For part of the Independence celebrations, I was invited to a community potluck with my hosts. There was so much to choose from, and there was a competition as well for the best dish. In my mind, the really was no competition. These stuffed peppers had it all - taste, appearance and the colors of the Mexcian flag. (If you don't know, that's red, white and green.) Alas, nobody really cared about what I thought. This dish didn't win. But, if you create it, you'll agree that it should have.
Stuffed Peppers in Walnut Sauce, Chiles en Nogada
Piedras Negras, Mexico
Ingredients for the Filling  
  1/2 pound ground beef   1 tomato, peeled, seeded, chopped
  1/2 pound ground pork   salt to taste
  1/2 medium onion, chopped well   1/2 plantain, peeled and chopped,
  1 clove of garlic, minced   ......(optional)
  3 cloves, ground   1 medium apple, peeled, diced
  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon   1 peach, chopped
  1/2 cup pine nuts   1 pear, pealed and diced
  1/2 cup raisins   1/4 cup oil
  1/2 blanched almonds   8 poblano peppers
Ingredients for the Walnut Sauce    
  7 oz walnuts (about 1 3/4 cup)   1 cup milk
  3 oz. goat cheese (or sour cream)   1/4 cup sweet sherry (optional)
  cinnamon to taste   seeds from one pomegranate to
  1/2 Tablespoon sugar   ......garnish
Ingredients for the Batter    
  oil for frying   1/2 cup flour
  6 eggs    

Preparations for the Filling: Even with my completely limited cooking experience, I am still quite comfortable in substituting or eliminating ingredients. So, if you only want beef, or you would prefer all chicken, substitute away. I guess, there are enough fruits and vegetables in the mix that you could even go vegetarian. However, in my experience in Piedras Negras, nobody in Mexico goes vegetarian. Anyway, thoroughly cook up your beef, pork and onion with some oil in a large frying pan.

Stir in the garlic, cloves and cinnamon. Then, take a moment to stop and smell the roses, er . . . spices. You're going to have a "delicioso" smelling kitchen. After your fragrance break, add the pine nuts, raisins, almonds and tomato. Salt away to your heart's content. And, if you listen to your heart and blood pressure, you probably don't use much at all. Simmer everything for 20 minutes to get rid of some of the juices. Fortunately, you don't have to stir it continually, but you do need to do it occasionally.

Finally, add the plantain, apple, peach and pear to the mix. Cook it up for two to three more minutes. And, yes, you are allowed to munch on some of the fruit before you toss it in the frying pan. When the time is up, remove the pan from heat and cover it with a clean towel (instead of a pot lid) and allow it to cool.

Preparations for the Peppers: This is the part that scares me. You have to roast and blacken the peppers over a high heat flame. My guess is a gas stove is going to work best for this. Of course, I don't have gas. So, my frying pan will have to do. Naturally, I only own one and it's already filled with pepper stuffing ingredients. I'll survive this.

Place the freshly roasted and blackened peppers on a damp cloth to cool a bit. When you can safely handle things without burning fingers, you need to peel off the blackened skin. Then, slit the pepper from near the top to near the bottom, maybe giving yourself about half an inch either way. Remove the seeds and veins. The newly emptied peppers need to soak in water with a bit of vinegar and salt for 15 minutes. While they are soaking, there's time for some kind of Mexican drink. I suggest ice tea with peach. That was readily available in Piedras Negras. If you are thinking of something stronger from Mexico, you don't need my suggestions.

Refreshed after your fifteen minute break, dry the peppers with a paper towel.

It is now time to stuff the peppers. They aren't Christmas stockings that you want filled and overflowing. These colors may match the season, but don't overstuff your peppers.

While you heat up your oil, beat the egg whites until they make stiff peaks. Then, stir in the yolks one at a time to make a fluffy batter. I'm going to have to yield to the expertise of people who write recipes here. If the mix has egg whites and egg yolks all together, my inclination is to mix them all at once. I really can't believe deep down in my heart that it would make that big of a difference. Anyway, whip the ingredients up and then salt to taste.

Pour the flour onto a plate and roll your stuffed peppers in the flour. You don't want the stuffing to pour out of the pepper and into the flour. If that happens, you didn't listen to my instructions about over stuffing. (You only do that at Thanksgiving.) Once the peppers are covered in flour, dip them into the egg mixture and give those little poblanos a very good coating.

Fry them up in a frying pan until they have a golden brown color. Then, place them on a paper towel, or several paper towels, to soak up that extra oil. After all, you want that pepper as healthy as possible before drowning it in cheese or sour cream.

Preparations for the Walnut Sauce: After the stress of the peppers preparation, this next step is easy. Toss all the ingredients in the blender. That means your walnuts, cheese, sugar, milk and cinnamon are all going to be nicely blended together. I'm fairly sure that my hosts didn't use sweet sherry. I'm also fairly sure that they used sour cream instead of goat cheese. Options. Options. Options.

If you peel the walnuts, your sauce will be whiter. If you simply can't be bothered peeling walnuts (like me), your sauce will be browner. It may not be as patriotic, but it saves so much time and I can't imagine it will taste any different. I vote for less white - and work - every time. However, if you are a purist with time on your hands, peel the walnuts in advance. Possibly it would be a good time to prop your feet up with one of those Mexican drinks that I didn't mention.

The dish may be served cold, warm or hot. My hosts prepared the peppers hours in advance and then warmed them in a microwave before serving. The pepper was in the middle of the plate and then the walnut sauce poured on top just before serving. Garnish the sauce with pomegranate seeds. You may add grated parsley for extra green. I never saw it that way in Mexico.

In my not so expert cooking opinion, the poblano chiles at my grocery store are half the size of the ones in Mexico. I imagine it would work almost as well to use a large bell pepper. But, hey, you have to use the green ones.

Copyright 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.