Ingredients (from Like Water for Chocolate):
25 chile poblanos
100 grams of fresh cheese
1 kilo ground steak
100 grams raisins
¼ kilo walnuts
¼ kilo almonds
½ kilo tomatoes
2 medium onions
2 candied citrons
Steps (from Like Water for Chocolate):
1. “Shell the nuts, remove skin covering nuts. After the nuts have been peeled, grind them on the stone with the cheese and cream. Finally, add salt and white pepper to taste. Cover the chiles with this nut sauce and garnish with the pomegranates.”
1. “Fry the onions in a little oil. When they become transparent, add the ground meat, cumin, and a little sugar. After the meat has browned, stir in the chopped peach, apple, walnuts, raisings, almonds and tomatoes until it’s seasoned.
2. Add salt to taste and let the liquids cook off
3. Roast and peel the chiles separately. Slice them open on one side and take out the seeds and membranes.”Modified ingredients list:
5 chile poblanos
¼ cup of fresh cheese, plus some for garnish
7.5 oz ground meat
About 10 walnuts
½ medium onion
The book really doesn’t help too much with this recipe, so we were forced to make many alterations to the steps. First, when peeling the walnuts, you will likely find that peeling the skin off of the nuts is not only tedious, but also not very helpful. When scraping off the skin, we found that we often times peeled off the actual nut. To prevent this from happening, we toasted the walnuts and waited until the walnuts were slightly charred. Then, we put them in a dish towel and rubbed them together. This got rid of most of the skin, but it doesn’t get rid of all of it, which never actually turned out to be a big problem.
To make the sauce, you’ll have to grind the walnuts into dust, which can be accomplished with a mortar and pestle. You could do it in a more timely manner by blending, but we suggest putting some good old fashioned work in to get the full experience. Then, in that same blender, add one cup of sour cream and then ¼ of a cup of “fresh” cheese. (This can just be bagged cheddar, if that’s what you have.) You’re going to want to make sure the sauce itself is actually a sauce and not just walnut-flavored sour cream. To do this, add about ¼ a cup of almond milk if you embrace the “nuttiness” of this recipe, or you can just use regular skim milk, and then blend for a about a minute.
The result will be a smoky tasting walnut sauce, which you can set aside (preferably in a refrigerator) for now.
To prepare the chiles, you’ll want to cut off the tops and remove the seeds from the insides. The seeds are the greatest source of spiciness, which you can put in the meat filling, but which should not be in the chiles themselves. Then, cover a pan with tin foil and slather the chiles in oil. Preheat the oven to 350 and place the chiles in the oven, which is where they will remain until the meat filling is finished.
The meat filling is open to modification, and unlike what Tita prepared in Like Water for Chocolate, we left out all of the fruits (the peaches, apples, raisins, citrons and pomegranates). Dice the onion very finely, and place it into a pan that has been greased or oiled. Leave them to sautee while you dice the tomatoes and the meat.
We used pattied meat that wasn’t actually in hamburger form, which we paid for later, so make sure you buy ground meat. Wait for the onions to become transparent or slightly browned, add some more oil, and then put in the tomatoes and the meat simultaneously. This mixture will spatter, so wear long sleeves or a jacket while doing this.
Stir this mixture constantly to make sure nothing is burnt, and while stirring, add cumin and salt for taste. An optional addition is to put in some wine, which will complement the cumin and make the meat a bit sweeter. Allow the alcohol to boil out. Another optional addition is blended cashews, which provides a bit of crunchiness for the meat filling. (To do this, take the blender where you made the nut sauce, and put in about 15 cashews, blend, and move this mixture into the meat.)
At this point, you should check on the chiles, which should be slightly charred around the edges and which should be steaming a little bit. The steam is a sign that the water is evaporating from the the membranes, which is good, because that makes the chiles more flexible and easier to eat/stuff.
Remove the chiles from the oven, and allow them to cool for a bit. At this point, the meat of the filling should be browned and the tomatoes should be shriveled because they have lost their juice, which is now in the meat. Remove the filling from the pan, and put it into a bowl.
You have some freedom with what you choose to do next. You could put the cooked meat into a blender to break down the chunks and make the mixture finer. Or, you could leave the meat as is in tiny chunks. Honestly, there’s no benefit of going either way, but we blended the meat because our chunks were really large.
Now, just fill the chiles with the meat and cover with the walnut sauce you made earlier. You can garnish this with some cheese, if you wish. And there you have it: the chiles in walnut sauce that bring Like Water for Chocolate to its fantastic ending.
Oddly, the chiles we made didn’t make us want to tear each others’ clothes off, which was one of the described effects in the book, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. The chiles were delicious, though, and we understand Tita’s continuous praise of them. If we learned anything from this entire experience, it’s that Tita is a much better chef than the author gives her credit for.