Mexican Independance Day and Nogada With Seena Chriti

 Photography courtesy of Penagos y Associados, Despacho Gastronómico

Welcome to this section of food and culture where we will explore dishes and culinary customs of different countries in order to understand some of their origins, history and symbolism.

For me, food is the most important aspect of culture, and we can get to know a lot about the customs of a country by tasting their food and understanding their gastronomy.

When we travel, the we want to try the food.  Likewise, when we leave our country of origin, we want to take with us the food from our home, from our grandparents, from our land.

I am one of those people who left their native land. I left Mexico more than ten years ago and have lived in Monaco, Guatemala, Miami and now Harrisburg.  I look for ingredients in all of these places that remind me of my native country, and I can proudly say that I have recreated Mexican food on many occasions for large groups of friends, sharing the delicacies of my country.

One of the dishes that gives me great pleasure, of which I will speak about in this article, is the famous, complex, subtle, esthetic, interesting, exotic, beautiful and exquisite Chile en Nogada.

Taking advantage of the upcoming Mexican independence on September 16th, I would like to share with you this dish that is considered to be the national dish.  Several anecdotes and debates surround this national dish as to which is the authentic recipe and which is its origin.

On August 2, 1821, the insurgent army won the Mexican independence war and travelled to the city of Cordoba, Veracruz to sign the Independence Act, represented by its leader and self-proclaimed emperor Agustin de Iturbide.  When the people found out that such an important person arrived in Puebla on his way to Veracruz on August 28, 1821 on his Saint’s Day, they decided to welcome him with flowers and a ceremony at the cathedral.  Later in the day, there was a large banquet served in the bishop’s home.

For the banquet, dishes from 14 different feminine convents in Puebla were cooked.  The Augustine sisters were asked to collect from the Convent of Santa Monica the dish known as “stuffed chilies covered in nut sauce” that was its specialty.

When the nuns found out about the new flag from the insurgents, they decided to decorate this dish with the three colors of the flag – green represented by parsley, red represented by pomegranate seeds and a background of white nut sauce

One of the peculiarities of the main ingredients is that the pomegranate seeds and the nuts are seasonal, making it impossible to cook this dish at any other time of the year except the months of August or September.  It is because of this that it is called the dish of Independence.

Some of the main ingredients of this dish are almonds, pine nuts, acitron (a type of candied cactus called biznaga), peach, pear, apple and plantain.  Because of this delicacy, the gastronomy from the state of Puebla became much richer, being that this dish was recognized as the main one of Mexico.

There are many varieties of this recipe, which include the quantity and types of fruit, as well as if the chilies are bathed in an egg mixture and fried or not.

This recipe is slightly adapted because the walnuts in the original recipe are purchased fresh, whole and peeled by hand, being entirely white, which is very laborious work. Those types of nuts are not as available out of season. In this recipe, I use walnuts that are found in pieces all year, although they have a bit of peeling that gives a pretty white hue.

yields 8 servings

INGREDIENTS 

1 pound ground beef

3 tablespoons corn oil

2 cloves of garlic

¼ white onion

3 tomatoes roasted in the broiler

1 pound peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into small cubes

1 pound apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes

1 pound pears, peeled and, if hard, cut into small cubes

1 ripe plantain, peeled and cut into small cubes

½ cup peeled and slivered almonds

½ cup raisins

2 tablespoons sugar

8 large poblano chilies, roasted, peeled, deveined and seeded. (see instructions below)

Salt and pepper

METHOD OF PREPARATION 

• The peppers should be roasted directly on the fire or broiled, then placed in closed plastic bags to sweat. Once you take away the veins and seeds, try not to rinse with water because it takes away the taste. Try not to over roast since they become hard to handle.

• The tomatoes are roasted on the fire or in the oven until they are toasted. Peel and remove the seeds.

• Blend the tomatoes with garlic and onion.

• Fry the meat in oil for a few minutes.

• Add the tomato and onion mixture to the meat and fry over high heat for 5 minutes until almost dry.

• Incorporate other ingredients, except for chilies, simmer covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

• Fruit should be tender but not mushy.

• Remove from fire and cool.

• Fill the peppers with the meat; each will have half a cup of meat.

• Coat each chile with walnut sauce and garnish with the pomegranate seeds

•Add salt and pepper to taste.

FOR NUT SAUCE

1 pound walnuts.  The original are whole, fresh, peeled and coarsely chopped, but for practical purposes you, can use the walnuts from the supermarket, although the color varies slightly.

1/2 cup milk ( You can use more milk if you need).

2/3 cup medium dry sherry

¼ teaspoon salt

 

Blend nuts with the milk, add the sherry and salt. You can add more nuts or milk according to taste and texture.

DECORATE

1 cup of pomegranate seeds

½ cup of chopped parsley.

 

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Staff Writer

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