One of the classic dishes of Mexico is chiles en nogada: poblano chiles stuffed with shredded pork (picadillo) and topped with walnut sauce (nogada), and pomegranate seeds. Supposedly the dish was invented in the city of Puebla in 1821. The green poblano chiles, white walnut sauce, and red pomegranate seeds symbolize the colors of the Mexican flag. In season, chiles en nogada is a popular dish throughout Mexico , especially on September 16, Mexican Independence Day.
This is not the season. Fresh walnuts are not available and pomegranates don’t appear until late summer. Still, I thought about making the dish when I located some walnut halves in the freezer I am under instructions to clear out. I also saw some nice looking poblanos in the supermarket. As well, the walnut sauce sounded too complicated, so I decided to stuff the chiles with some pre-cooked, pre-shelled shrimp from the meat counter and cremini mushrooms from the refrigerator drawer. Then I topped it all with crema, the Mexican version of sour cream. The final dish still turned out green, white, and red because I used some tomatoes in the stuffing.
As a side dish, I made a tomatillo salsa with chipotle. That took only a few minutes and gave a little extra kick for those who wanted it. Avocado slices finished things off for a festive and surprisingly light dinner.
Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Chiles
4 fresh poblano chiles
- ¼ cup walnut halves or pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 crimini mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and quartered
½ pound pre-cooked, shelled shrimp (31/40 per pound)
- 3 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarsely
- ¼ cup scallions including green tops, sliced
- ½ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- juice of ½ lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (optional, see recipe below)
- Mexican crema
Roast poblanos over an open flame until the skin is evenly charred. Place in a zipper bag, seal, and let rest until cooled. Then remove the charred skin under running water, slit one side, remove seeds and core, dry, and set aside.
- In a small sauté pan over medium heat dry roast the walnuts until lightly browned and the oils have begun to be released. Stir frequently. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat, cool, chop coarsely, and set aside.
- In the same sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the quartered mushrooms and sauté until they are soft and lightly browned. Drain, cool, and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, walnuts, mushrooms, shrimp, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and lime juice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in the optional adobo to suit your taste.
- Fill the prepared poblano chiles and arrange on individual plates. Drizzle with crema, and serve.
Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa
Years ago, the first time I made this for my chef son-in-law, he liked it so much that he copied the recipe to the collection he keeps in his laptop. The salsa is refreshing and quite different from the usual bottled kinds. You can make it as hot as you like by varying the number of chipotles and the amount of the adobo sauce. Tomatillos, along with tomatoes, belong to the nightshade family, but they are more tart than tomatoes, stay green when ripe, and are covered with a papery husk that needs to be removed before eating or cooking. They can be eaten raw, but the tart flavor is not very good, in my opinion. Roasting them mellows the flavor. Tomatillos used to be hard to find except in Mexican grocery stores, but now they are in nearly every supermarket. Chipotles are actually smoked jalapeños. You can find them canned in a spicy adobo sauce.
5-6 fresh tomatillos (about 1 pound)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small red onion, chopped fine
- ½ cup cilantro leaves, stemmed and chopped coarsely
- 2 chipotles (canned in adobo sauce)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
Remove the husks of the tomatillos. Then broil them for 15 to 20 minutes on a baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. Turn occasionally. Remove from the broiler when the skin has dark brown spots all over and the flesh is soft and somewhat watery.
- In a small skillet, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Do not brown.
- Transfer the onion to a medium bowl. Chop the tomatillos finely and add them to the onion. Add more adobo sauce if you want the salsa to be more piquant. Stir in the vinegar and cilantro. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or as a condiment with a main course.