Happy Independence Day! That is, if you are celebrating Diez y seis de Septiembre, or Mexican Independence Day. It was on this day in 1810 that Mexico rose up against Spanish control to assert its right to govern itself.
To celebrate, tradition tells us, chiles en nogada were served, because the dish bears the three colors of the country’s flag: green from the pepper used, white from the walnut sauce and red from the pomegranate seeds, which were in season then.
You’ll still find the dish on many menus around San Antonio in fall, including Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine, 5800 Broadway, which is serving it through Thursday.
The restaurant’s general manager and vice president, Nelly Mendoza Olsen, remembers her mother making the dish each Sept. 16. She loves the way the heat of the poblano is balanced with the sweetness of the meat filling, which features dried fruit and nuts.
“It’s sweet and spicy at the same time,” she says.
The restaurant is also featuring a free tequila tasting of José Cuervo and free appetizers from 6 to 8 p.m. on the holiday.
The following is famed chef and cookbook author Zarela Martínez’s version of Chiles en Nogada, which a stuffing filled with apples, peaches, plantain and raisins among other treats.
Also included are several recipes on incorporating tequila into several dishes as well as a refreshing cocktail.
Chiles en Nogada
2 cups walnuts
1 pound queso fresco or cream cheese
1 cup cream or milk
2 small French rolls soaked in milk until softened and squeezed dry
2/3 cup dried sherry
1/2 teaspoon ground canela (Mexican cinnamon) or use 1/4 teaspoon U.S. ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste, optional
Pinch of salt
4 medium ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
12 large poblano chiles
Vegetable oil for frying
2 small green or other cooking apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 ripe, firm peaches, peeled or 1/2 cup dried , diced
2 small ripe plantains, skin removed, diced
6 tablespoons dark or golden raisins softened in 1 cup dry sherry
1 cup unsalted butter or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 cups shredded cooked pork butt
1 teaspoon canela (Mexican cinnamon)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup pomegranate seeds
Italian parsley leaves
For the sauce: Soak the walnuts in cold water or milk for three hours or overnight in cold water to cover. Discard the soaking liquid. Grind the walnuts in a food processor or blender with the French roll, cheese, cream or milk, sherry, canela, sugar and salt.
For the peppers: Heat heavy cast-iron skillet or griddle over high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Roast the tomatoes, turning several times, until blistered on all sides. Let cool until just cool enough to handle. Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds and chop finely. Set aside.
Wash the poblano chiles and thoroughly dry them. Make a small (1 to 1 1/2 inches long) lengthwise slit in each chile. Pour oil into large heavy skillet to a depth of about 1/2 inch and heat over high heat until very hot but not quite smoking. Fry the chiles, 3 at a time, turning once or twice, until they puff up and take on an olive-beige color. Remove from pan as they are done. Carefully peel chiles under cold running water. Very gently pull out seeds through the slit in each chile, being sure not to tear the flesh. Set aside.
In large skillet, melt the butter or vegetable oil over medium heat until very hot and fragrant. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add fresh and dried fruit and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the spices and pork and cook, stirring to combine, for 2 minutes more. Season with the canela, salt, and pepper to taste. Carefully fill the mixture into the chiles through the slit in each. Bake on greased baking sheet or shallow pan for 5 minutes.
Cover the chiles with the Nogada Sauce and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a few leaves of Italian parsley. Chiles may be served warm or at room temperature.
From Zarela Martínez/Gourmet Sleuth
4 to 4-1/2 pounds beef tri-tip with most fat trimmed off (a little on the bottom side is good)
3 tablespoons blanco tequila, such as Cabo Wabo Blanco
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Mix tequila, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and place in a large zip-lock bag with tri-tip. Marinate at least two hours before desired grilling time.
Grilling Method: Pre-heat gas grill to 400 degrees. Place meat on grill top-side down for 3-4 minutes for nice grill marks. Flip over and reduce heat slightly. Close lid, if possible. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 135-140 degrees.
From Cabo Wabo
Queso Fundido (Mexican Cheese Fondue)
1 pound Mexican queso blanco , cut into chunks
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 4 limes or ¼ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons añejo tequila, such as Cabo Wabo Añejo
6 to 8 drops hot sauce
Slowly melt cheese in a medium saucepan over slow heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon. When almost melted, add the garlic, lime, tequila and the hot sauce, and heat through. Serve immediately with tortillas or chips.
From Cabo Wabo
1 ounce reposado tequila, such as Cabo Reposado
1 ounce ginger beer
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Stir ingredients into an ice-filled highball glass. Garnish with a lime or lemon wedge.
From Cabo Wabo