This dish, served in the fall when a fresh crop of walnuts has just come in, makes a spectacular display with its colors of the Mexican flag: red, white, and green.
Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Cream Sauce)
Walnut Cream Sauce
1 cup cream
1/2 cup queso fresco or mild feta cheese
1 to 5 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
seeds of 1 small pomegranate (about 1/2 cup, more if you wish, for garnish)
sprigs of cilantro (for garnish)
Note: The sauce is traditionally sweet, but may be too sweet for American tastes. We suggest you add only 1 tablespoon of sugar at first, taste, and then add more if you wish. This sauce is served at room temperature or lightly chilled. Don’t try to heat it.
In a blender combine first 4 ingredients until smooth.
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
cooking oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
1 pound ground beef (or ground pork; or use cooked shredded pork)
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds or other nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup raisins (soaked in hot water if hard; discard water)
2 tablespoons sliced pitted green olives
2 tablespoons diced fruit such as apples, dried apricots, dried or candied pineapple, or Mexican cactus candy (dulce de biznaga, also known as acitrón, which is not to be confused with citron)
In a large sauté pan cook onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until golden brown. Add remaining ingredients and cook until beef is done. Stuff chiles with meat mixture. (Note: You can use toothpicks to keep the chiles closed after they have been stuffed or just handle them very carefully, cupping them in your hands while slipping them into the oil to fry, in the next step.)
8 poblano chiles
To prepare the chiles, toast them directly over a gas flame or on a comal (or a cast-iron skillet), turning frequently, until they blister and turn brown on all sides. Place them in a closed plastic bag and allow them to “sweat” for 20 minutes. Peel off the browned skin. Then make a slit in the side of each chile and remove the seeds and veins, being careful not to remove the core, or top part, and the stem. Rinse and pat dry.
10 eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
vegetable oil for frying
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl beat yolks well. Fold yolks into beaten whites. Sprinkle about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the flour on top and fold it into the egg mixture.
Sprinkle a plate with a layer of flour and lay each stuffed chile in it. Sprinkle more flour on top of the chiles so that they are thoroughly coated; this helps the batter adhere. In a large sauté pan heat about 1/4 inch oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, pick up each floured chile by the stem and dip it the batter. Then gently lay it in the oil.
As the chiles fry, lift the pan by the handle and tilt it back and forth so that the edges of the battered chiles are cooked (this makes them easier to turn too). When the first side is golden brown, turn and cook the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on several layers of paper towels. Keep warm in a low oven (about 150 or 200 degrees) until all are done.
Note: The chiles may be prepared in advance and reheated on a nonstick baking sheet for about 8 minutes at 450 degrees. Or they may be served at room temperature.
To serve, place a stuffed chile on each plate and cover with walnut cream sauce (the nogada). Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and garnish plate with cilantro. Serves 8.