You've got to love vegetarians. They're passionate, dedicated and... coming to our house for the holidays! I've had nightmares over this.
"No, there's chicken stock in that. What? Bacon on the green beans!" I can see their little faces munching on celery sticks and staring at another salad.
So, What do you feed a vegetarian on Turkey Day? I've thought a lot about this. What can possibly say, "holiday" and "something special" like beautiful, stuffed, Norman Rockwell turkey or gorgeous roast beast? I don't know. But, how about a beautiful stuffed chile instead?
Chiles en Nogada is a traditional celebration dish that highlights the foods of the season. The chiles are roasted and stuffed with apples, pears, dried fruit... sounds like the holidays to me. Just replace the meat with rice and voila! A dish carnivores and herbivores alike will love.
The stuffed chiles are pretty enough for the holidays, stuffed for Thanksgiving, red, green and white for Christmas or just a great meatless dish for Meatless Monday or any day.
I like to roast a whole bunch of chiles at once in the oven or throw a bunch on the grill when I've grilled something and the coals are still warm. They freeze really well. If you separate them while they freeze, you can put them in a zip bag and pull them out one by one and have roasted chiles for any dish.
Many of the latin markets roast fresh chiles on Saturdays and sell them by the bag. Much easier! Just be sure to ask what type of chile. They usually roast the Anaheim chile (also known as the Hatch chile or New Mexico chile), they can be hotter than the poblano chile that is usually on the mild side.
The first thing to do is roast the chiles. Choose chiles that have no blemishes and as few wrinkles as possible. I've roasted these over a gas flame but, if you want to roast a whole bunch at once, just put them on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven at about 450 degrees. Keep an eye on them and turn them often so they will brown on all sides.
OK, so I got a little carried away on this one. They really don't need to be this dark, just blistered on all sides. Try to get them cooked inside the wrinkles as well, they will be easier to peel.
Don't forget the tops. Just don't burn the stem, you'll want it to look pretty.
Start the filling by dicing the onion and mincing the garlic. Make a paste out of the achiote and orange juice and lemon juice. Saute onion garlic and rice until the rice becomes opaque. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer.
I like the apples, nuts and dried fruit to have texture so, I don't add them until the veggie stock has reduced to the level of the rice. Toss the diced fruit in, give it a quick stir and cover it up and continue cooking.
When the rice is finished cooking, about 20 minutes. Pour into a bowl and chill. When ready to stuff the chiles, bring the chiles and the filling to room temperature. Stuff the chiles firmly so that they keep their natural shape. Place seam side down on a baking sheet. Warm in a 300 degree oven until filling is warm all the way through.
Make the almond cream sauce before eating the chiles. You can make it earlier in the day but, cream doesn't reheat that well and the sauce is so easy, that you might want to throw it together earlier and not heat or reduce it until needed.
I used the traditional ground almonds in this recipe but I didn't care for the texture. I recommend that you use sliced almonds instead of ground almonds. The Barrio Cafe's sauce uses sliced almonds so the texture and the almond flavor is much nicer. I plan to do that nest time.
To serve, place chiles on a platter, cover halfway with almond sauce (I like to leave part of the chile showing so that you can see the natural shape that you've worked for), and garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Chiles en Nogada Vegetarian Style
12 fresh poblano chiles, as straight and nicely shaped as possible
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons achiote paste
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups uncooked rice
4 cups vegetable stock
½ cup dried apricot, finely diced
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 pear, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sliced almonds
1 to 1 ½ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons cream sherry
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 pomegranates, seeded
Spread the chiles on a baking sheet and roast under a broiler on the highest rack. Roast chiles until blackened and blistered. Turn to roast on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Chiles should still be firm .
Remove chiles from oven and put directly into a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. The steam from the chiles will help loosen the skins and make them easier to peel.
When the chiles are cool, peel the skins away. With a sharp knife, make one cut down the length of the chile. Remove the seeds being careful not to remove the top or stem of the chile. You may rinse the chiles briefly to remove charred peel. Set aside.
Peel and dice the onions, garlic and fruit. Set aside. Heat oil in a medium pot. Saute onion, garlic and rice until rice is opaque. Combine achiote paste, orange and lemon juice to make a paste. Add to the rice. Pour in vegetable stock, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to just above the level of the rice, about ten minutes. Add diced fruit and herbs. Replace lid. Finish cooking rice. Remove from heat and cool rice mixture.
Gently fill chiles and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and heat in a 250 degree oven until warm all the way through.
Prepare sauce by heating a large saute pan over medium high heat. Lightly toast the sliced almonds in the dry pan to bring out their flavor but, do not brown them. Add milk, sherry, and cream. Bring to a boil and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add salt and sugar to taste. The sauce should not be sweet, the sugar should only bring out the flavor of the almonds.
Plate the stuffed chiles on a large platter. Cover the chiles half way so that the half nearest the stem is uncovered and green.
Garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Note- The chiles may be roasted and peeled a day or two in advance. The filling can also be made a head. Do not stuff them until the day you are serving them. Bring the chiles and the filling to room temperature before stuffing the chiles. Heat through just before serving.
The sauce can be made early and reheated just before serving. If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it with a little milk or cream.
Try these recipes for Chiles en Nogada: