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Author Notes: Chiles en Nogada, or “chiles in nut sauce,” is a classic Mexican dish consisting of roasted poblano chilies stuffed with picadillo, a spiced ground meat mixture, and topped with walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. Picadillo is generally made with ground pork, but this version is made with ground dark meat turkey, which is less dry than white meat and a lot more flavorful. I’ve tried making this with white meat and all I can say about that is “yikes!” While dark meat picadillo is so flavorful it’s practically impossible to stop eating, the white meat version was so bland and dry I couldn’t give it away. Use dark meat. Pomegranate seeds are in season only for a short time in the fall and early winter. If you can’t find them, skip them. I make a nut cream from ground walnuts, which makes this dairy-free. If you want to skip that step and dairy isn’t an issue, plop some sour cream on top of the meat and call it a day.
I make a big batch when I make picadillo, because I love leftovers. My favorite way to eat leftover picadillo is with steamed brown rice, black beans, and sour cream.
Excerpted with permission from Bowls of Plenty (Grand Central Life & Style, 2017). —Carolynn Carreño
Serves 4; makes enough picadillo for 6
For the picadillo, walnut crema, and bowls:
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- Canola oil (or another neutral-flavored oil)
- 1 large Spanish yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf (preferably fresh; optional; use it if you have it)
- 1 árbol chile pod (or 1/4 teaspoon chili powder)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 4 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
- 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste (from a tube) or 2 tablespoons regular tomato paste
- 2 pounds ground dark meat turkey
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more as needed
- 1 (15-ounce) can pureed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted
- 5 cups chicken stock, homemade or sodium-free or low-sodium store-bought, or as needed
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 cup walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours or blanched for 30 seconds in boiling water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Poblano Rice or 1 cup Long-grain brown rice or quinoa, cooked (about 3 1/2 cups cooked grains)
- Seeds from 1 pomegranate (about 1 cup)
- To prepare the picadillo, put the raisins and orange juice in a small bowl and set aside.
- Generously coat a large sauté pan with oil and heat the oil over medium-low heat for about 1 minute, just so you aren’t adding onion to stone-cold oil. Add the onion, bay leaf (if you’re using it), and chile, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and sauté, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, until the onion is very soft and beginning to turn to mush adding a splash of water to the pan from time to time to prevent the onion from sticking or browning. (The excessive cooking down of onion here is to bring flavor to a dish that is made with flavor-challenged meat.) Add the garlic and sauté, stirring so it doesn’t brown, for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute to caramelize it. Add the turkey and sprinkle it with the cinnamon and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for about 2 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon as it cooks, until you have cooked off the pink color but not so long that the meat browns. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes to reduce slightly. Add enough stock to barely cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 1 hour, adding more stock to the pan when the pan is dry, until you’ve added all the stock. Add the raisins with the orange juice and cook for 5 minutes to cook off the juice. Turn off the heat and stir in the almonds. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt or spices if you’re so inspired.
- To prepare the walnut cream, drain the walnuts in a strainer and rub them between your hands or use a sink sprayer to remove any loose skins. (Leave any portion of the skins that doesn’t come off easily.) Transfer the walnuts to a blender. Add the sugar, salt, and ½ cup water and purée.
- To serve, spoon the rice into four wide bowls or onto four plates. Spoon 1/2 cup of picadillo on top of each serving of rice. Drizzle the walnut cream over the top, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, and serve.
For the Poblano Rice:
- 1 poblano chile
- 1 cup long-grain brown rice, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Put the chile in the pan and cook until it’s charred on all sides and has collapsed, about 10 minutes. Remove the chile from the heat and put it in a plastic bag. Close the bag and set it aside until the chile is cool enough to touch. Rub the bag against the pepper and the skins will stay in the bag; or use a clean dishtowel to remove and discard the charred skin. (Don’t rinse the chile under water or you’ll rinse away the char you just smoked up your kitchen to achieve.) Remove and discard the core and seeds and dice the chile.
- Combine the rice, salt, diced poblano, and 2 cups water in a large straight-sided sauté pan and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the rice for 20 to 30 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff gently with a fork.