In Mexican gastronomy, there is a dish that not only tops the list of favorite foods served in Mexico, but also represents the history of the country. Have you tried Chiles en Nogada?
The colors give it away, the flavor distinguishes it and its presentation in August and September makes you fall in love. Eating Chiles en Nogada is savoring a piece of Mexico’s history and culture.
Following the cry for independence came the Mexican War of Independence. The war didn’t end for 11 long years, until Agustin de Iturbide signed the Treaty of Cordoba with Spain.
Agustin de Iturbide was a military commander who became the emperor of Mexico from 1822 to 1823. Back in August of 1821, he signed the Treaty of Cordoba in Veracruz, granting Mexico its independence from Spain. After signing the treaty, Iturbide traveled to Mexico City, stopping along the way in the town of Puebla for his birthday.
A feast was held in his honor, but the Augustinian nuns at the convent of Santa Monica, who were preparing a special dish on Agustin de Iturbide’s birthday, were at a loss for what to prepare, given they could only use ingredients in season at the time. In a last-minute panic, the brides of Christ launched the dish that would come to be considered Mexico’s most patriotic dish. A dish of meat, dried fruit and raisin stuffed with poblano chilies, doused in creamy walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
The ingredients that make this dish possible were cultivated on the slopes of the Popocatepetl volcano, which you glimpse on your way to or from the Mexico City airport.
Saint Augustine’s Day, which falls on August 28 and is why Iturbide’s mother named him Augustin, is celebrated throughout the country and many families enjoy this sacred dish around this time.
Chiles en Nogada incorporates the colors of the Mexican flag: red, white and green and is not all that difficult to prepare. It just takes some preparation time to assemble the ingredients.
Poblano chiles are the recipe’s backbone so be careful, once roasted and peeled the chili skin must be unbroken. Then you stuff the chili skins with a type of hash that consists of a mixture of meat and dried fruit with tomato, garlic, onion, almonds and raisins, producing the contrast of sweet and sour. Once cooked over low heat, the hash is stuffed in the chili.
The final touch is the cream sauce made with local walnuts. The walnuts give the Nogada sauce its name.
One of the best places to gather walnuts in the San Miguel area is the huge tree in Cieneguita right next to where you turn to take the bridge towards the Leon airport.
Although every cook has his/her preferred seasonings, and some ingredients change – like pecans for walnuts – the preparation is basically the same before the dish is served at room temperature.
If you want to serve a related, but very American dessert, also at room temperature, I suggest brownies served with cream cheese frosting. Then to decrease the inherent sweetness of brownies with icing, add red pomegranates and a green sprig to complete your color coordinated Mexican-flag honoring dessert!