Stuffed Peppers with Walnut Sauce (Chiles en Nogada)

>> Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We have been wanting to try this traditional Mexican celebration dish for a while now. Our friend John's birthday dinner was a great time to serve this, and they spent the rest of the night moaning about how good it was.

This festive dish, resplendent with the colors of the Mexican flag, is traditionally served on September 16 in honor of Mexico's Independence Day, though it is popular anytime in the late summer and fall when the walnuts are fresh and the pomegranates abundant.

For the Meat
2 pounds pork, finely chopped
1 small white onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
about 1 Tablespoon sea salt

For the Picadillo (fruit stuffing)
4 Tablespoons safflower or canola oil
1/3 cup chopped white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup chopped raisins (I used golden raisins)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1/3 cup chopped candied acitrón or candied pineapple
1 fresh pear, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 plantain, peeled and chopped
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
salt to taste

For the Chiles
12 fresh poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded, leaving the stem intact

For the Walnut Sauce
1 cup fresh walnuts
6 ounces cream cheese (not fat free) at room temperature
1-1/2 cups Mexican crema or 1-1/4 cups sour cream thinned with milk
about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Garnish (I didn't use a garnish when making these yesterday)
1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

  1. Cut the meat into large chunks, removing any excess fat. Place the meat into a large Dutch oven with the onion, garlic, and salt.
  2. Cook meat until brown on all sides.
  3. Warm the oil in a large, heavy skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until they turn a pale gold. Stir in the browned meat and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cinnamon, pepper, and cloves, then, stir in the raisins, the 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts, and the candied acitrón.
  5. Add the chopped pear and apple, and mix well.
  6. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste, and continue cooking over medium-high heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. Stir often so that the mixture doesn't stick.
  7. Let cool, cover, and set aside. The picadillo may be made 1 day in advance.
  8. Make a slit down the side of each chile, just long enough to remove the seeds and veins. Keep the stem end intact.
  9. Drain the chiles on absorbent paper until completely dry. Cover and set aside. The chiles may be prepared 1 day in advance.
  10. Place the nuts, cream cheese, crema, and salt in a blender and purée thoroughly. Stir in the optional sugar, cinnamon, and sherry, if using, until thoroughly combined. Chill for several hours.
  11. Preheat the oven to 250ºF.
  12. When ready to serve, reheat the meat filling and stuff the chiles until plump and just barely closed.
  13. Put the filled chiles, covered, to warm in the oven.
  14. After they are thoroughly heated, place the chiles on a serving platter or on individual plates, cover with the chilled walnut sauce, and sprinkle with the parsley and pomegranate seeds.


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