Friday, August 14, 2009

Chiles en Nogada

So we weren't planning on going anywhere but Veracruz, but we ended up staying in Puebla for a handful of days. Puebla is a beautiful old colonial town with a rich culinary tradition. Among their many seasonal specialties are Chiles en Nogada. A poblano chile stuffed with meat and fruit, breaded, fried and topped with a creamy walnut sauce, garnished with parsley and pomegranate seeds. Not your typical peasant fare.

The history of the dish goes something like this...Agustin de Iturbide was a rich little Spanish brat who was born in Mexico in 1783. While still in his teens, he was commissioned into the Colonial Army, and when the Mexican War of Independence broke out in 1810, he fought on the "Royalist" side. He kicked some ass here and there but couldn't give Vicente Guerrero a beat-down. During the time when Gusto and Vince were throwing blows, ish was going down in the fatherland, and the King of Spain ended up signing the Cadiz Constitution, the principle aim of which was "the prevention of arbitrary and corrupt royal rule." Well, I'm guessing ole' Gusto kinda liked arbitrary and corrupt royal rule because he decided to switch sides and fight with the insurgents, thinking that his high and mighty colonial status would thusly be preserved. Right he was, as he soon after became Emperor of Mexico from 1822 to 1823.

So what does this have to do with Chiles en Nogada? Well, in August of 1821, in Veracruz, Iturbide signed the Treaty of Cordoba, which granted Mexico its independence. On his way back to Mexico City, he stopped off in Puebla and the townspeople decided to hold a celebratory feast in his honour. The Augustinian nuns of Santa Monica convent decided to prepare a special dish using local ingredients that were in season. They came up with the chile en nogada, which means chile in walnut sauce. The green of the chile and the parsley garnish, the white of the sauce, and the red of the pomegrante seeds representing the colors of the Mexican flag.

So like I said, it ain't no peasant dish, but it can be quite tasty. I tried it at the well established Fonda Santa Clara, located on 3 Poniente, 307, where it has stood since 1965. I did not try it again anywhere else, as each meal offered me an opportunity to eat something new, so I have nothing else to compare it. When I make it though, it will be less sweet than it was as Fonda Santa Clara. If you are interested in making it, here is a detailed recipe on What's Cooking. This recipe on is more aligned with what I tried (including apple, pear, peach, and raisin, beef and pork in the picadillo), but be forewarned, both of these recipes are very labor intensive. It may just be less of a hassle to fly down to Puebla for the night.

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