On a gas stove with an open flame, lay the peppers across the burner in direct contact with the flame.  Turn the peppers as the skin blisters.  When completely charred, put the peppers in a bowl or paper bag until cool enough to handle.  Then rub or peel off the charred skin.

You can roast peppers on a barbeque grill or in a hot oven instead.  Follow the same steps as above, turning the peppers as the skins blisters and chars.  Cool before peeling.

Make a 2-3 inch lengthwise slit in each pepper and carefully remove the seeds without tearing the peppers.  Set aside or refrigerate for later use.

To make the picadillo (for 2-3 medium poblano peppers):

1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1/2 lb ground lamb (or beef)
1/2 medium Fuji apple cut in 1/4" dice
1-2 T chopped golden raisins
1 T chopped slivered almonds
1-2 T sliced olives (black or green)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cumin
pinch ground cloves
1 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat olive oil in 10" skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions and saute until translucent.

2.  Add ground lamb and continue cooking, breaking the lamb into crumbles as it cooks.

3.  Stir in the diced apple, raisins, almonds, and olives and continue cooking until the lamb is nearly done.

4.  Stir in the spices and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Use immediately to stuff the roasted poblanos or cool, cover and refrigerate for later use.

To make the nogada sauce:

1/2 C roasted walnut halves and pieces
1/2 C milk
1/2 - 3/4 cream
1-2 T sherry
salt to taste
pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley for garnish

1.  Pour boiling water to cover over the walnuts.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes.  Drain.  Rub walnuts in a dish towel to remove their brown, papery skins.

2.  Soak skinned walnuts in 1/2 C milk for 1 hour.  Drain.

3.  Put walnuts and cream in a blender and blend on a low speed until the walnuts are pureed into the cream to make a sauce.  Be careful not to over-process to turn the cream into butter.

4.  Pour from blender into a small saucepan.  Stir in sherry.  Season with salt.

5.  Just before you're ready to assemble the dish, heat the sauce, whisking constantly.  If desired, you can reduce the sauce over medium-low heat to desired thickness.  Some people like to add a little cream cheese or goat cheese to the sauce for flavor.  Stir the cheese in while your heating the sauce and make sure it's fully melted and mixed into the sauce.

To assemble Chiles en Nogada:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Stuff the roasted poblanos with picadillo and place in a shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet.  Cover with foil and bake for about 20-30 minutes, until heated through.

3.  Heat nogada sauce.

4.  Place a heated stuffed pepper on a plate.  Cover with the warm nogada sauce.  Garnish generously with pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Green leaf lettuce, kale, cabbage, beets, and celery;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Leeks, tomatoes, green beans, winter squash, carrots, chard, mixed peppers, basil, and dill;

From K and K Ranch:  Grapes and pomegranates; and

From Silver Lake Farms:  Oregano and thyme.



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