Chiles en Nogada

Chiles en Nogada (1)

Chiles en Nogada is a dish comprised of my favourite fresh chile, the poblano, which has been stuffed. The stuffed chile is then bathed in a walnut sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds, and fresh parsley. The garnishes represent each colour on the Mexican flag (2), as the dish commemorates Mexican Independence.

The dish was first introduced (3) in August 1821, after the Treaty of Cordoba, which granted Mexico independence from Spain, was signed by Augustin de Iturbide (4) in Veracruz. Augustin made his way to the town of Puebla where the townspeople held a grand feast in his honour and to celebrate their new independence. At this feast, the Augustinian nuns of the Santa Monica convent utilized in-season ingredients (5) and created the dish we now know as Chiles en Nogada.

This recipe for chiles en nogada is based on an old family recipe from Yuriria, Guanajuato that dates back to the 1950’s. Filling (6) includes beef, pork and biznaga (candied cactus) that gives the dish a delicate sweetness.

  1. Nogada comes from the word “Nogal” which is the Spanish word for walnut tree.
  2. Red, white and green
  3. Although there are claims that a similar dish was being made before this time.
  4. military commander and emperor of Mexico from 1822-1823
  5. this dish is typically served from August to September. These are the months when both pomegranates and walnuts are in season.
  6. called picadillo

Chiles en Nogada (Recipe : Serves 6)

Ingredients

  • 6 large poblano chiles about 6″ long
Chiles poblano (smaller than actual size)
Image by Víctor González from Pixabay

FILLING (1)

  • 10 ozs (300g) beef
  • 10 ozs. pork
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 medium waxy potato
  • 1 medium zucchini squash
  • 3 plum tomatoes (Roma tomatoes)
  • ½ cup peas
  • 8 ozs. biznaga or candied fruit or dried fruit
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp piloncillo (or panela – brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp  salt + salt to taste
  1. This (sweet) filling is known as picadillo. Picadillo is typically a mix of pork and beef with almonds, peaches, apples, onions, garlic, pine nuts and raisins. The (Mexican) picadillo often contains panochera apple (manzana panochera), sweet-milk pear (pera de leche) and criollo peach (durazno criollo). Variations of this recipe occur all over Latin America and into the Philippines.

Panochera apple (manzana panochera) This small fruit has a bittersweet flavour. This apple brings out all its flavour after cooking

Sweet milk pear (pera de leche) The skin of this pear is rough and brown in colour, their consistency is firm and they are quite small and sweet.

Criollo peach (durazno criollo) Prunus persica, originally Amygdalus persica L., peach tree (from the Latin malus cotonus, “cottony apple” —in allusion to the skin of the fruit) . The name Durazno comes from the Latin duracinus (From dūrus “hard” + acinus “berry, grape”). This name was originally applied to the grape, when it was fit only for eating, not wine-making. The term was later applied to other fruits with a central stone. The criollo peach has flesh which can be slightly acidic and is not as sweet as other varieties.

Acitron (Biznaga)

Candied biznaga (called acitrón)
Photo by Cocina Corazon via Facebook
Not to be confused with the citrus fruit known as Buddhas Hand (which can also be called acitron – or more commonly just citron)
Echinocactus platyacanthus, also known as the giant barrel cactus, golden barrel cactus, giant viznaga, or biznaga de dulce, is a species of cactus native to central Mexico in the Chihuahuan Desert. It’s Nahuatl name of Huitznahuac means “surrounded by thorns.”

The biznaga cactus is a source of different culinary products, but it is most widely used in confectionery, using its preserved pulp which is known as citron (or acitrón). This cactus has a fibrous and firm pulp that is juicy and sweet and is much appreciated and used in traditional Mexican cuisine. Small pieces of the cactus stem flesh are boiled in water with large amounts of sugar. They are air dried to allow the sugar to crystallize, producing attractive candies.

There is evidence of the use of biznagas dating back to 6,500 years BC, in the caves of Tehuacan, Puebla. Before the Spanish conquest, the great biznagas were sacred cacti that were used for ceremonies as both food and medicine.

The confectionery tradition brought to Mexico by the Spanish during the colonial era helped the pulp of the biznaga become a typical sweet.

The popularity of the cactus, combined with its slow rate of growth, has resulted in the biznaga de Tehuacán becoming a highly threatened species. Recently, harvest of the cactus has been made illegal (Jiménez-Sierra & Eguiarte 2010), negatively affecting the indigenous populations that would harvest the cactus on a small scale for personal and community use. Despite this protection (1), the acitrón is available in almost all markets in Mexico. Especially in those of San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Puebla and Oaxaca. Illegal traffic of the biznaga has flourished in the states of Querétaro, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Hidalgo, Baja California, Oaxaca and Sonora.

  1. NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 – NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, Protección ambiental-Especies nativas de México de flora y fauna silvestres-Categorías de riesgo y especificaciones para su inclusión, exclusión o cambio-Lista de especies en riesgo.

See the bottom of this Post for another common use for candied biznaga

NOGADA

  • 1 ¼ cup Mexican crema (do not use sour cream)
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts (pecans may substitute for or supplement the walnuts)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp piloncillo (or panela – brown sugar)

**NOTES**

Crema has a higher fat content, isn’t quite as sour and is a lot thinner than sour cream.

Crema Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • Fresh juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Combine the heavy cream and buttermilk in a medium-size bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and bring to room temperature. Place the mixture in a warm, dry spot overnight.
  2. The following morning, add lime juice and salt to the newly thickened cream and buttermilk mixture. Stir to incorporate. The consistency should be slightly runny.
  3. Taste, and adjust with more lime juice or salt as needed. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to five days.

GARNISH

  • 2 small or 1 large pomegranates
  • 1 small bunch of parsley (I prefer the flat leaved variety)
Cheyanne from No Spoon Necessary! shows us the easiest way to deal with a pomegranate.

Instructions

PRECOOK THE MEAT

  1. Place the meat in a pan and just cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook the meat until just cooked through (about 20 minutes) turning once. When the meat is cooked remove it from the pan and allow it to cool to the touch. Reserve the cooking liquid.

CHOP THE INGREDIENTS

  1. Chop the meat into cubes first then chop finely.
  2. Chop the onion, carrot, zucchini, potato and candied fruit into ¼” cubes.
  3. Chop the almond very fine.

PREPARE THE TOMATO BASE

  1. Slice the tomatoes in half and add them to your blender with ½ cup of the cooking liquid from the meat.
  2. Blend until smooth but not liquefied.

COOK THE FILLING

  1. Fry the onions in 3 tablespoons of oil for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped meat and stir.
  4. Add the pureed tomato.
  5. Add the carrots, zucchini, and raisins and cook for 5 minutes until the tomato puree is starting to reduce.
  6. Add the peas, biznaga or candied fruit and almonds. stir well.
  7. Cook for 15 minutes until all of the vegetables are fully cooked and tender and the liquid is reduced.

Note: If the filling starts to get too dry before all of the ingredients are fully cooked add the cooking liquid from the meat a few tablespoons at a time as needed.

ROAST AND CLEAN THE POBLANO CHILES

  1. Place the chiles over the open flame on the burner on your stove.
  2. Blacken and blister the skin on all sides.
  3. When you have roasted all of the chiles place them in a plastic bag, or in a bowl covered with cling wrap or a tea towel, to sweat them.
  4. Scrape the skin the chiles with the blade of a knife.
  5. Using a small knife, gently split the chile down the side without cutting all the way through the tip of the chile.
  6. Remove the seeds inside the chile with your fingers without tearing the chile.
  7. DO NOT rinse the roasted chiles under running water. This just washes away flavour.

PREPARE THE NOGADA

  1. Place the cream, walnuts, and cinnamon in your blender.
  2. Blend until the walnuts are completely incorporated into the sauce and the sauce is smooth.

PREPARE THE GARNISHES

  1. Slice the pomegranates in half.
  2. Remove the seeds from your pomegranates.
  3. Chop the parsley very finely reserving a few leaves to use as decoration.

SERVE THE CHILES EN NOGADA

  1. Fill each poblano chile with enough filling so that it will just close. Use toothpicks to keep each chile closed if needed.
  2. Place 1 stuffed chile on each plate.
  3. Spoon nogada over the stuffed chile until the chile is completely covered.
  4. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley over the chile covered in nogada.
  5. Decorate with a 1 or 2 parsley leaves.

Notes : If you have time, allow the filling to rest for 2 hours so that the flavours can meld.

 First Contact.  

The first time I came across chiles en nogada was when I visited México in 2007. It was at the Cafe Tacuba in the CDMX.  This café is a historical landmark in México city and has been active for more than 100 years. Little has changed little since it opened its doors in 1912. It is located in a former convent and is one of the oldest restaurants in México city.

The street on which the restaurant is located—Calle de Tacuba—is said to be the city’s first road. The Calzada México Tacuba played an indispensable role in the history of México city. It is is one of the four original causeways that were built by the Mexica from the mainland to Tenochtitlan. It played a role in la Noche Triste (1) when the Aztecs finally got their shit together and drove the Spaniards from Tenochtitlan. Over time, the sections that make up this avenue have changed their name. In the area of the Historic Centre of Mexico City it is known as Calle de Tacuba , originating in the northern part of Plaza del Empedradillo and Calle de Monte de Piedad until it ends at the intersection with the Lázaro Cárdenas Central Axis. This street is just one section of a huge avenue divided into five sections, each with a different name: Calle Tacuba, Avenida Hidalgo, Puente de Alvarado, Ribera de San Cosme and México-Tacuba.

  1. The sad night (if you’re asking the Spanish), the “victorious” night (if you ask the Mejicanos).***UPDATE*** As I was writing this post it was announced (28/07/2021) that an important historical monument on this path that inhabits an area called the “Plaza de La Noche Triste” (the plaza of the sad night) is to be renamed the “Plaza de la Noche Victoriosa” (the plaza of the victorious night). The monument in the plaza is the remains of a large ahuehuete tree at which it is said Cortés sat and wept over the defeat he and his allies suffered at the hands of the enraged Mexica. This battle was instigated by a massacre, by one of Cortés’ men Pedro Alvarado, of Mexica celebrating the feast of Toxcatl at the Templo Mayor. Alvarado had been left in charge whilst Cortes attended business outside of Tenochtitlan. There are differing stories as to why the fighting started (Spanish accounts say it was to prevent a human sacrifice – Aztec accounts say it was because the Spanish were lustful of the great wealth the Mexica displayed by the gold they were wearing). Regardless of the reason both sides agree that the celebrants were unarmed and that the massacre was without warning and unprovoked. Mexico is “decolonising” its historical narrative. Lets see how far this goes. Further along this very trail is a point known as “Alvarados leap”. It involves the very same Alvarado mentioned above who, during the retreat from Tenochtitlan, pole vaulted across a canal to escape the overwhelming Mexica forces.

  

“In homage to the full glory of the brave Mexicans, who forced the perpetrators of the Templo Mayor massacre on unarmed dancers to flee the night of June 30 to July 1, 1520, and the generations that they kept in popular memory the memory of that victory ”
The tree at whose base Cortés sat and wept (as it looked in the 1920’s)
The tree as it stands today. The tree was damaged in 1980 (by either an electrical fault or vandals depending on the story)

Tacuba was originally called Tlacopan, which means “place of jarillas” or “place where there are sticks” in Nahuatl (1). It is part of the Mendocino Codex, one of the Mexican codices dating between 1520 and 1530, and appears as one of the Tepanec sites that were conquered by the fourth Mexica king Itzcóatl. That is why its subway station is symbolized by that plant with yellow flowers that used to grow everywhere.

  1. From Classical Nahuatl, tlacōtl, (meaning stem, a stick, a staff, a rod, a stalk, a switch (Karttunen and Molina); osier twigs or maguey spines (Sahagún) and -pan, meaning place in or on. This roughly translates to “place on the rods”
Tacuba Metro Station sign in the CDMX

Older toponymic glyphs for Tlacopan

The kitchen follows original recipes dating back decades.

“The recipes used here haven’t changed in 50 to 60 years, It’s like entering someone’s memories, or even your own. Stepping in here means entering the golden years of Mexico City.” says Juan Pablo Ballesteros. While many restaurateurs busy themselves with staying relevant, Café de Tacuba does not. New menu items are almost never added. When they are, they’re offered as specials, not as permanent options.

From its inception, the restaurant has been committed to only using products native to the country. They source from neighbouring towns, or other states such as Puebla, Hidalgo, and Oaxaca. Their intention is to spotlight Mexican cuisine.

Cafe Tacuba. The restaurant……

…not the band……..

Café Tacuba (stylized Café Tacvba) is a band from Ciudad Satélite, Mexico. The group gained popularity in the early 1990s. The band took its name from el Café de Tacuba located in downtown Mexico City. The cafe, which opened in 1912 and had its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, was representative of the Pachuco scene at the time, something the band would later acknowledge as an influence. The Café de Tacuba is still in operation as a coffee shop and restaurant on Tacuba Street, in Mexico City’s Historic Centre. The band changed its name to Café Tacvba (changing the u for a v) in order to avoid legal issues with the coffee shop. Their musical style covers a wide variety of genres, though it is most commonly labeled as Latin Alternative/Rock en Español. Their music has been heavily influenced by Mexico’s indigenous population and folk music traditions, but also by punk and electronic music and other bands on the Mexico City scene

Another popular use for Biznaga.

Rosca de Reyes

The Rosca de Reyes is a traditional Mexican bread in the form of a ring, representing the Wise Men’s search for the King of the Jews.

Eaten on El Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) Rosca de reyes is a brioche-style pan dulce filled with candied fruits, it contains at least one but often multiple figurines of a baby representing a newly born Jesus. The small doll hidden in the bread represents when the newly born baby Jesus was hidden from Herods orders to murder all babies in Bethlehem in an attempt to avoid the omens of a newly prophesied King.

When sharing out the bread whoever gets the muñeco (what the Jesus figurine is commonly called) has to buy tamales for the whole family come the day of the Virgin of Candelaria on February 2nd.

The recipe without all the guff.

Ingredients

  • 6 large poblano chiles about 6″ long

Filling (1)

  • 10 ozs. (300g) beef
  • 10 ozs. (300g) pork
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 medium waxy potato
  • 1 medium zucchini squash
  • 3 plum tomatoes (Roma tomatoes)
  • ½ cup peas
  • 8 ozs. biznaga or candied fruit or dried fruit
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp piloncillo (or panela – brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp  salt + salt to taste

Nogada

  • 1 ¼ cup Mexican crema
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp piloncillo (or panela – brown sugar)

Garnish

  • 2 small pomegranates or 1 large
  • 1 small bunch of parsley

Instructions

Precook the meat

  1. Place the meat in a pan and just cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook the meat until just cooked through (about 20 minutes) turning once. When the meat is cooked remove it from the pan and allow it to cool to the touch. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Chop the ingredients

  1. Chop the meat into cubes first then chop finely.
  2. Chop the onion, carrot, zucchini, potato and candied fruit into ¼” cubes.
  3. Chop the almond very fine.

Prepare the tomato base

  1. Slice the tomatoes in half and add them to your blender with ½ cup of the cooking liquid from the meat.
  2. Blend until smooth but not liquefied.

Cook the filling                 

  1. Fry the onions in 3 tablespoons of oil for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, stir and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped meat and stir.
  4. Add the pureed tomato.
  5. Add the carrots, zucchini, and raisins and cook for 5 minutes until the tomato puree is starting to reduce.
  6. Add the peas, biznaga or candied fruit and almonds. stir well.
  7. Cook for 15 minutes until all of the vegetables are fully cooked and tender and the liquid is reduced.

Note: If the filling starts to get too dry before all of the ingredients are fully cooked add the cooking liquid from the meat a few tablespoons at a time as needed.

Roast and clean the chiles

  1. Place the chiles over the open flame on the burner on your stove. Note: Do not leave chiles unattended.
  2. Blacken and blister the skin on all sides.
  3. When you have roasted all of the chiles place them in a plastic bag to sweat them.
  4. Scrape the skin the chiles with the blade of a knife.
  5. Using a small knife, gently split the chile down the side without cutting all the way through the tip of the chile.
  6. Remove the seeds inside the chile with your fingers without tearing the chile.

Prepare the nogada

  1. Place the cream, walnuts, and cinnamon in your blender.
  2. Blend until the walnuts are completely incorporated into the sauce and the sauce is smooth.

Prepare the garnishes

  1. Slice the pomegranates in half.
  2. Remove the seeds from your pomegranates.
  3. Chop the parsley very finely reserving a few leaves to use as decoration.

Serve the chiles en nogada

  1. Fill each poblano chile with enough filling so that it will just close. Use toothpicks to keep each chile closed if needed.
  2. Place 1 stuffed chile on each plate.
  3. Spoon nogada over the stuffed chile until the chile is completely covered.
  4. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley over the chile covered in nogada.
  5. Decorate with a 1 or 2 parsley leaves.

Notes : If you have time, allow the filling to rest for 2 hours so that the flavours can meld.

References (Electronic)

References (Textual)

  • Del Castillo, R., & Sonia Trujillo. (1991). Ethnobotany of Ferocactus histrix and Echinocactus platyacanthus (Cactaceae) in the Semiarid Central Mexico: Past, Present and Future. Economic Botany, 45(4), 495-502. Retrieved July 26, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4255392
  • Hernández, Esther. Vocabulario en lengua castellana y mexicana de fray Alonso de Molina, edición facsímil y estudio preliminar. Madrid, España: Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica.
  • Jiménez-Sierra, Cecilia & Eguiarte, Luís. (2010). Candy Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus platyacanthus Link & Otto: A Traditional Plant Resource in Mexico Subject to Uncontrolled Extraction and Browsing. Economical Botany. 64. 99-108. 10.1007/s12231-010-9119-y.
  • Sahagún, Bernardino de (1997) [ca.1558–61]. Primeros Memoriales. Civilization of the American Indians series vol. 200, part 2. Thelma D. Sullivan (English trans. and paleography of Nahuatl text), with H.B. Nicholson, Arthur J.O. Anderson, Charles E. Dibble, Eloise Quiñones Keber, and Wayne Ruwet (completion, revisions, and ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2909-9.
  • Saldivar Iglesias, Dr. Pedro. (2017) Septimo Semestre. Unidad de Aprendizaje : Hortofruticultura. Unidad de Competencia II : Frutales Caducifolios. Tema : Cultivo de durazno (Prunus persicaria) : Universidad Autonoma del Estado de México. Facultad de Ciencias Agricolas. Ingeniero Agronomo Industrial.

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