Celebrate Cinco de Mayo Like a Mexican This Year!

Cinco de Mayo is More Than Just a Day to Get Borracho in a Mexican Restaurant… Why Not Celebrate It This Year like the Mexicans Do?

A true test of a Mexican restaurant’s dedication to regionality, as well as seasonality (unfortunately… as I would love to have it year-round) is Chiles en Nogada, a dish that many would call the “national dish” of Mexico.

Chiles en Nogada are served only when pomegranates are in season.

To make a long story interminable, the dish was “invented” in the town of Puebla in 1821 by Augustinian nuns of the Santa Monica convent to honor Agustin de Iturbide, the commander of the Mexican army who had fought in the battle for Mexico’s independence from France. The treaty that granted Mexico this independence was signed in Veracruz and on his way back to Mexico City, de Iturbide was treated by the nuns with a dish using local and seasonal  ingredients, called chiles en nogada, which means chile (in this case, a Poblano pepper ) in walnut sauce. 

The dish has the colors of the Mexican flag in it… red from the seeds of the pomegranate; white from the walnut sauce; and green from the Poblano chile. The period of time that the dish is served in Mexico, as well as in Houston at Hugo’s Regional Mexican Cuisine (1600 Westheimer Rd  Houston, TX 77006, 713-524-7744) and Pico’s Mex-Mex (5941 Bellaire Blvd  Houston, TX 77081, 713-662-8383) is determined by the availabity of the fresh pomegranates.

Chiles en Nogada are a prominent component of authentic Mexican restaurants’ seasonal menus and, as one who has enjoyed the dish in Puebla, as well as throughout Mexico, Hugo’s and Pico’s versions are truly authentic. When you try it, don’t complain if it is served as it is in Mexico, with the walnut sauce (nogada) cold or at room temperature. 

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo like a Mexican this year and make plans to enjoy great Margaritas, Mexican Cerveza and Chiles en Nogada on Cinco de Mayo.

I offer below the recipe for Hugo’s version of Chiles en Nogada. Pico’s is equally tasty, but I have never been able to get Arnaldo to commit his recipe to the written word for me:

RECIPE: Chiles en Nogada
(serves 8)

12 ounces boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 cups pork stock or water
3 tablespoons corn oil
2 roasted tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 pound fresh peaches, large dice, skin on
1 pound fresh Washington Red apples, large dice, skin on
1 pound fresh Bosc pears, large dice, skin on
1 large ripe plantain, large dice, skinned
1/3 cup raisins, whole
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 tablespoons sugar
8 large poblano peppers, carefully roasted, peeled and     seeded keeping stems attached
2 cups white flour for dredging pork
1 tablespoon salt for dredging pork mixture

Seeds of 2 ripe, fresh pomegranates for final garnish. (about 8-10 seeds on top of each pepper

For the pork mixture:

Simmer the meat in the stock or water over low heat until it is soft (approx. 2 hours).  Cool and shred it.  Set aside.  In a large saucepan, heat the corn oil and fry the tomatoes with the onion and garlic. Cook until the liquid evaporates.  Then add all the fruit, almonds, sugar and meat and cook together for about 10 minutes. Cool mixture. 

The peppers:

Stuff the prepared peppers with the pork mixture, being extra careful not to tear them.  When the sauce has been made and the peppers stuffed and ready to serve, dredge the peppers in flour seasoned with salt.

Walnut Sauce:

3 cups milk

4 cups of walnuts
½ cup Cinzano Sweet Vermouth
4 ounces queso anejo
4 ounces queso fresco
1 cup sugar

Blend all five ingredients together into a smooth sauce. Serve cold over finished chiles.

To serve:

Sauté the floured, stuffed peppers in corn oil and finish them in a 325-degree oven for 20 minutes, carefully turning them from time to time.  Arrange the 8 peppers on your serving platter.  Pour the cold walnut sauce over the peppers and garnish with the pomegranate seeds.  Serve with white rice if desired.

One Comment on “Celebrate Cinco de Mayo Like a Mexican This Year!

  1. Do you happen to have the recipe for Pico’s Mex-Mex Spinach and Roasted Almond Enchiladas and his black beans and poblano-cilantro rice? I recently ate lunch there for the first time and these were so delicious! It is quite a long drive for me so I would love to be able to make this recipe at home until I get back in that area.

    (From the Dinner Menu: SPINACH ENCHILADA Two sautéed spinach and roasted almond enchiladas rolled in fresh corn tortillas and topped with our signature roasted poblano cream sauce and melted Chihuahua cheese served with poblano-cilantro rice and refried black beans)

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