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Monday, July 28, 2014

Chiles en Nogada inspired by Like Water for Chocolate | #FoodnFlix

Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce) inspired by Like Water for Chocolate for Food 'n Flix
It all begins with a pregnant Mama Elena chopping onions. From inside the womb, Tita begins to cry, and doesn't stop until she is pushed into this world by a torrid stream of tears.  They  overflow from the kitchen table (where she was birthed) to the kitchen floor. The ocean of tears is eventually evaporated by the sun, at which point Nacha sweeps them up and fills a 40-pound sack with them. And, of course, then they're used in cooking for a long time.

Ummm, ewww. While vivid and descriptive, it's actually pretty gross when you think about it. I mean, those tears were mixed with amniotic fluid and who-knows-what else. So, let's not think about it. Let's just take it as the beginning of a very luscious, very sensual, very dark and tragic film.

Tita's kitchen birth foreshadows what will be her life. Bound by an old family tradition, Tita is forbidden to marry. Since she is the youngest daughter, she is not allowed to marry, and it is her duty to care for her mother until her mother's death. So, Tita thrives under the beloved family cook's love and tutelage.

But as is bound to happen, she falls in love with the handsome Pedro. At first sight, they have an attraction, a feeling, a love. Pedro declares his feelings and wants to marry Tita. But of course, the stern (okay, downright nasty) Mama Elena forbids it, and insteads arranges for Tita's older sister Rosaura to marry Pedro instead. Pedro only agrees so that he can be close to Tita.

You can imagine how this plays out.
Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce) inspired by Like Water for Chocolate for Food 'n Flix
Tita seduces Pedro with her food. There's a bit of magic at play, similar to the food-magic displayed in Chocolat (another awesome "foodie" flick originating from a book). A wedding cake batter laced with tears leaves the entire guest list sobbing over their forks.

I don't want to give anything away, so I'll skip ahead 22 years, to the time when Pedro and Rosaura's son Alex marries John's daughter Esperanza. Rosaura has passed (I won't tell you'll thank me), and Tita and Chencha are busy roasting chiles, shelling walnuts, and tearing apart pomegranates in preparation of a very traditional Mexican dish, Chiles en Nogadas.

The Chiles en Nogadas are eaten in delight until all that remains is are pools of sauce and stray pomegranate seeds, save for one chile. When asked for her heavenly Chiles en Nogadas recipe, Tita says that "the secret is to make them with lots of love", as witnessed by the mad dash of people to the bedroom in various states of undress.

This is just a glimpse into what is probably one of the most well-known movies-laced-with-food out there, Like Water for Chocolate. With a colorful cast of characters including Tita's other sister Gertrudis, Chencha the ranch maid, John who is married to Tita briefly, the nosy local gossiping ladies, although the film is at times dark and tragic, it is also filled with humor and hope. And food. Lots of food.

Chiles en Nogada (Stuffed Chiles in Walnut Sauce)
Poblanos chiles stuffed with a pork picadillo studded with peaches, apples, raisins, and nuts, and then cloaked in a creamy walnut sauce.
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Chiles en Nogada
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Keywords: entree pork chiles walnuts Cinco de Mayo Dia de Independencia Mexican

Ingredients (serves 16)
  • 16 medium Poblano chiles
for the filling:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated piloncillo (or dark brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) strained tomatoes (such as Pomi)
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, & diced
  • 1 peach, peeled, pitted, & diced
  • 2 tablespoons yellow raisins
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
  • small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
for the sauce:
  • 4 ounces shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or whole milk) + more as needed
  • 6 ounces queso fresco, queso blanco, or soft goat cheese
  • 1 cup Mexican Crema (or sour cream)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or sherry
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ground white pepper, to taste
for frying:
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • all-purpose flour
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
to serve:
  • seeds from 1-2 pomegranates
  • parsley sprig (or chopped parsley)
Roast the chiles over an open flame or under the broiler until black and blistered all over. Place them in a bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap (or put them in a large baggie and seal); allow to steam for 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

Rub off the skin, taking care not to remove the stem. Cut a slit lengthwise in each poblano, reach inside and remove the seeds. Set aside.

make the filling:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium- high heat. Add onion and cook until tender, ~4 minutes. Add pork, garlic, sugar, cumin, salt, and white pepper to the pan; cook until meat is browned through, 8-10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer gently until the mixture thickens up, 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the apple, peach, raisins, walnuts, and almonds; and continue to simmer for another 5-8 minutes, until moist, but not soupy. Stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If not using immediately, refrigerate.

putting together the chiles:
Stuff each prepared chile with about 2 heaping tablespoons (or a scant 1/4 cup) of filling, then wrap the chile over the filling and close. Line up on a sheet tray, and refrigerate until ready to use.

make the walnut sauce:
Place walnuts in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes; drain, Using a stiff-bristled brush, peel away as much skin as you can from walnuts.
peeling the skin from walnuts
Wipe out the same saucepan, then add the cream and walnuts and set over medium-high heat. When it just starts to simmer, cover then and let sit for about 30 minutes to soften the nuts. Transfer the cream and walnuts to a blender, add the remaining ingredients for the sauce, and purée until very smooth and thick, at least 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Reheat before using; if it seems too thick, thin with another drizzle or two of cream (or milk).

finishing and serving:
Heat 1 to 2 inches of oil in a deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat. I like to user a smaller amount of oil, and a large spoon to spoon hot oil over the top of the chile while it's cooking, but whichever you prefer is fine.

Fill a pie plate with flour. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then whisk in the yolks, salt, and lemon juice. Dredge each stuffed chile in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip each floured chile in the egg batter.

Carefully set the battered chiles into the hot oil and fry, flipping once, and/or spoon hot oil over the top, until the outside is golden brown, and the inside is heated through. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, carefully transfer chiles to a rack to drain. Repeat as necessary.
stuffing and frying chiles en nogada
Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates and ladle some (warm) sauce over the top. Strew some pomegranate seeds over the top, and add a sprig of parsley.

Tita did not dip her chiles in batter and fry them, but rather bathed the warm, stuffed chiles in walnut sauce while "naked". I went back and forth trying to decide which way to make them. I read differing on opinions on which way was the "right" way. It seems that they were traditionally battered and fried, but that these days they are just as often eaten without the dip in the hot oil, since it is healthier. I say make them whichever way you and your guests will enjoy them the most. And make them with lots of love.
Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce) inspired by Like Water for Chocolate for Food 'n Flix

Food 'n Flix club logo
This month's edition of Food 'n Flix is being hosted by Elizabeth at The Law Student's Cookbook, with her movie pick Like Water for Chocolate. Submissions are due by the end of the day on July 29th. Everybody is invited to join us!

If you missed the fun this month, you can join us next month when we'll be watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, chosen and hosted by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla.