CHILES EN NOGADA
This dish was invented for Mexican Independence Day. It takes advantage of the fresh walnuts and pomegranates that are in season at that time to create one of Mexico's most exquisite and favorite dishes, with the colors of the Mexican flag. It is a dish full of contrasts and a blend of textures: sweet/sour, warm/cold, salty/sweet.
FOR THE CHILES:
- 12 poblano chiles
Roast the chiles to char the skin. Carefully clean the skin, leaving the chile intact and make an incision to remove the seeds and veins. (Soaking the chiles in hot, salted water produces milder chiles.)
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 2 cups shelled and peeled walnut halves (if fresh, skin can be peeled immediately)
- 1/2 cup farmer cheese
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (approximately)
- 2 slices white bread, trim the crusts, soak in cold water, and squeeze dry
Pour boiling water over the walnuts and soak overnight. Drain and peel (rubbing the walnuts in a rough towel helps). This is somewhat difficult when the walnuts are not very fresh. Chop very fine in a blender or food processor. Add the cheese, cream, bread, and sugar and process until homogenous. The texture will be smooth and slightly thick. Thin with a little more cream if necessary, but be careful not to blend too much or the cream will help. The sauce should be pourable but thick enough to coat the chiles. Chill thoroughly.
FOR THE STUFFING:
- 2 lbs pork shoulder, boneless, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes with water to cover
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 black peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 vine-ripened medium tomatoes, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 2 peaches, peeled, pitted, and finely diced (optional)
- 2 pears, peeled, cored, and finely diced
- 2 red apples, peeled, cored, and finely diced
- 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
- 3 tablespoons diced mixed candied fruit
- 1/8 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
- seeds from 2 small pomegranates
- 1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
1.) Place the pork into a 2-quart saucepan with the onion and spices, except the salt, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until tender, 45 to 60 minutes, adding the salt after the first half hour. Allow the pork to cool in its liquid. Chop the pork; reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid.
2.) Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a 3-quart saucepan and saute the chopped onion over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Push to the side, leaving a space in the center.
3.) Stir in the chopped pork. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved broth. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes. Stir in the diced fruits, raisins, candied fruit, and spices; mix in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer and remove from the heat.
4.) Stuff each chile with some of the warm mixture; do not pack too tight. To serve: Arrange the stuffed chiles on a platter, seam side down. Chiles should be served warm with cold sauce (preferably not directly from the refrigerator and ice cold). Pour the sauce over the chiles, leaving the stems showing. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley and serve.