You should already know this: Cinco de Mayo is NOT the date of Mexican Independence. Tomorrow, September 16th begins the celebration known as El Grito, commemorating “the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence also known as El Grito de la Independencia (Cry of Independence), uttered [in] 1810 by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest from the small town of Dolores (now known as Dolores Hidalgo), near Guanajuato,” according to Wikipedia. “Hidalgo and several criollos were involved in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government [which had named Mexico “Nueva España]. Just before midnight on September 15, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation…. encouraging them to revolt” with these words,
“Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the gachupines [native Spaniards]!“; heralding a war which was to end three centuries of Spanish occupation.
Each year on the night of September 15, the President of Mexico rings the bell of the National Palace in Mexico City. He repeats El Grito Mexicano, an event which draws up to half a million spectators. In the early morning hours on September 16, a national military parade marks Mexican Independence Day. In cities and towns all over Mexico, El Grito is celebrated with parades, wearing of traditional costumes, drinking, dancing and local festivals. Join the celebration in Sept. 15 from 6-9 pm at Civic Center Plaza in front of City Hall with an official “El Grito” ceremony and Mexican dances from the famous Ballet Folklorico Mexicana and mucho musica de mariachis.
Happily for foodies everywhere, Mexico’s 13,000 year old civilizations were able to surivive and fuse with the Spanish, I would argue with Wikipedia that, “perhaps nothing better represents this hybrid background than Mexico’s languages: the country is both the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and home to the largest number of Native American language speakers on the continent” and say that Mexican cuisine is the real expression of this fusion. Chiles en Nogada are the perfect expression of this “old-age” fusion cuisine, melding one of Mexico’s oldest foods, poblanos chiles, with European introductions: meat and dairy (cows, sheep, chickens and cheese were unknown in pre-Hispanic Mexico).
For this dish, the versatile poblano chile (green) is stuffed with ground meat and raisins, smothered in a white walnut sauce (the nuts are rumored to represent the politicos of the era) and garnished with (red) pomogranate seeds in an dish that is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to consume, a virtual Mexican flag on a plate. Every year, during the month of August in Puebla, where Chiles en Nogada originated, what is sometimes referred to as “Mexico’s national dish” is commemorated at a festival which includes a contest for the best recipe.
We asked Marita Esteva, founder of www.matchmakerwines.com to provide pairings for some of favorite recipes. While it is a time-consuming dish to prepare, Chiles en Nogada are a truly stellar presentation and completely appropriate for that special dinner party or occasion when you want to “get you Mexican on” and serve your guests something that they haven’t tasted before. For vegetarian guests, substitute wild rice for the ground meat, it has great texture and flavor.
• WINE PAIRING: LODI MEETS MEXICO, Chiles en Nogada with Uvaggio Vermentino 2009
Lodi is a seriously interesting location for growing grapes and Uvaggio Vermentino 2009 Lodi made from Vermentino grapes grown there is seriously good value. Only 12% alcohol and a modest price, it over-delivers in terms of flavour and refreshment. Uvaggo di Giacomo is a project devised by Jim Moore (aka Giacomo) who used to look after the Italian varietals program for Robert Mondavi Winery, and barrel broker and frequent forum poster Mel Knox.
The 2009 Uvaggio Vermentino is round and supple with lively yet subtle lime, quince, and pear aromas. The wine offers flavors of melon and stone fruits. The wine was cool fermented in tank, with 10% aged in neutral oak for added body and texture.
Chile Nogada Recipe from Tres Señoritas Gourmet
- 6 large poblano chiles
- crema (sour cream) 1 cup
- raisins (to taste, about 1/4 cup)
- 4 eggs
- evaporated milk 1/4 cup
- walnuts (for topping, about 1/2 cup, they sell beautiful cranberry-colored walnuts at the Alemany Farmer’s Market)
- unsalted almonds (1/4 cup)
- pomegranate seeds (from one fruit)
- 1 green apple
- 1/2 lb ground beef or turkey (beef has a more hearty flavor)
- vegetable oil
Dry-roast the chiles using a comal to remove the skins and seeds. (For detailed instructions, see recipe for Rajas de Chile con Maiz following this article: Maiz part 3.) Brown the ground meat in oil to which a smashed clove of garlic has been added, and add minced apple, 1/4 cup of softened raisins (soak them first in water), 1/4 cup of almonds, 1/2 of the onion, finely diced, a 1/4 teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking on a low flame for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool and use this mixture to stuff the chiles.
Dip stuffed chiles in an egg mixture prepared by separating the eggs, beating the whites until they peak, gently folding in the yolks with just a pinch of salt. Brown egg-dipped chiles in a pan with vegetable oil until golden. Mix 1 cup of Mexican crema, with 1/4 cup evaporated milk. Top the chiles with cream sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds (see photo) and walnuts.
Purchase your comal at Casa Lucas on 24th St. between Florida and Alabama Sts. There, can also get the crema Mexicana and the poblano chiles. Although the latter are widely available (at Safeway, etc) they are often half the price per pound at the Latino grocers along 24th street in the Mission.