by Rodrigo Paredes, Chef at the Café
For the holidays, my family and I enjoy the traditional chile en nogada. Chile en nogada’s history is surrounded by mystery, and each town has a version of their own.
One of my favorite stories recalls a gathering of three women from Puebla, all of who were married to soldiers in the army. To celebrate the victory of Mexico’s independence, they created a dish from ingredients that their husbands had brought back from their travels, with the main ingredients sharing the colors of the Mexican flag.
Chile en Nogada
- 6-8 medium poblano peppers
- 1 1/2 Tbsp safflower oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp. chopped garlic
- 2 1/2 – 3 lbs. 90% lean ground beef
- 2 red apples, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots, raisins or cherries
- 2 Tbsp. reposado tequila (optional)
- 1 tsp. cumin
- ½ Tbsp. salt
- 2 tsp. white pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup nuez de castilla (peeled walnuts)
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F and spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Set aside. Roast poblanos over a gas flame or grill until skin is charred all over. Place in a plastic bag or in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
In a large cast iron or sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook for 1-2 min until slightly softened. Add garlic and beef and cook until beef has just browned. Remove from the pan and strain well.
Return empty pan to heat, add chopped apples and cook until just softened. Add beef mixture and apricots. Add tequila, if using. While liquid is evaporating, add cumin, salt and white pepper. Spread the filling on a baking sheet or plate and refrigerate.
For the sauce, puree heavy cream, nuez de castilla (peeled walnuts), water and salt in a blender until smooth but still runny, adding a little more of water or cream if needed. Salt to taste. Place sauce in a small pot and warm on low heat, stirring often to prevent scorching.
Remove charred skin from poblanos and make a small slit down the center of each. Remove seeds and stuff with chilled filling. Place chiles on prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 min until warmed through. Place a poblano on each plate, smother with sauce and distribute pomegranate seeds across all of the chiles.