Celebrate Mexican Independence Day with Chiles en Nogadas
When September rolls around, red, green, and white decorations start going up all over town, and tourists from around Mexico head to San Miguel to celebrate Día de la Independencia.
Mexican Independence Day is often confused with Cinco de Mayo, which was Mexico's unlikely victory over the French in 1862. September 16, 1810 marks the moment when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla read the Grito de Hidalgo (a moving speech where he cried out for Mexicans to rise up and take charge of their destiny), launching the Mexican War of Independence against Spain. Although the war lasted more than a decade and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba in 1821 by General Agustín de Iturbide, Mexico celebrates the day and the man that got it all started.
In Mexico, the celebration takes place over two days, starting on the 15th with the President of Mexico re-enacting the Grito from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City, while ringing the same bell Hidalgo rang in 1810. On the 16th Mexicans celebrate with fireworks, parades, and fiestas with family and friends.
Around this time of year you will see the traditional Chiles en Nogadas showing up on restaurant menus all over town as its appearance mimics the red, white, and green of the Mexican flag, while using the seasonal fall ingredients of Mexico.
This dish consists of a roasted poblano chile stuffed with a picadillo of pork, covered in a walnut cream sauce, and topped with pomegranate seeds and parsley leaves. It is believed that this dish was invented by Augustinian nuns who presented this meal to General Agustin de Iturbide when he passed through Puebla after signing the Treaty of Cordoba.
With this dish so closely tied to Mexican Independence Day, we plan to include it in our celebration. We have some food allergies and vegetarians in our group of friends, so we like this lentil version that is both gluten and raisin free to please our picky eaters.
CHILES EN NOGADAS RECIPE
3 cups lentils dry
½ Onion, large
2 Garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
4 Large tomatoes, (see note)
8 Poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeds removed
½ cup Water
½ Onion, minced (1 cup)
3 cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup Pear, diced
½ cup Apple, diced
1 cup Peeled, diced green plantain
16 Manzanilla olives, quartered
½ tsp. Clove, ground
¼ tsp. Cinnamon, ground
¼ tsp. Ground black pepper
2 cup Walnuts, soaked in water the night before, drained
2 cup Almond milk, unsweetened
½ cup Steamed cauliflower
2 tsp. Sugar or sweetener of choice
1 tbl. Nutritional Yeast
1 tbl. White wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Pomegranate, cut, peeled, and seeds removed
½ cup Chopped parsley
1.Cook Your Lentils
In a medium pot, sauté ½ of an onion and 2 smashed garlic cloves until cooked through. Add water and lentils, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Roast Your Peppers & Tomatoes
While the lentils are cooking, place the 4 tomatoes and the poblano peppers on a sheet tray. Turn your oven broiler to high and place the sheet tray on the top rack of the oven. Let them cook for a couple of minutes on each side until the tomato and the chiles begin to soften and have black spots all over. Remove from heat. Alternatively, you can roast the peppers over a gas stove by placing them directly on the grate and over the flame.
Place the tomatoes and chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 5 minutes.
Remove half of the skin off of the tomatoes, and use a blender to process them into a puree. Set aside.
Peel the poblano peppers. Make one cut lengthwise with a knife, and remove the seeds. Set aside.
3. Make the Picadillo
Drain the lentils. Reserve 1 ½ cup of the lentil cooking liquid, and use a potato masher to break them up.
Set a large pot to medium heat. Add ½ cup of water, and add onion. Cook for 4-5 minutes until onion begins to soften and look translucent.
Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add cooked lentils, mix well, and pour in tomato puree. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or until the puree begins to bubble and change to a darker red color.
Add clove, cinnamon, black pepper, plantain, apple, pear, and olives. Stir mixture.
Add 1 ½ cup of the liquid you reserved from the lentils, and simmer for 20 min or until the plantain is cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Make the Cream Sauce
In a blender, place the cauliflower, previously soaked and drained walnuts, sugar, nutritional yeast, and white wine.
Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. It should have the consistency of a cream sauce. If it is too thick, add more almond milk. Set aside.
5. Complete the Dish
Stuff the chiles rellenos with the lentil picadillo. Place the chiles seam side down on a plate.
Pour walnut sauce over them, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.