(These chef recipes were published with the preceding article by the San Jose Mercury News and its affiliates on September 14, 2011.)
Chiles en Nogada (Stuffed Chiles with Walnut Sauce)
You must start this dish one day ahead by soaking the walnuts for the sauce overnight. Displaying the colors of the flag, this is Mexico’s national dish.
6 fresh poblano chiles
20 to 25 fresh walnuts, shelled
1 slice of white bread without crust
1/4 lb queso fresco*
1 1/2 cups Mexican crema*, thick sour cream, or crème fraîche
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
large pinch of ground cinnamon
2 lbs of boneless pork
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp salt or to taste
6 Tbsp of lard or the fat from the broth (see below)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 whole cloves
1/2 inch stick cinnamon
3 heaping Tbsp of raisins
2 Tbsp blanched and slivered almonds
2 heaping Tbsp acitron* or dried fruit like apricots, peaches or pears, chopped
2 tsp salt or to taste
1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 pear, cored, peeled and chopped
1 peach, pitted, peeled and chopped
– Cut the meat into small cubes. Put them into the pan with the onion, garlic, and 2 teaspoons salt and cover with cold water. Bring the meat to a boil, lower the flame and let it simmer until just tender — about 40-45 minutes. Do not overcook. Let the meat cool off in the broth.
– Strain the meat, reserving the broth, then shred or finely chop the meat and set it aside. Let the broth get completely cold and skim off the fat. Reserve the fat. (Note: About 3 cups of cooked meat are required. If more than 3 cups are used, the other ingredients will need to be increased proportionally.)
– Melt the lard and cook the onion and garlic in it, without browning, until they are soft.
– Add the meat and let it cook until it begins to brown.
– (Note: A molcajete or large mortar and pestle are needed for this step.) Crush the spices roughly in the molcajete or mortar and pestle and add them, along with 2 teaspoons salt, the nuts, tomatoes and dried fruit, to the meat mixture. Cook the mixture a few moments longer.
– Add chopped peach and pear to the mixture.
– To prepare the chiles, put them under a fairly high flame or under a broiler and let the skin blister and burn. Turn the chiles from time to time so they do not get overcooked or burn through.
– Wrap the chiles in a damp cloth or plastic bag and let them sit for about 20 minutes. The burned skin will then flake off easily and the flesh will become a little more cooked in the steam. Make a slit in the side of each chili and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the chili, the part around the base of the stem, intact. (If the chilies are too spicy, let them soak in a well-diluted vinegar and water solution for about 30 minutes.) Rinse the chilies and pat them dry.
– Stuff the chilies with the picadillo until they are well filled out. Set them aside on paper towels.
The Nogada (walnut sauce):
– The day before, completely cover the walnuts with cold milk and let them soak overnight.
– The following day, drain the nuts and add them, with the bread, cheese, cream, sugar and cinnamon, to a blender and blend until smooth.
Traditionally, this dish is served at room temperature. However, it can also be served warm. For the latter approach, warm the stuffed chiles in the oven for a few minutes and transfer to plates. Heat the nogada sauce in a saucepan but do not bring to a boil. Cover the chiles with the sauce and garnish with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.
* available in Mexican markets
Tacos de Barbacoa
This delicious, popular dish is made with goat in an underground oven but other meats can be substituted. This recipe gives oven instructions.
4 dried guijillo chiles*
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cloves
10 allspice berries
1/3 cup Mexican oregano* or standard oregano
12 branches fresh thyme, stems removed
6 garlic cloves
1 Spanish onion, roughly chopped
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 (12-pound) goat*, quartered, or 1 lamb shoulder (6-8 pounds)
1 cup tequila (100% agave brand like Cabrito Blanco)
salt and pepper
1 (2-pound) package dried banana leaves*
fresh corn tortillas
(optional) chopped onions
– Toast chiles by putting them under the broiler on each side briefly; don’t allow them to burn. Cover the toasted chiles with boiling water in a deep bowl, and set aside for 20 minutes. Grind cumin, cloves, allspice and oregano in a blender or spice mill.
– Strain the soaked chiles, puree them in a blender with the ground spices and herbs, the thyme, garlic, onion, vinegar and 1/2 cup of water until smooth. Strain the mixture or push it through a sieve or food mill. Stir in the tequila.
– Season the meat with salt and pepper, then rub the spice-herb-tequila paste all over the meat. Marinate for 24 hours, refrigerated.
– Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
– In a deep roasting pan, scatter half of the banana leaves on the bottom, place meat on top of the banana leaves and cover with the remaining leaves. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Cook the goat 6 to 7 hours until meat falls off the bone. If using lamb shoulder, cook for 4 hours.
– Remove any bones and pieces of fat. Can be held and reheated later.
– To make tacos, heat the meat and tortillas separately. Pile meat in tortillas and garnish with cilantro, chopped onions if desired and lime wedges.
* available in Mexican markets
Manchamanteles (“Tablecloth Stainer” Mole with Pork, Chicken and Chorizo)
Recipe from Enrique Gomez
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut in 1-inch cubes
½ lb. chorizo*
1 lb. skinned chicken thighs, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 ½ cup carrots, large dice
1 ½ cup jicama, large dice
1 cup diced pineapple
1 medium ripe plantain*, large dice
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
6 peeled garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
6 chile ancho* peppers, deveined, torn in pieces
¼ cup almonds
¼ cup pecans
½ inch cinnamon stick
6 freshly ground black peppercorns
½ teaspoon oregano
sea salt to taste
4 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
– In a large, heavy frying pan, heat the oil to medium temperature. Add the onion and cook it until lightly browned, then add garlic and cook until softened. Remove onion and garlic from pan, reserving the panm, and put in a blender.
– Place chile ancho peppers in the same pan used to cook the onion and garlic, cooking just until they change color (this takes only seconds). Transfer to blender. Add 1 cup chicken broth to the blender and blend until smooth, adding more broth if necessary.
– Put the almonds and pecans in the pan and sauté for approx. 2 minutes, then transfer to blender.
– Raise the heat in the pan to medium-high (add oil if necessary) and working in small batches, add the pork in a single layer, sprinkle it with some salt and brown it on all sides. Remove the pork and proceed with the chicken, cooking in the same manner. Lastly, repeat the process with the chorizo. Remove and reserve. Leave remaining oil in the pan.
– In a spice grinder, grind the cinnamon stick, cloves and whole peppercorns until well ground and add the spices to the blender that contains the blended onions, peppers and nuts. Blend until very smooth. Add more water if necessary and strain through a medium sieve.
– Reheat the pan until oil begins to smoke and add the contents of the blender, stirring frequently. Crush oregano in the palm of your hands and drop it in pan. Add remaining broth and reduce to a slow simmer. Add the pork, a pinch of salt, cover and cook until tender, approx. 45 minutes.
– In a separate pan, heat the butter and brown the pineapple, jicama, plantains and carrots (separately and in small batches).
– Add the chicken & chorizo to the pan containing the sauce and pork, add the recently sautéed fruits, cover and allow to simmer for another ten minutes. Taste for salt and adjust to taste.
– Transfer the entire contents to a Cazuela de Barro (earthen pot) and serve with warm corn tortillas. Can also be served with rice and agua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea).
* available at Mexican markets
Tostada San Cristobal (Tostadas with Beets)
Recipe from Enrique Gomez
8 corn tortillas, fried flat until crisp
Two skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 quartered celery stalks
1 medium beet
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup crema* (Mexican cream, which is available at Mexican groceries and some supermarkets)
½ cup crumbled queso fresco (fresh Mexican cheese, available at Mexican groceries)
In a medium size pot, combine the chicken, bay leaves, garlic, celery, salt and approximately 1 ½ quarts of water, bring to a boil and then reduce flame to simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove chicken and reserve broth. Shred the chicken and put aside.
In the water that was used to cook chicken, now place the whole beet and allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes or until tender when pricked. Allow to cool, slip off and discard the skin and then julienne the cooked beet.
To prepare cabbage and carrot salad, mix the two ingredients in a bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and then drizzle with lime juice and toss all ingredients thoroughly.
To prepare the tostada; Place some of the shredded chicken on the corn tostada, add some of the cabbage-carrot salad, distribute julienned beets and garnish with a few dollops of crema and queso fresco.
* if not available, crème fraîche can be substituted