"Chiles en nogada", the right preparation.
The season of "Chiles en nogada" starts in August when you can find pomegranate fruits in the marketplace. A "Chile en nogada" can be either delicious or disappointing. And also can provoke discussions... many discussions: if the meat is minced or ground, if they were created by the Poor Clare Nuns or the Augustinian Sisters from the Convent of Santa Monica, if the walnut sauce is made with cheese, if they were created to celebrate Agustín de Iturbide's birthday or if the actual creators were three brides of soldiers that belonged to the Army of the Three Guarantees, and the most important of all the discussions: "Chile en nogada" is battered or "naked". Who knows! I have to confess that while looking for the "true version" of this recipe I have read articles, stories and myths that far from clarification, have made me feel more uncertain.
The point is that a "Chile en nogada" well prepared… is delicious! And by well prepared I mean the patience and respect that, from my feeling, the preparation needs. Even though I believe that in cooking, as in many things "each to his own", there are some ingredients that are out of discussion: the "nogada" must be made with walnuts with the thin brown layer removed (so they become white). The "picadillo", the meat, has to be slowly cooked and with enough time so it gets the taste. The poblano pepper must be roasted, peeled and battered (though you can leave some "naked" so everybody can enjoy of this delicacy the way they like). Presentation is also important: the three colors of the Mexican flag replicated with parsil, walnut sauce and pomegranate. From there the aroma of spices and the mixture of tastes that make me full of memories.
I did not even like them! Truth is that I did not try them for very long.
For my family, the season of "Chiles en nogada" started not in August but late July, around the 24th, the day of Saint Cristina. Aunt Lulú, my grandmother's sister used to prepare them not to remember Agustín de Iturbide but to celebrate my abuelita's (great grandmother) birthday. However I did not like "Chiles en nogada"! What I did like was the gathering. And this was every year until I finally tried them.
When I learned to prepare them, many years had gone through since my abuelita's passing. And time had also passed since those family gatherings. But make them now has for me the same meaning: sharing with family and friends and celebrate also the birthday of my beloved husband.
Originally published in Spanish on August 1, 2017.