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Chiles en nogada is a Mexican dish from the area of Puebla that is made of three distinct parts. The first is a picadillo stuffing, which is a combination of minced meat, fruits and spices. This is stuffed inside a roasted poblano chili that can be battered and fried, depending on the recipe. Finally, the stuffed pepper is coated in a white, creamy walnut sauce that is garnished with red pomegranate seeds and roughly diced parsley. Making chiles en nogada in August or September, the time when walnuts and pomegranates are in season, is usually done to commemorate Mexican Independence Day, because the colors of the dish emulate those of the Mexican flag.
The most complicated part of making chiles en nogada is assembling the picadillo mixture. According to authentic recipes, this is made from pork that has been minced with a knife, although chicken or beef also can be used. The meat is fried with onions, garlic, diced peaches and apples until everything is cooked through. For large cuts, the meat can be cooked in water or stock beforehand and then shredded or minced before being finished in the pan. Additional ingredients for the picadillo include raisins, cinnamon, almonds and cloves.
Next, poblano chili peppers are roasted. This can be done over a grill, under a broiler or directly on a stovetop with a flame. The skin is roasted until it is blackened, after which it is removed. The seeds inside the chili are taken out, but the chili is left mostly intact so it can hold the picadillo stuffing. Some chefs say the roasted poblano in the original recipe for chiles en nogada should be battered and shallow-fried in lard to help create a more solid base for the sauce and stuffing.
The last element of chiles en nogada, which needs to be started in advance, is the nogada, or walnut sauce. This is essentially spices, walnuts and milk that are soaked together overnight. Some recipes call for sherry and cinnamon as well, while others use heavy cream, cream cheese or queso fresco. After soaking overnight, the mixture is placed in a blender or food processor and pureed until it is creamy and smooth.
To assemble chiles en nogada, the chili is first stuffed with the picadillo mixture. It is placed on a serving dish with the cut side facing up and the pepper opened slightly. The walnut sauce is spooned liberally over the surface of the picadillo and the chili until the top is a field of solid white. Over top of this, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley are sprinkled. This mirrors the colors of the Mexican flag, completing the dish.
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