Chiles en Nogada (Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Walnut Sauce)

Traditionally made in Puebla to celebrate Mexican Independence Day on September 16, these chiles have a minced pork filling enhanced with chopped fruit, and a creamy walnut sauce.

Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Walnut Sauce (Chiles en Nogada)
Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Walnut Sauce (Chiles en Nogada)
Traditionally made in Puebla to celebrate Mexican Independence Day on September 16, these chiles have a minced pork filling enhanced with chopped fruit, and a creamy walnut sauce.Todd Coleman

SERVES 12

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE FILLING:
8 oz. pork loin
2 cloves garlic, peeled, plus 2 finely chopped
1 large white onion, halved
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tbsp. lard (available at emperorfood.com) or canola oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
3 plum tomatoes, cored, peeled, and finely chopped
2 tbsp. raisins
2 tbsp. finely chopped blanched almonds
½ Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
½ pear, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
½ peach, peeled, pitted, and finely chopped
½ medium ripe plantain or banana, peeled and finely chopped

FOR THE WALNUT SAUCE:
4 oz. walnuts
½ cup milk
6 oz. queso fresco (available at mexgrocer.com)
1 cup crema (available at mexgrocer.com) or sour cream
2 tbsp. sherry
3 tbsp. sugar
Kosher salt, to taste

FOR THE CHILES:
12 poblano chiles
2 cups canola oil, for frying
1 cup flour
5 eggs, separated
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
Seeds of 1 pomegranate

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Make the filling: Bring pork, 2 whole cloves garlic, half the onion, and 2 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; season with salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until pork is tender, about 1 hour. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and pour cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a bowl; reserve ½ cup cooking liquid, and discard any remaining along with solids. Once cool, finely chop pork, and set aside with cooking liquid. Return saucepan to medium-high heat, and add lard; finely chop remaining onion, and add to pan along with minced garlic, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add parsley and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until tomatoes break down, about 5 minutes. Return pork and cooking liquid to pan along with raisins, almonds, apple, pear, peach, and plantain, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fruit is cooked through and mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and season with salt; set aside.

2. Make the walnut sauce: Place walnuts in a 2-qt. saucepan, and cover with water; bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, and use a stiff-bristled brush to peel away most of the skin from walnuts; set aside. Bring milk to just under a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, and add walnuts; let sit, covered, to soften nuts, about 30 minutes. Transfer walnuts and milk to a blender along with queso fresco, crema, sherry, and sugar, and puree until very smooth and thick, at least 2 minutes. Season with salt, and transfer to a bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. For the chiles: Heat broiler to high. Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning, until blackened all over, about 20 minutes. Transfer chiles to a bowl, and let cool. Peel and discard skins, stems, and seeds, and cut a slit down the length of each chile. Remove and discard seeds and ribs, keeping chile intact. Place about 2-3 tbsp. filling inside each chile, and close chile around filling to form a tight roll. Refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, place flour on a shallow plate, and set aside. Beat egg whites in a bowl until soft peaks form; whisk in egg yolks, salt, and vinegar. Working in batches, dredge each chile in flour, shaking off excess, and then coat in egg batter. Place in oil, and fry, flipping once, until golden brown and filling is heated through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chiles to a wire rack to drain. Transfer to serving plates, and spoon walnut sauce over chiles to cover completely; sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving.

Illustration: Sam Wiley

A Tip For Peeling Walnuts "Before making the chiles en nogada, remove the walnuts' skins; otherwise the sauce will taste bitter. Loosen the skins by boiling the nuts for 5 minutes, then drain the nuts in a colander, and blast them with your sink's spray hose. If you don't have a spray hose, scrub the nuts with a brush under running water." —Hugo Ortega, chef-owner of Hugo's in Houston, Texas