In August and during the lead up to the Mexican Independence celebrations on September 15 and 16, chefs in restaurants throughout Mexico add one very special seasonal favorite to their menus, Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce). The mouthwatering dish of fresh green chilies with a meat filling, topped with a creamy white walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley and coriander incorporates the colors of the Mexican flag, red, white and green.
An Independence Dish Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce) hails from the colonial city of Puebla and originated as Mexico won its Independence from Spain. The story goes that Mexican leader General Agustín de Iturbide visited Puebla in 1821 after signing the Treaty of Córdoba, the document that gave Mexico its Independence, with the last Spanish Viceroy, Juan de O’Donoju. He decided to celebrate his saint’s day in the city: August 28, the day of St Augustine, and the city’s elders held a banquet in his honor. Caught up in the patriotic fervor surrounding his visit, the nuns of Santa Monica Convent decided to create a special dish to commemorate the occasion and the birth of a nation, using the colors of the new flag: red, white and green.
They served Iturbide their colorful new creation, calling it chiles en nogada. This savory-sweet dish features green chili poblano, a milder variety of chili about the size of a hand, stuffed with a mixture of minced beef and pork, onion, garlic, almonds, raisins, peach, apple and spices. The chilies are then topped with a creamy white sauce made from walnuts, almonds and sherry and garnished with pomegranate seeds and chopped coriander and parsley, thus all the patriotic colors of the Mexican flag are present in the recipe.
To this day, the inhabitants of Puebla pride themselves on this festive dish and every August chefs compete to prepare the best Chiles en Nogada.
Recipes vary from family to family, some cooks put pears and apple in the stuffing or use citron peel, pineapple, prunes or banana. Some swear by nutmeg, pine nuts and add rum to the sauce, while others scorn the use of cream or cheese in the sauce, relying on the nuts they grind to create the creamy consistency. The staples, however, are pomegranates and walnuts and these are only in season during late August and September, coinciding with Independence month. And whatever the interpretation, the results are always delicious.
The Hacienda Sisal Recipe
During September, the month of Mexican Independence, Hacienda Sisalwill be serving up this classic Mexican dish and the chef has been good enough to share his recipe with us.
Chilies en Nogada
1 poblano chili per person (peeled)
45g beaten egg
130g meat filling for each chili
90ml walnut sauce for each chili
Prepare the chilies by gently frying or toasting them over the gas flame. Put them in a plastic bag to sweat. Then remove the skin, remember to wear rubber gloves while doing this and avoid touching your face. Rinse the chilies and make a small slit in the side, remove the seeds and veins, rinse them again and drain. If you think that they may be very hot, you can soak them in water with a tablespoon of white vinegar and salt for 30 minutes.
Pat the chilies dry and stuff them with the meat filling. Dust them with flour and then coat in the egg. Fry in hot oil until the egg is golden, the chili softens and the filling is heated through.
Makes around 1.9 kg filling
2 oz olive oil
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
2 ½ oz chopped onion
1 lb minced pork
1 lb minced beef
3 ½ oz chopped carrot
3 ½ oz chopped potato
3 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
3 oz raisins
2 oz chopped pecan nuts
1 ½ oz sliced almonds
5 oz chopped candied citron peel
1 lb 3 oz chopped tomatoes
½ tsp ground black pepper
7 oz chicken stock
Heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion; add the minced pork and beef and fry until completely cooked through and brown. Mix in the carrot, potato, citron peel, herbs, raisins, nuts, tomato and stock. Cover and cook at a slow heat for up to two hours or until the filling thickens. Leave to cool.
Makes just over 2 kg sauce
1 quart semi-skimmed milk
2 lb fresh ranchero cheese (soft, creamy cheese)
10 oz sliced almonds
7 oz chopped walnuts
2 cinnamon sticks
½ oz sherry
¼ oz nut concentrate
4 oz Bacardi Añejo rum
¼ oz vanilla
1 ½ oz sugar
1 ½ oz brandy
Soak the walnuts overnight in a little milk to soften them. Blend the almonds and nuts until they resemble breadcrumbs and place in a saucepan; then add the milk gradually stirring continuously. Add the cheese, cinnamon and the remaining ingredients and stir continuously until sauce thickens, season with salt to taste.
Assembling your Chilies en Nogada
25g of pomegranate seeds
5g chopped parsley
55g green rice (cooked in stock with green peppers and coriander to color it)
55g white rice
55g of Mexican red rice (cooked in tomato stock)
2g chopped coriander
Serve one chili per plate and pour the walnut sauce over it. Sprinkle it with pomegranate seeds and chopped coriander. Serve with rice and sprinkle chopped parsley around the rim of the plate. As an extra special patriotic touch you could prepare three different kinds of rice: red, white and green.
Join us at Hacienda Sisal in Cancun to celebrate Mexican Independence on September 15 with a traditional fiesta with festive food, tequila, margaritas and more, mariachi serenades, music and fun. Viva Mexico!
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