Chile en Nogada was created in 1821 by the Pueblan Nuns as a festive food to honor a visit from revolutionary general Don Augustín de Iturbide. Mexico had just won its independence from Spain. The colors of the dish are the same as in the Mexican flag: green poblano pepper and parsley, white walnut sauce, and red pomegranate seeds. It is a roasted poblano pepper filled with a picadillo of pork with fruits and nuts. I already wanted to make it when I saw it on Richard’s blog more than six years ago, but back then I could not get fresh poblano peppers. Now that I can get them I jumped at Elia’s suggestion to include this in the Mexican dinner. It is an unusual but delicious dish. There are many variations, but I stayed very close to Richard’s version. Poblano peppers can be almost as mild as green bell peppers, but they can also be quite spicy. If you can’t get poblano peppers and/or don’t like spicy food, you could substitute with green bell peppers. I cooked the pork sous-vide; for the traditional approach check out Richard’s recipe.
The most time-consuming part of this dish is in removing the skin and seeds from the poblano peppers. Or actually, it is skinning the walnuts. But I gave that up after 1 walnut as it is just too much fuss. I am sure the walnut sauce will be much nicer without the skins (which make the sauce a bit astringent), but it is still very tasty.
For 12 servings
12 poblano peppers
600 grams (1.3 lbs) pork shoulder
100 grams (1 cup) chopped onion
120 grams (12 Tbsp) blanched almonds, toasted
3 Tbsp raisins
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 pear, peeled, cored, and diced
2 garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp pork fat or vegetable oil (you can use the pork fat that is rendered out of the pork)
125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped tomatoes (fresh, from a can, or passata)
For the walnut sauce
120 grams (1 1/4 cup) walnuts, toasted
160 ml (2/3 cup) whole milk
60 grams (2 oz) fresh goat’s cheese
125 ml (1/2 cup) sour cream
Season the pork shoulder with salt and vacuum seal.
Cook sous-vide for 24 hours at 74C/165F.
Pour the juices from the bag into a container.
Pull the pork apart with two forks. If you allow the container with juices to cool, the fat that floats on top will solidify and you can use it for the filling.
Toast the walnuts and almonds in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C/350F.
Melt the pork fat in a frying pan.
When the fat has melted, add the onion.
Stir over medium heat until the onion is soft and golden, then add the garlic.
Stir briefly, then add the tomato…
…reserved pork juices…
…cinnamon and cloves…
…raisins, pairs, and almonds.
Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the tomatoes have fallen apart and the sauce has thickened. Then turn off the heat.
Add the pork.
Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Put the poblanos directly under a preheated broiler for 3 minutes per side.
It is important to grill the poblanos long enough that it will be easy to peel them, but not so long that they will fall apart when you try to remove the seeds from the inside or stuff them.
Allow the grilled poblanos to cool in a closed plastic bag, so the water vapor (often called steam but it is not steam as it is only steam if it is hotter than 100C/212F) will make it easier to peel them.
Peel the poblanos. It is okay if some pieces of skin are still there.
Carefully make a vertical slit in each pepper and remove the seeds.
Stuff the peppers with the stuffing.
Chiles en Nogada are often served at room temperature, but it is also nice to put them in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C/350F.
To make the walnut sauce, put all the ingredients in the blender…
…and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
Serve the chiles with the open side down. Cover with the walnut sauce, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
Because of the fruit elements and the astringent walnut sauce this is a tricky dish to pair a wine. An aged white wine that is creamy and has developed notes of almonds is a good choice. One of my favorite pairings is an aged Condrieu, made from Viognier grapes.
Cinghiale al mirto (wild board with myrtle berries) is a dish from Sardinia.