Vegetarian Chiles En Nogada Recipe

     If you come from a Latin family, you know that its SO hard to find something to eat with your family during parties or celebrations. There can always be side dishes you can nibble on but no main dish that is really vegan or vegetarian. A few years ago I decided I would try and recreate all the traditional Mexican dishes my family makes in a vegetarian or vegan option. This started off as an experiment I didn't really expect anything from but it turned out to be really amazing. Now this recipe does have two dairy components to it that I normally would never eat but it really does complete the dish. I am currently working on a vegan version of the sauce that is also raw vegan which I will be posting as an alternative if it turns out good! 

Ingredients (makes 6 chiles) 

(recipe adapted from The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy)

Chiles and Filling

6 chiles poblanos (fresh)

2 cups rice

1/2 medium yellow onion (finely chopped)

3 tomatoes (finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

8 peppercorns

5 whole cloves

cinnamon stick

3 generous tbsp of raisins

generous tbsp action (candied fruit)

2 tbsp slivered blanched almonds

2 tsp salt

handful of pomegranate seeds (optional if you can't find them!)

Walnut Sauce

arge handful of walnuts (app 25 whole pieces)

1/4 lb (about half a wheel) of farmers cheese aka "queso ranchero/queso fresco)"

1.5 c sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

generous pinch of cinnamon powder (or more, I used about 1 tbsp)

 

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    You are going to begin by preparing the chiles. If you have ever made chiles rellenos you might already be familiar with this process. Wash and dry your chiles thoroughly. Set up some baking racks over your stove over high heat. Heat the chiles until the skin is blistered and burned. This should take about 10 minutes. As soon as one side starts to brown, and the skin bubbles, turn it over until all sides are equally roasted. Then place all the chiles into a sealed plastic bag. We do this to let the steam help get the skins to peel off more readily. 

    For the walnut sauce, we are going to prepare the walnuts the night before. Simply cover the nuts with boiling water then drain after 5 min. Remove the skin as best as you can. Walnuts have many crevices so some skin is ok but the goal is to have the sauce be as white/cream colored as possible. Cover them in cool water and let soak overnight then drain before beginning the sauce. 

    Once your walnuts have the skins removed just throw everything into a blender and blend until smooth! Then place the sauce in the fridge to cool and solidify a bit. 

   To prepare the spices, we will want to grind them into a powder. I used a traditional molcajete which is basically a mortar and pestle made out of lava rock. You could of course use a clean coffee grinder which works amazingly and quickly. Just toss in all the spices and blend until it becomes a powder. Do the almonds separately because if you mix them with the spices it will leave big chunks of spice while the almond is already starting to become a paste. Then mix them together and set aside along with your dried fruits for the next step. 

   Now that about 10-15 min have elapsed while you were making the sauce, and preparing the spices, its time to heat a large skillet to med heat and remove the skins from the chiles. Open the bag and remove the chiles. Simply peel the skin off which should come off easily now. Once you peeled all the chiles cut a slit from top to bottom on one side making sure not to cut into the stem as this holds the whole thing together. Remove all the seeds and veins inside as you would a bell pepper. Set these aside while we make the filling. 

   Cook your 2 cups of rice however you normally would and have that on hand. Sauté the onions, and garlic until transparent. Add in the tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes. Then add your rice, spices, and dried fruit. Heat it over low for about 10 minutes. This is mainly to infuse the flavors into the rice not really to do any further cooking. Once the rice is done its time to stuff the peppers!

   Pour on the walnut sauce just before serving. You can drizzle it across or place a few dollops on each chile. Then top everything with a couple of handfuls of pomegranate seeds. If you can't find any at your regular grocery store since they are a fall fruit, try your local Middle Eastern market!  If you decide to try these post in the comments below and let me know what you think!