Beginning this weekend, mole specialists Las Molenderas in Huntington Park will be serving up one of Puebla’s most iconic dishes, chiles en nogada. The Mexican haute cuisine classic was created by nuns in a convent to entertain Mexico’s first emperor, Augustín de Iturbide, at the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba in 1821.
This famous chile relleno appears on menus in Puebla when pomegranates and white walnuts are in season, usually in August through September, as well as all over Mexico at fine dining restaurants. In France, young chefs learn how to make an omelette as a right of passage but in Mexico, chiles en nogada is one of the most challenging dishes to master because of the difficulty in balancing its conflicting elements.
Chile en nogada consists of a large roasted and peeled chile poblano stuffed with a sweet and savory picadillo made with a combination of ground pork, chicken, and beef mixed with seasonal fruit. At Las Molenderas, Lucio and Estela Morales cook peaches, apples, pears, raisins, almonds, English walnuts, and garlic mixed in with the three ground meats for the stuffing inside the chile poblano. Many cooks are divided over whether to apply an egg batter—Las Molenderas opts for no batter before finishing the dish with nogada.
The white walnut sauce here, or nogada, is thickened with creams and soft cheeses, cooked, brought to room temperature, and then poured over the flavorful picadillo-stuffed chile relleno. The dish is then finished with pomegranate seeds, carefully placed over the stuffed chile. There’s a lot that can go wrong here with all these elements, but Las Molenderas might make one of the best examples available in the U.S.
With a roasted chile poblano, sweet fruit, and meat bathed in a cream sauce all converging on the plate, only expert culinary technique can achieve such a fine balance. At Las Molenderas, the symmetry between spicy, sweet, and savory flavor, plus creamy and crunchy textures might allow one to indulge in a second helping. But Las Molenderas also has some notable moles and pipianes, which are pumpkin seed-based moles.
Order this seasonal chile relleno beginning Saturday, September 29 through the end of October, depending on how long the white walnuts last. The dish costs $13.99, which is a lot cheaper than a flight to Puebla for a meal fit for an emperor.
Las Molenderas, 2635 Gage Ave., Huntington Park, (323) 583-1933