Stuffed Chiles with Walnut Sauce (Chiles en Nogada)

This chile pepper is often mislabeled ‘Pasilla’, which is a different pepper entirely.It is one of the most popular chiles in Mexico and has won the appreciation of many a chef worldwide because of the superior flavor it has over regular bell peppers.

They have a tough outer skin that usually requires roasting and peeling before use. These very large chile peppers are most popular in chiles rellenos recipes, but cooking with these as a substitute for bell peppers in any recipe will enhance the flavor.

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For the Meat:

2 pounds beef brisket or other stew meat or 1 pound beef and 1 pound pork butt
1 small white onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
about 1 Tbsp. sea salt

For the Picadillo:

4 Tbsp. safflower or canola oil
1/3 cup chopped white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
3 heaping Tbsp. raisins
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp. chopped candied acitrón or candied pineapple
1 fresh pear, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
3 large, ripe tomatoes roasted, peeled and chopped, or 1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
kosher salt to taste

For the Chiles:

6 fresh poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded, leaving the stem intact

For the Walnut Sauce:

1 cup fresh walnuts
6 oz. cream cheese (not fat free) at room temperature
1-1/2 cups Mexican crema or 1-1/4 cups sour cream thinned with milk
about 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon (cassia) (optional)
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)

For the Garnish:

1 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds


Cut the meat into large chunks, removing any excess fat. Place the meat into a large Dutch oven with the onion, garlic, and salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface. Lower the heat and allow the water to simmer about 45 minutes, until the meat is just tender. Take the pot off the stove and let the meat cool in the broth. Remove the pieces of meat and finely shred them. (If making stuffed chiles with a tomato sauce rather than the walnut sauce, save the broth.)

Warm the oil in a large, heavy skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until they turn a pale gold. Stir in the shredded meat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, pepper, and cloves, then, stir in the raisins, the 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts, and the candied acitrón. Add the chopped pear and apple, and mix well. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste, and continue cooking over medium-high heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. Stir often so that the mixture doesnt stick. Let cool, cover, and set aside. The picadillo may be made 1 day in advance.

Make a slit down the side of each chile, just long enough to remove the seeds and veins. Keep the stem end intact. Drain the chiles on absorbent paper until completely dry. Cover and set aside. The chiles may be prepared 1 day in advance.

At least 3 hours in advance, place the 1 cup walnuts in a small pan of boiling water. Remove from the heat and let them sit for 5 minutes. Drain the nuts and, when cool, rub off as much of the dark skin as possible. Chop into small pieces. Place the nuts, cream cheese, crema, and salt in a blender and purée thoroughly. Stir in the optional sugar, cinnamon, and sherry, if using, until thoroughly combined. Chill for several hours.

Preheat the oven to 250ºF. When ready to serve, reheat the meat filling and stuff the chiles until plump and just barely closed. Put the filled chiles, covered, to warm in the oven. After they are thoroughly heated, place the chiles on a serving platter or on individual plates, cover with the chilled walnut sauce, and sprinkle with the parsley and pomegranate seeds.

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