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How to make Chiles en Nogada, Mexico’s most patriotic dish (includes video)

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Chiles en Nogada require lots of work to prepare, but its well worth it. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Chiles en Nogada is one of Mexico’s most cherished culinary traditions. Although there are several versión of the story of how this unique creation came to be, just about everyone agrees that it was created in the city of Puebla.

Street scene in the beautiful city of Puebla, the birthplace of Chiles en Nogada. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The most widely accepted version of the story claims that the delicacy was developed by nuns at the Santa Mónica convent, in honor of the then Emperor of Mexico Agustín de Iturbide in the early 17th century. 

It is almost Chiles en Nogada season, so you better get shopping for ingredients soon. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The dish is extremely seasonal and is rarely found on restaurant menus outside of the month of September, except in Puebla. This is because Chiles en Nogada are traditionally enjoyed during and leading up to Mexican independence day on Sept. 16. 

Mérida’s Monumento a la Patria on Paseo de Motejo lit up with the colors of the Mexican flag to commemorate independence day. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though they can be found on the menus of restaurants, including large national chains like Samborns and VIPS — they are of course best enjoyed at home. To this end we present to you a step-by-step recipe to try your hand at Chiles en Nogada. 

Sure you could just go to a restaurant and order Chiles en Nogada, but they are unlikely to taste as good as homemade. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

We have created a video which can be found below to help you along and perhaps offer some inspiration.

Thank you to Linda Lindholm and Rosana May for their assistance, as well as to our cook Joanna van der Grach de Rosado who also served as the narrator for the video.

The Recipe

Picadillo (Meat filling)

Sauté 1 kilo of ground pork with:

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 bell pepper, finely chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Add salt and pepper to taste

When the meat is cooked, add, ½ tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg
1 tsp. each of cumin, oregano, basil, and black pepper

Add the ground spices to the meat mixture with:

2 heaping Tbsp blanched and slivered almonds or pine nuts
2 heaping Tbsp dried citrus fruit peel and salt to taste

Cut in tiny pieces, then add:
1 pound of tomatoes
2 pears, cored, peeled and chopped
2 peaches, pitted, peeled and chopped

Add: 100 grams of raisins. Mix everything together

The Chilies

Put 20 poblano peppers (and you MUST use this type of chili) straight onto a high flame and let the skin char. Turn the chiles from time to time so they do not get overcooked or burn right through. Wrap them in newspaper and leave them for about 30 minutes. (this will make them sweat and the skin will be easier to remove). Once the skins have been peeled off, make a vertical slit down the side of each chili and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the chili, (the part around the base of the stem) intact. Rinse the chilies and pat them dry.

Stuff the chilies with the meat mixture until they are well filled out. Set them on paper towels, cover with parchment paper and then put them in the fridge to chill (I prepare, and stuff the chilies, the day before I plan on serving them).

The Nogada (Pecan Sauce)

Also on the day before you plan on eating the chilis:

Soak 4 cups of chopped pecans, overnight in cold milk

On serving day (about 5 hours before eating)

Drain the nuts, then stir in:
3 cups heavy cream plus 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1 /2 tsp. grated nutmeg and ½ tsp. of ground cinnamon

When the sauce is smooth, refrigerate it until it is cold.

To Plate

Set the chilies on top of a dollop of the Nogada, then drizzle with more sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and pomegranate seeds.

Accompany this dish with guacamole, rice or tortillas, and artisanal bread.

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