by Cinthya Rubio, Marketing and Communications Director @ Our Hands For Hope
During my last visit to Napa California, for an intense 3 months of one on one work with Terisa (aka The Alpaca Czar), a mutual friend opened her home and let me house-sit while she and her husband ventured off on a two month trip- with the condition of showing her how to make Chiles Rellenos (stuffed peppers) when she returned.
So, she came back, we cooked, and the uproar of unhappy comments from my family back home came as well! “YOU DARE COOK SUCH DELICACIES FOR OTHERS… WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK HOME?!?!?!”
Two weeks later I found myself back in Texas. With the holidays around the corner mum and I proclaimed that for 2013 we were going to host an #NoIdontWantTurkey Thanksgiving. So I decided to give the people what they wanted and have Chiles Rellenos as the main dish.
Like most social media nerds, I was posting pictures of the yummy food I was making with my mum. I was also watching the Facebook feed of what my friends were doing this Thanksgiving and ran across a post that said “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share” W. Clement Stone. In a sense I was “sharing” by posting my pictures, but I wanted to make my sharing more meaningful… So without further ado, I bring forth my personal recipe for Chiles en Nogada!
For those of you that are wondering what these are, it is a staple dish in traditional Mexican cuisine. Basically it is a poblano chili stuffed with picadillo (meat, fruits, spices and aromatics cooked together), topped with a walnut cream sauce (hence the name “en nogada”- nogal is a Spanish word for the walnut tree), and garnished with pomegranate seeds. Once plated one can observe the three colors of the Mexican Flag: green for the poblano pepper, white for the walnut sauce, and red for the pomegranate.
Ok so here is what you will need:
8 poblano peppers*
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of fresh garlic **
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup of walnuts (or pecans)
1/2 cup of craisins (or raisins)
1 small onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 large celery stick chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of Mexican oregano
1 bouillon cube
dash of salt
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of olive oil
for the walnut cream:
1 cup of walnuts (my mum prefers pecans!)
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of butter
1 1/2 cups of Mexican crema (not sour cream)***
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 laurel leaf
1 pomegranate, seeded
*I do not know why but in some supermarkets poblano peppers are also called pasilla peppers, which I would consider WRONG since pasilla peppers are commonly known to be sold in dried form!
**Garlic grows in large papery heads. A novice mistake is to massively overgarlic things by following instructions incorrectly. Please remember that the large bulb of garlic you buy is NOT one ‘clove’. The whole garlic is called a ‘head’ or ‘knob’. Each small, individual segment of a garlic head is a clove. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:Garlic
***Mexican crema is not as sour or runny as sour cream and not as thick as creme fraiche. It has a sweetish, nutty flavor. You can find it in many supermarkets next to the cheese section.
First you need to wash the poblano peppers and then roast them (you need to do this to get rid of the tough skin and give it a smoky flavor)… if you have a gas stove, turn one burner on and with tongs hold the pepper over the flame, once you start hearing the skin of the pepper pop, rotate and continue grilling until the entire pepper is charred but not burnt! Stick the peppers in a plastic bag and seal, let them sit there so the steam helps separate the skin from the pepper. After a few minutes remove the peppers from the bag and start removing the skin, if pieces of the skin can not be removed do not worry. Here is a small video of how to roast a pepper on an open flame.
If you have an electric stove it is basically the same process but it takes a tad bit longer. At home we heat up a skillet and place the peppers on the hot surface, rotate to char each side and continue the process to remove the skin. Once you have done this you will need to make a slit on one side and remove the cluster of seeds. It is said that if you remove the white veins inside the pepper, it will not be spicy… being Mexican, this is frowned upon but hey I’m not here to judge!
Ok now that the peppers are ready, set aside and lets start on the picadillo.
Heat up a cooking pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Mince your garlic and add to the warm olive oil, once golden add both the pork and beef ground meat. I use both varieties because the pork helps avoid a dry picadillo and at the taste is better. While it is browning, add the cumin, oregano and the bouillon. Add the craisins and walnuts to the thoroughly cooked meat. Turn off the heat and add the chopped carrots, celery, and onion. I add these three ingredients until the end because I do not like to over cook them and to add a tad bit of crunch to the picadillo.
Now that the picadillo is done, bring the peppers back and with a spoon fill them up with the picadillo. Do not overfill otherwise it will fall out when we batter up the peppers. Secure the opening with a toothpick. Set aside.
Next up is preparing the batter. You will need a mixer for this part of the recipe. Get your 4 eggs and separate the egg whites and the yolks. Put the egg whites in the mixing bowl, with the beater attachment whip up the egg whites at a high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Lower the speed and slowly incorporate the egg yolks and the dash of salt. Set aside.
In a shallow bowl put the flour and roll the peppers until lightly coated. While doing this, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, get a pepper and dip in the egg batter until fully coated. Immediately place in the hot pan and cook each side of the pepper until batter turns light golden brown. Use the stem from the pepper to turn the pepper, you can use a fork to help turn it as well. Once cooked, set on a plate lined with paper towels to remove some of the excess oil. When you are finished with all the peppers, place in a casserole dish and pop in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them warm until ready to serve.
While the peppers are in the oven we will make the nogal (walnut) sauce. Here at home my mum preferes pecans so we substitute the amount needed of walnuts with this nutty nut.
In a blender put the 1 cup of walnuts and 2 cups of water. Blend until it looks smooth and creamy. In a saucepan at medium heat add the butter. Once melted pour the blended walnuts into the saucepan over a strainer to remove any of the big pieces that might have not been blended all that well. Heat until it simmers, the butter and heat will help bring out the nuttiness of the sauce. Once it is simmering add the Mexican cream, cumin and laurel leaf. Continue heating until it comes to a light simmer.
While the sauce is simmering lets prep our pomegranate garnish. The easiest way to take the seeds out of a pomegranate is to cut the fruit in half, submerge in water and gently remove the seeds. Because my hands were wet during this process I couldn’t get pictures but do not fear, I found a great video that shows how to do it!
Once you have seeded your pomegranate you should have a nice amount of bright beautiful seeds!
Ok if you are still with me you have officially opened the door to so many Mexican Culinary recipes!! Once you make Chiles en Nogada you can make anything!!
Time to plate!
Take the chiles rellenos out of the oven, in a medium size plate, place one chili in the center. With a ladle pour walnut sauce over the chili, you want sauce to surround the chili without overflowing the well of the plate. Scoop up about 3 spoonfuls of the pomegranate seeds and sprinkle on top. Voilà!