I hope you enjoy this dish a true symbol of the Mexican cuisine. It is almost impossible to make a short entry to talk about “Chiles en Nogada”, because it involves too much history, ingredients, and procedures, which are a bit long.
If you ask me which Mexican dish is my favorite, I will answer without hesitation “Poblano Peppers in Walnut Sauce”. It is a feast for your palate, not just because it is delicious, but also cooking it is a pleasure for me, from choosing the ingredients (which are many), and then planning the recipe and preparing to raise my culinary fanaticism to a higher level.
Poblano Peppers in a walnut sauce are allusive to the Mexican National Independence Holiday and are prepared in México between the months of August and September, which is the season where you can get the ingredients. Many restaurants, taverns, and housewives prepare it at this time of the year. It is eaten cold or at room temperature. The Poblano peppers we use in this recipe are not spicy.
Preparing this dish could lead to asking many questions, such as what type of filling combination to use for the stuffing, or if they battered with eggs or not, or if they have goat cheese or not, and also questions of the historical value.
It is said that they were prepared to honor Puebla’s Iturbide at the end of the War of Independence, and more exactly on his birthday on August 28 (Feast of St. Augustine), by the nuns of the Convent of Santa Monica, wanting to use seasonal fruits in a recipe that has the colors of the Mexican Flag (green for the pepper and parsley, white with walnut sauce and red with the pomegranates). Others say it was made out by the society ladies of the time, others say that the girlfriends of the soldiers, but the funny thing is that no records are found about the recipe in the cookbooks published during the first part of the nineteenth century.
I always imagined that, somewhere in the City of Puebla’s Museum, or in the Ex Convent of Santa Monica, where I learned about this wonderful cuisine that we still preserve, I would find this recipe like the most guarded gem inside a glass box, a yellowish paper manuscript with a nun’s handwritings, the original recipe for “Chiles en Nogada”, and for sure I would have exclaim “Oooooh!” after finding such a precious treasure. That, I dreamt of, before reading and finding out more about this recipe. And what was my disappointment to learn that there are not historical records of the recipe until many years later!
Although many families in Puebla claim to be the sole owners of the original recipe for the stuffing and the walnut sauce, there is a lot of information that made you think that everything is just a culinary legend greeted and embraced with popular enthusiasm.
I started researching the whole week to be certain of the publications that I have with the historical background, so I was in search of the material, calling the library at the National School of Anthropology and History, following tracks, until I could get the book I was looking for, thanks to very nice people that helped me obtain such materials. You can find information on the internet about the subject, but I needed to hold the original publications in my hands, to bring you an accurate data.
Here are some interesting facts on the subject in the following years:
-1849: In the City of Puebla was published in the form of booklets “The Cook’s Manual” (El Manual del Cocinero y La Cocinera), in which does not appear a recipe for “Chiles in Nogada” , only one recipe for Hen in Walnut Sauce. It’s also on the XVIII century kitchen books.
-1858: The Publication of the “Nuevo Cocinero Mexicano” in a dictionary form recorded a recipe for stuffed peppers in a walnut sauce that included pork picadillo, covered with walnut sauce and garnished with pomegranate, and notes that the garnishing was optional.
--- 1872:The Publication of “ La Cocinera Poblana” was released and also does the book “El Libro de Las Familias”, in which a recipe for the walnut sauce for stuffed peppers and walnut sauce for peppers with ham, at this time the walnut sauce takes and important role.
Late-nineteenth-century XIX: Diario del Hogar (Home Journal) published a recipe for Cod Stuffed Peppers in walnut,where the walnut sauce, is not decorated with pomegranate seeds.
-Begins the twentieth century XX: The Chiles en Nogada recipe,still not appearing regularly in the small cookbooks known as “recetarios”, only a recipe for the more common stuffed peppers appears as we know then today.
-1930: In this year the culinary documents begin to register the recipe. Mercedes de la Parra and Professor Ana Maria Hernandez in their respective works recorded the recipe as we know it nowadays.
-1942: The writer Agustin Aragon Leiva described in his “Diccionario de Recetas de Cocina”, a dish described as a masterpiece of the Mexican Cuisine, making it clear that it was created in honor of Agustin de Iturbide, a Mexican Emperor that lasted 11 months in Office after the War of Independence.
It seems that the legend of the “Chiles en Nogada” was the responsibility of two writers, Artemio del Valle Arizpe and Agustin Aragon y Leiva, both distinguished themselves in the period of the decades from 1930 to 1950 for engaging in historic culinary commentaries. Since then the story is found in different sources and stating categorically that the “Chiles en Nogada” were made in Puebla for the emperor of México.
Any culinary stories about how a dish was created is important because it tells us a lot about the people that made it. About his cooking, and their worldview.
It is interesting that when you join the cooking with the legend it results in confirming the nature of patriarchal and religious orientation of the country. The woman is assigned the role of inventor, and if it is closer to God, the better (as in Mexico, both the mole and Chiles en Nogada are attributed to nuns). On the other hand, the constant repetition of the legend does, according to the laws of the myths, that it will become an unquestionable and agreeable true.
Do not forget, however, that in terms of practical use, that “Chiles en Nogada” had been consumed for many years, a fact that doesn’t diminish their quality of an aesthetic element of the Mexican cuisine.
Well, apart from historical discussions, Chiles en Nogada is unquestionably a Mexican dish, and it brings in its creation the national colors, is a dish that should never be missing to show up at the table of the Mexican Independence Celebrations, is for others to talk about the exquisite of this preparation.
With so many recipes, historical and culinary discussions, what I did was this : It has been 5 years since every August or September that I prepare Chiles en Nogada for my family. That time I gathered all the material I could, food magazines, newspapers and books that have any information regarding the recipe, I started reading, and when I realized, it was 3 a.m.!
Then for peppers stuffing, what I did was to chooses the main ingredients in the majority of the recipes, and created my own recipe trying to be as thorough as possible, based on the ingredients available today.
And about La Nogada (Walnut Sauce that covers the peppers), exist many recipes and all of them claim to be the best, but I choose the want that I like and think is a really good one.
You start days before peeling the walnuts, as soon as we peel the nuts place them in a container with milk and then place in the refrigerator. It is really important that you use fresh walnuts, it is easier to peel them.
MAKES 16-18 STUFFED PEPPERS
Ingredients for the Stuffing-Filling
- 1 Lb. Ground pork
- 1 lb. Ground beef
- 1/2 of a medium white onion finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 5 cloves
- 1/2 stick of cinnamon (about 1.5 inch)
- 3/4 cup pine nuts
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 3/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
- 1 Plantain, peeled and chopped.
- 2 medium size apples, peeled and diced (place in water with lemon juice to avoid oxidation, drain before using)
- 2 peaches chopped (About 1 cup)
- 2 medium-size pears, peeled and diced (place in water with lemon)
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup oil
- Salt to taste
- Some recipes call for Prickle pear cactus (Bisnaga de Acitron), but this is an endangered plant. I do not recommend to use it.
- The fruit used to make this recipe is called “criolla”, is fruit that grows in family home gardens, it is sold around this time of the year at the local markets.
- 16 to 18 Poblano peppers
- 12 eggs, separated
- About 1 cup of All Purpose Flour
- Oil for frying
WALNUT SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
- 3 1/2 cups (14 oz.) Walnut halves (You can also use pecans in case you can’t find walnuts. If using pecans you will only need 2 cups, rinse 3 times in warm water to blanch them.
- 7 oz. goat cheese
- 1 pinch of ground cinnamon to taste
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup of sweet sherry
- Seeds of 2 pomegranates and springs of parsley to garnish
1. Place the onion, pork and beef in a large frying pan with the oil and cook thoroughly
2. I a mortar or pestle grind the cinnamons stick, garlic, and cloves. Once this has formed a paste add water. Pass through a sieve and add to the already cooked meat. (Your kitchen will start flooding with wonderful aromas)
2. Add the chopped tomato, raisins, almonds and pine nuts. Keep simmering for about 20 minutes until the juices had reduced stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste.
3. Stir in the apples, pears, peaches and plantain to the frying pan and mix everything very well. And cook just for 2-3 more minutes. Remove promptly from heat since we want the fruit to keep its shape. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it cool. Do not cover with a pot lid.
This is how the stuffing looks:
4. Now, while the filling cools, prepare the poblano peppers. To remove the skin first we roast them over a high heat flame. Then place them in a damp cloth ( This way they retain more flavor that placing then in a plastic bag).
5. After peeling the peppers, make a slit cut lengthwise in each one, remove seed and veins. Soak them in water with vinegar and salt. (This gives a great flavor to the peppers) After 15 min. dried them with paper towels.
6. Once the peppers are ready, we start to stuff them with the filling using a spoon being careful not to overstuff or the filling could get out of the pepper while frying it.
Note: Some recipes do not mention the peppers coated with batter. In the region around the State of Puebla, they do coat the peppers with batter. This step is optional to each individual taste. I like them with the batter.
1. Heat about 2/3 inch of oil in a large frying pan.
2. Beat the egg white to form stiff peaks and then stir in the yolks, one at a time and keep beating until you have a nice fluffy batter and add salt .
3. Spread the flour on a large plate and coat the peppers lightly, one by one. Making sure they do not open while doing this step.
4. Once the peppers are covered with the flour, dip into the beaten eggs making sure it is well coated.
5. Carefully place the peppers in the hot oil, do not overcrowd the skillet. Fry each side until it gets a deep golden color.
It takes practice to master this step, I use a spoon spatula turning in a way that one of the sides faces the frying pan wall. Then turn back again to cook the other side of the pepper. (It looks like a triangular shape)
Once fried place on absorbent paper or paper towels. I change the paper several times to absorb as much oil as possible.
1. Remove the walnuts from the refrigerator, place in your blender along with the goat cheese, sugar, milk, pinch of cinnamon and sweet sherry. Puree until you have a smooth creamy sauce.
2. Place the peppers in a serving dish and cover with the walnut sauce, garnish with the pomegranate seeds and springs of parsley. This dish can be served cold or at room temperature.
I hope you prepare it and come back to tell me how it came out……
This is a guest post by Gabriela from Gabriela, Clavo y Clanela. A list of all the resources used for this research could be found in her original writings HERE.
This week guest post is from Gabriela, from the blog “Gabriela, Clavo y Canela” someone that was born in Paraguay but married to a Mexican. As she says, half of her heart belongs to México where she has lived for more than 11 years and where her children were born. Her thirst to learn the cuisine of her new country took her to conduct intensive research, which, as logical consequence, lead her to understand the heart and soul of the Mexican Cuisine and to love the delicacies that have been a treasure in México for centuries. This post is just an example of her avid love for our cuisine.
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