By Daniela McGonigal for Casa México
Many people may not know that September is a time of celebration in Mexico, as September 16th marks the 211th anniversary of the Mexican War of Independence. “El Grito de Dolores” (The Cry of Dolores) was the declaration from Father Miguel Hidalgo to his parish in the city of Dolores, a call to the Mexican people to rise up against the Spaniards after three centuries of colonial rule. This is a time of celebration, of eating everything delicious imaginable, including Chiles en Nogada!
The story goes that a traditional Chile en Nogada was prepared in Puebla for Agustín de Iturbide after he signed the treaty of Córdoba, the document which established Mexican Independence from Spain. With its colourful ingredients representing the Mexican flag, this recipe is the perfect meal for a month of festivities and celebrating Mexican pride!
On September 14th, I attended a virtual cooking class led by Chef Rodrigo Pérez for a Master Class on Mexican Cuisine. Being from Cuernavaca, Mexico, it was an exciting opportunity that I thought would help me in my own cooking skills when it came to authentic Mexican food, and it was an easy virtual opportunity in the time of COVID-19.
Pérez is a renowned chef with numerous restaurants in Mexico City, and is currently the general manager at Sonora Grill Reforma in Mexico City. He spoke about the importance of flavour in Mexican cuisine, and of how the most crucial element of the plate. He also spoke about the spice Cumin. It is a very Mexican flavour, but not many people know about this according to Pérez. It is not hard to imagine that Cumin is an integral part of Mexico, as so many flavours and ingredients in Mexican cuisine were brought from Arabic cultures from Spain.
As we sat with our mouths watering, watching Chef Rodrigo cook this delicious meal, I was filled with a strong sense of homesickness. Chiles en Nogada has always seemed like an impossible recipe to follow, but with the steps Chef Rodrigo outlined, I can now easily cook this at home, and so can you!
Chiles en Nogada consists of a poblano pepper (the greener the better), ground or shredded pork, and both fresh and candied fruits. Once stuffed with meat and cooked with the fruits, the pepper is covered with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. The green pepper, white walnut sauce, and red pomegranates represent the colours of the Mexican flag. Whole walnuts are also used to represent the eagle in the flag’s centre.
You can enjoy this dish with a glass of white wine and a traditional Mexican dessert such as Flan Napolitano or Churros.
Servings: Makes two stuffed Chiles
Olive oil for your pan
2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium onion, chopped fine
½ lb / 250 g Ground pork or vegetarian option
2 Poblano peppers
⅛ cup each of Apple, Pear and Peach
2 cups heavy cream (make sure it’s not sour cream!)
⅛ cup cream cheese
½ cup walnuts
2 tablespoons Port or Sherry
½ teaspoon brown sugar
Parsley, pomegranates and walnuts for garnish
To cook your meat, heat your pan and add a bit of olive oil. Throw in your minced garlic and cook until light brown in colour, otherwise they will be bitter. Add onions to the pan. Once your onion and garlic mixture is sautéed, add ⅛ cup each of your apple, pear and peach. You can also add raisins if you want, but if you decide to use raisins and candied fruit only add a very small amount. Once these ingredients have cooked for a few minutes you can add your pork, and season the mixture with ground pepper and salt. A helpful hint: salt is there to make the flavours come out, so don’t use too much!
As the meat cooks, start roasting your poblano pepper. You can do this by heating it in a pan on the stove or by putting it in the oven on high broil for a few minutes, until it burns and the skin peels off. This is known as tatemar or chile tatemado, and it will be very soft after this process. Make sure the chile blackens, but not too much. Once your chile is roasted, put it in a plastic bag. This will steam the Chile and make it easier to peel. Add some salt to the bag for seasoning. Some people say to rinse your chile with water so it’s easier to peel, but in my opinion this takes away that lovely charred aroma. Once it’s peeled, stuff your chile with the meat. You can substitute the meat for a vegetarian option such as rice or a number of plant-based meat alternatives.
Nogada sauce: In a blender, add the cream, cream cheese, walnuts, brown sugar, and Port or Sherry and blend. In Mexico, Jeréz is traditionally used. Since Jeréz is hard to find in Canada, other fortified wines such as Port or Sherry make a fine substitute. Once blended, place the mixture in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes so it thickens.
When the Nogada sauce is ready, dress the chiles with a lot of the sauce! Garnish with parsley, pomegranate seeds and walnuts so it looks like the Mexican flag!
Enjoy and ¡Viva la Independencía!