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Posts Tagged ‘chiles en nogada’

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The pretty lady you see pictured here is Megan. Isn’t she marvelous? Megan’s been threatening for some time to move back to the west coast, or at least to a friendlier climate (which, if I’m to be honest, is perfectly reasonable). When she recently returned to New York after an extended trip abroad I thought it would only be sensible to welcome her home (read: entice her to stay and suffer through the long winter with me) with one her favorite dishes – Chiles en Nogada – and 12 of her favorite friends from the neighborhood.  I had never made the dish before, but I’m a huge fan of all things Mexican, so I thought I’d give it a try. My friends Jorge and Daniel made a big pot of rice and beans with fresh salsa and I made a salad of mesclun greens, roasted butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, queso fresco and a tangy cumin-honey vinaigrette. Nick whipped up some jalapeño corn bread and DIY chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for dessert. As I’m sure you can imagine, a fine meal was had by all.

**I have to thank Megan’s friend Jacques for the post title.  Apparently, when he saw the above photo of Megan he commented that the dish looked like “fairy poop on a leaf”.  I assure you that, despite appearances, it’s quite delicious, if I do say so myself. The piccadillo filling is rich, smooth and has just enough sweetness to cut the slight heat of the poblano.  It’s a perfect early fall dish on a chilly night, since the fruits are all at their peak, but I could certainly eat it any time of the year.

Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce)

Walnut Sauce
1 cup (3 oz.) walnut halves
1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz.) milk
1 cup (8 fl. oz.) Mexican crema or crème frâiche
6 oz. queso fresco or mild feta cheese
2 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
Place the walnuts in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes, then drain and cover with the milk. Let soak for 12 hours or over night (I didn’t refrigerate it, but if the weather is very hot, you should).

Drain the walnuts and reserve the milk and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, along with 1/2 cup of the reserved milk and purée with a hand blender until smooth (you can also transfer all the ingredients to a standard blender). It should be thick, but still thin enough to pour. Add more milk if necessary. Taste and adjust the salt.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until you are ready to use it.  Note: I made the sauce after I finished roasting the pork as I didn’t want to leave it on the counter unrefrigerated for more than a couple of hours.

Pork  (Piccadillo) Filling
1 1/2 lbs. pork shoulder (a/k/a pork butt)
½ cup apple cider
1 large white onion, divided: half cut into 4 chunks, half finely chopped (set aside)
5 cloves garlic: 3 smashed, 2 minced (set aside)
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
salt and pepper
––––
2 tbsp olive oil
the chopped onion and minced garlic previously set aside
2 cups ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 firm, tart apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1/3 cup dried peach, chopped
1/3 cup seedless raisins
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves

Preheat oven to 325°. Rub the pork shoulder with salt and pepper and place in a dutch oven or other ovenproof dish with a cover.  Pour in the cider and add onions, garlic and spices. Cover and roast the pork for approximately 2 hours or until it’s tender enough to shred with a fork. Remove the pork to a plate or bowl to cool, then strain the cooking liquid and reserve about 1/2 cup of it. When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred it.

In a large (12″) skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, then sauté the onion and garlic until translucent but not browned. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the remaining ingredients – except for the pork – and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the pork and reserved stock and stir to blend, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes – until the fruit is softened and the mixture has thickened.

Peppers and Garnish
6 large fresh poblano peppers (no other pepper will do)
1 fresh pomegranate
1 small bunch cilantro, washed to remove any dirt or sand and dried well

Carefully blacken the skin of the peppers without charring the flesh, then set aside in a bowl and cover with a plate. Allow them to cool for about 20 minutes in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and then carefully rub off the skins. Slit each pepper lengthwise on one side, and then carefully remove the seeds and membrane. Pat the peppers dry with a paper towel, wiping away any charred skin if it bothers you. Set aside.

Cut the pomegranate in half around its equator. Using your fingers carefully separate the seeds from the membrane and reserve the seeds in a bowl.

Finely chop the cilantro and set aside in a bowl.

Final Assembly

Preheat oven to 325°.  Generously stuff the poblanos with the piccadillo filling and place in a roasting pan.  When all chilies are all stuffed, warm in the oven for 15 – 20 minuets until hot enough for serving.

Gently warm the sauce over very low heat.  If the sauce has thickened, add a little more milk.

Ladle sauce over each pepper so that it is completely coated and there is a circular pool surrounding it. Scatter a tablespoon each of pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro over each plate.

Serves 6. I easily doubled recipe to serve 12. Note: The walnut sauce and the piccadillo filling can be made the night before.  Take the pork out the refrigerator about 5 hours before you plan to assemble the chiles to allow it to come to room temperature.

This recipe is adapted from A Cooking Life, a favorite blog of mine. I only wish she posted more frequently. Photo by Daniel Pérez.

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