I did it.
I successfully replicated my favorite Mexican dish, chiles en nogada. For those of you unfortunate to have never sampled the glory, it’s a poblano pepper stuffed with ground pork, onions, dried apricots, walnuts, raisins, apples, tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, allspice, oregano and thyme, then topped with a crema sauce made of cream cheese, sour cream, walnuts and cinnamon. Lastly, a heaping of pomegranate seeds are poured on top.
Spicy, salty, savory, sweet, crunchy, creamy, it’s everything delicious in the world, on a platter.
This dish is intentionally red, white and green. Unlike many popular foods in Mexico, chiles en nogada didn’t spring from Pre-Hispanic traditions or the influence of outside cultures like Spain. No, instead, the dish was created by a group of nuns in Puebla trying to honor Mexico’s new-found independence. (Hence the patriotic colors.) Not only did the dish warm the hearts of the new nation’s citizens, now, many years later, it is served all over Mexico around Sept. 16 (“diez y seis”). It is still a beloved part of the culture, almost 200 years later, for good reason.
When I first tried it not long after moving to Mexico, my eyes nearly rolled up in my head: I had died and gone to food heaven! I wrote a very emphatic blog post about it: If You See Chiles en Nogada on the Menu, Order It! After that, it became my go-to dish when I wasn’t sure what I wanted, as even half-hearted efforts were still quite amazing.
We moved back to New York in 2010. It seems with each passing month, while certain memories fade away, others get more gnawing, especially the food ones. So, rather than bitching/waiting around for us to finally have the opportunity to go back (either to visit or to live — something we contemplate doing again, all the time), I decided to try and make my own chiles en nogada, with my friend Concetta.
And it was a success, nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be. We used The Homesick Texan‘s relatively simple recipe, but had to make one big change — we couldn’t find any pomegranates (full disclosure: we didn’t try that hard), so we used dried cranberries. No, not quite the same, but tangy and red enough to step in for pomegranates. This version of the recipe was easy to replicate in a small Queens kitchen, but if you’d like to see a step-by-step on the real deal, check out The Mija Chronicles’ How to Make a Proper Chile en Nogada.
The first step is the hardest — blistering the poblano’s skin over an open fire. Homesick Texan recommends a broiler, we used tongs and the gas flame:
Then, lacking paper bags or Zip-locs big enough for peppers, we loosely wrapped each of them in foil, and let them steam for 20 minutes. (After that, you rub off their charred skin, which was easy.) While the peppers steamed, we mixed up the stuffing:
Both of us knew it was going to be good when we couldn’t stop eating right out of the skillet. While Concetta monitored the stuffing, I threw together the walnut cream sauce in the blender.
Last step: Slice open the poblanos, remove the seeds, and stuff them. Place on a dish, and pour walnut sauce on top, and sprinkle with cilantro and pomegranate seeds (or crasins). The peppers by now will not be hot, but that’s normal — it’s supposed to be served at room temperature.
Pat self on back, and eat (once you’re done photographing your bounty, of course):
And another view, aimed for your mouth.