Chiles en Nogada

chiles en nogada

There are roughly 50 weeks and 8 days until I get to have this dinner again. That is, of course, unless someone makes it FOR me. Chiles en Nogada is hands-down my favorite meal, and one I make once a year for a very special dinner with my best girlfriends. Is it difficult? No! Does it take time? Yes, and lots of it. But trust me, your efforts will be rewarded and your taste buds will thank you.

I was first introduced to this dish in Scottsdale about 20 years ago. Husband had all-day meetings and client dinners so I was on my own most of the time. Believe me, that wasn’t a hardship. It meant that I could spend a lazy afternoon reading by the pool, then try out new {to me} restaurants and dishes, without having to do the “corporate wife” thing.

We were staying at the wonderful Scottsdale Princess Resort. One of the restaurants on the property is La Hacienda – a repeated award winner, and voted the #1 Mexican restaurant in Arizona in 2012. On that first night, I decided not to venture into Old Scottsdale or downtown Phoenix, but stay close to “home” {and the pool} instead.

You should know that while I’m pretty adventurous now, food-wise, back then I was just  discovering that there was more to dining than red meat and potatoes {I am, after all, from Nebraska}. I’d like to thank the margarita that helped influence my decision to order this dish.

Chiles en Nogada, translated, means Chiles in Walnut Sauce. That hardly does the dish justice. It’s a roasted poblano pepper, stuffed with a delicious combination of pork, fruit, vegetables, spices and nuts, and topped with a walnut/cheese sauce. Garnished with cilantro and pomegranate seeds, the chiles are as beautiful as they are tasty.

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Don’t get intimidated by the list of ingredients or the length of instructions. If you break it down into parts, you can pull this together by doing a little each day for a few days. {I’ve included the plan I used this year.}

If you ever get to an authentic Mexican restaurant during mid-September, you’ll find this the centerpiece of Mexican Independence Day celebrations. Order it.

I’ve tried a few different recipes for the chiles – all of them delicious. I’ve even made mine with chicken instead of pork, and I’m sure a vegetarian option would be great too.

Since the peppers really stand alone as a meal, all that’s necessary as an accompaniment is some simple rice {I cheated} and maybe some black beans. And don’t plan on leftovers!

By the way, I had another night on my own during that trip to Scottsdale. Guess where I went for dinner?

If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend La Hacienda, and my current favorite, The Mission.

Chiles En Nogada
Serves: 10
  • 1½ pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes {preferably Muir Glen Fire Roasted}
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick cinnamon {preferably mexican}
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pinch nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar, or to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 small peach
  • ⅓ cup dried apricot, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ⅓ cup green apple, peeled and diced, (1/3 inch)
  • ½ cup very ripe (black) plantain, peeled and diced (1/3 inch)
  • 1½ cups walnut halves, (5 oz)
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds, (2½ oz), plus additional if necessary to thicken sauce
  • 1½ cups whole milk, plus additional if necessary to thin sauces
  • 6 ounces queso fresco or very mild soft goat cheese, crumbled (1½ cups)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 14 large fresh poblano chiles*
  • ½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish
  1. Generously salt and pepper pork, then brown on all sides in heavy oven-proof skillet, or Dutch oven. Add onions and garlic to pot, cover, and roast in 350º oven until meat thermometer reads 145º, about 1 to 1½ hours.
  2. Remove pork to cutting board and let cool. Remove thyme sprig from pot, leaving onions and garlic. When pork is cool, dice into ½" cubes.
  1. To pot with onions and garlic, add tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1½ teaspoons sugar, and ¾ teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and sauce is slightly thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. While tomatoes simmer, cut an X in bottom of peach, then immerse in boiling water until skin begins to loosen, 10 to 30 seconds. Transfer peach to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking, then peel, pit, and dice (1/3 inch). Discard bay leaves, thyme sprig, and cinnamon stick from tomato mixture, then add diced pork and remaining filling ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until fruit is softened but still intact, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with additional salt, sugar, and vinegar.
  1. Pureé walnuts and almonds in a blender with milk, cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt until smooth and silky, about 2 minutes. (Sauce should thickly coat back of a large spoon. If sauce is too thin, add more almonds and pureé?. If too thick, add more milk.) Season with salt and sugar.
  1. Grill or roast chiles over flame until blackened. Place in covered bowl and cool. Carefully peel skin from peppers. Cut a lengthwise slit in each chile and carefully cut out seeds with kitchen shears, leaving stem intact. (For milder heat, carefully cut out ribs also.)
Stuff & Bake Peppers
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Divide pork filling among chiles, then close, overlapping sides of openings slightly. Transfer, seam sides up, to a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish, then cover with foil and bake until just heated through, 15 to 25 minutes. Transfer chiles to plates, carefully turning them seam sides down. Pour about ⅓ cup walnut sauce over each chile, leaving some of chile visible, then sprinkle chiles with pomegranate seeds and cilantro if desired. Serve chiles warm or at room temperature.

    * I always buy a few extra chiles because there are always some chile-casualties {some tear, others aren't quite right for stuffing}. No worries, though, whatever you don't use for this recipe can be used to flavor soups, or chopped up to top tacos.

Time Saver ::
Packaged, peeled peach chunks can be found in many produce sections.

Time Saver ::
While you can roast the peppers over your gas burners, or under the broiler, I find that charring them on a very hot grill saves time – and there’s less cleanup.

This year’s plan for a Friday night dinner:

Wednesday :: Make walnut sauce, seed pomegranate

Thursday :: Make filling

Friday :: Roast, peel and stuff peppers (about 6 hours ahead)

By the way, if you decide to attempt these, I’d love an invite. I don’t know if I can wait for September to have them again!



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