On our way between Veracruz and Mexico City, Mario needed to stop to take care of some personal business. I also needed to take care of some personal business--I had a hot date with a chile en nogada!
Chiles en nogada are hands-down my favorite Mexican meal. Unfortunately for me, restaurants generally only sell them during August, September, and October to celebrate Independence Day (September 16). And although I'm a fairly adventurous cook, I do not ever plan on trying to make these at home. They're wickedly labor-intensive.
So what is a chile en nogada? It's a big poblano pepper (they're not spicy), stuffed with meat (turkey, I believe), nuts, raisins, citron, and probably a few other tasty ingredients. Then the chile is battered in a savory meringue and fried. Once it's fried to golden perfection, the stuffed pepper is generously bathed in the creamy nogada sauce (pecan sauce). According to Mario, the pecans have to be perfectly peeled, otherwise the sauce will be bitter. This is the ridiculously labor-intensive stage. If I could buy the sauce, I would consider making them. But then again, it's the sauce that makes the meal absolutely heavenly.
As a finishing touch, the chile is sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves, rendering the finished product a patriotic red, green, and white. Quite likely, because of this patriotism, the chile en nogada is considered Mexico's national dish. But this is the reason why it only makes an appearance around Independence Day.
Chiles en nogada were another inspired product of those culinary genius, eighteenth century nuns from Puebla. These wonderful women created some of Mexico's most celebrated food--mole poblano, chiles rellenos, and heaps upon heaps of poblano candy (I believe a tour down Santa Clara street in Puebla should be in the forefront of most peoples' 10 Places to Visit Before I Die lists).
What does a chile en nogada taste like? It reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner--all the courses rolled into one beautiful entree. Now, this sounds like it might be a bit overwhelming, but it is absolutely delicious. Sometimes the post-Thanksgiving food hangover sets in, sometimes it doesn't. But as I mentioned, walk it off by touring Santa Clara street. Ah, bliss!
Quite unfortunately, I have not seen any chiles en nogada advertised here in northren Mexico. Do they make them here? If anyone knows of restaurants serving them in southren Coahuila or the Monterrey area, let me know!
The photo above is of my sister-in-law, Lili, getting ready to dive into her first chile en nogada. Seriously? Her first?!? How can one live so close to Puebla for 32 years and never have tried chiles en nogada? We put a stop to that.