Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chiles en Nogada using Skrub'a and Solea

In a perfect world, I would have made this dish in September, which is when Mexican Independence day is and, significantly smack dab in pomegranate season. Chiles en Nogada is a dish fabled to have been created by nuns at the Santa Monica convent for the Emperor of Mexico. Like the Mexican flag, the colors of the dish are green (the chile), white (the walnut “nogada” sauce) and red (the pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top). In the same perfect world, I would have used Poblano chiles which are more appropriate to the dish, but the Serrano chiles I had looked perfect, and indeed tasted perfect for Chiles en Nogada after adding some good old hot sauce.

4 large Serrano chiles

Nogada sauce:
35 shelled walnut halves
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
3T goat cheese
1 piece dry white bread without the crust
1T cinnamon

1.5lb lean ground pork
3 cloves of garlic
1 small white onion diced
1 peach diced
1 Fuji apple diced
½ cup papaya diced
½ cup chopped almonds (no skin)
¼ cup raisins
¾ cup chicken stock
2T Mexican hot sauce
1 inch stick of cinnamon
8 cloves
10 black peppercorns

The first thing I did was to soak the walnuts in milk for a few hours to soften them. Also before putting it all together, I got the most laborious part of the dish out of the way. From taking a cooking class in Puerto Vallarta years ago, I know how to skin a chile pepper. On your gas stove or grill, put the chiles as close to the flame as possible. The skin will become charred and will bubble. Keep turning the chiles so that each part is evenly charred. Then pop them into a plastic bag and close the bag. This allows the chiles to sweat and that causes the skin to separate, making it easier to remove. That’s the simple part! In the past, it was a chore to then gently and deftly scrape the charred skin off the chiles without breaking the delicious meat underneath the skin.

Luckily, I had just received my first pair of Skrub’a Veggie gloves! These gloves, made by Fabrikators, are designed to clean vegetables. I have the green ones for green vegetables, but you might find the Potato (brown) or Carrot (orange) gloves equally useful. They are all made from the same material. No one had suggested using Skrub’a gloves to take off the skins of chiles, but it seemed like a natural fit, and was indeed the perfect thing for the job! I laid out a towel to avoid a mess, put on the gloves and scrubbed the skins off without breaking the delicate chiles.
I then slit open one side of each chile and removed the seeds and veins (the veins are the hottest parts of chiles).
The above you can do ahead of time. Then, when you are ready to prepare the dish you can follow the instructions below.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grind up the spices using a mortar and pestle. Crush the garlic. Chop the ingredients for the stuffing. Lightly toast the chopped garlic in a saucepan like the Solea pot, on medium heat. Add the ground pork and break it into small chunks using a large spoon. Add the onions and fruits and nuts. Slightly sauté the mixture until the onions become clear. Then add the chicken stock and hot sauce and let the flavors meld together as it cooks for about 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
Put the soaked walnuts along with the milk, cream, cheese, bread, and cinnamon into a blender. Blend until smooth.
Put the chiles on a greased pan and stuff them with the filling. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Flip chiles onto a plate so the open side is facing down. Pour nogada sauce over the top, then garnish with pomegranate seeds.
It’s an immensely tasty dish! We get it ever year in Puerto Vallarta, and I am happy to be able to make it at home.

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