Tuesday, September 15, 2009

three cheers for the red, white, and green

Mexican Independence Day begins at midnight -- the bridging hour between 15 and 16 September.

This week will be the 199th anniversary of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's declaration of war on the colonial overlords of Spain -- and his call for the people to rise.

The original conspirators envisioned an orderly uprising of all The Right People. When that plan was outed, Hidalgo urged all Mexicans to rise in revolt. And they did. The Right People were appalled at the ensuing bloodshed. Apparently, in the omelet process, many eggs contain more than yolks.

Today, Mexicans do not round up the Spanish and Criollos living in Guanajuato and massacre them in honor of the 1810 massacres.

One thing they do is eat. And the traditional food for Independence Day is Chiles en Nogada --poblano chiles filled with chopped meat, fruits, and spices, and topped with a walnut-based cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.

The color combination sets a patriotic motif based on the Mexican flag: the green chili, the white nut sauce, and the red pomegranate seeds. Though, my WASPy eyes catch glimpses of Saint Nick.

I had never tried this dish. Because it is difficult to make, it shows up seasonally. And this is the season.

When I received an invitation to attend an early Independence Day party in La Manzanilla on Monday night, I grabbed it.

Mind you, it would mean violating the first rule of driving in Mexico: Don't drive at night. Plus two corollaries: Do not drive when tired; do not drive through hills in a lightning storm.

Laura runs an eating establishment on the beach called Lora Loka. When I first visited La Manzanilla in 2007, I had my first dinner in her place. I have been a regular since.

But tonight was about as hometown as you could wish. There were about 16 diners -- who chose either the chiles or a shrimp dish. The highlight of the evening was Laura singing some folk tunes accompanied with her dancing.

My chile was delicious.

And because I survived my tired drive through the lightning-sparked night, I was wondering if I could convince Laura that the dish looks enough like Christmas to slip in another one in three months' time.


Chrissy y Keith said...

In all our travels to Mexico, we have only been there on 1 independence day. I wish I had paid more attention to the menus so I could have found this dish. You will have to tell me how this holiday compares to St. Patricks Day in you little town. I think you missed that this year, but I think you are still planning to be there by March of 2010 right?

Larry in Mazatlan said...

Around these parts it's a traditional Christmas dish. Just try to find some granadas rojas after December 15!


Leslie Limon said...

That's the wonderful thing about Chiles en Nogada. They're patriotic enough for Independence Day and colorful enough for Christmas. (Chiles en Nogada are a popular Christmas dish too!)

Babs said...

Well, you could cook this at Christmas, but this is the time of year that the pomegranates are ripe. My tree is FULL. Maybe you can freeze the seeds, not sure.

Glad you got out and had a delicious meal.

That drive from La Manzanilla int he daytime is hairy - I don't think I would want to do it at night!

Laurie said...

It's nice to know that Honduras beats Mexico in some way. We celebrate Independence on Sept 15 because Spain granted independence to Central American on that day. Now.. if we could just best you guys in football (soccer for the NOB people).

Felipe said...

You omitted the rule about not driving sans driver´s license. The only fender bender I have had in Mexico happened last year in Mexico City. The very first thing the insurance adjuster asked for on arriving at the scene was my driver´s license. Had I not had one, as I understand you do not, I do not know how that would have affected the insurance coverage. Perhaps not too badly. Perhaps yes.

If there is death or bodily injury, you can end up in prison.

Driving here, mi amigo, without your papers in order is outright nuts. Don´t do it.

Chiles en nogada are great when done well. Many people do not like them, however, due to the varyingly sweet element.

Steve Cotton said...

Chrissy -- I have not been around for St. Patrick's Day in San Patricio. If all goes as planned, I will be here for the 2010 celebration. I am still sleuthing the connection between the name of the town and the San Patricio Brigade. So far, I have only rumors.

Larry -- So, my WASPY eyes did not deceive. It has all the trademarks of a high feast day meal.

Leslie -- A twofer dish.

Babs -- I have driven that road twice in the dark. I do not want to do it again. But attending the party outweighed my concerns. When I told Laura I was driving back to Melaque, she was quite agitated. But it all turned out well.

Laurie -- Central America got its independence from Spain only after Mexico beat the Spanish. In other words, Honduras is independent because of Mexican blood. Whisper that to one of your Honduran friends and watch the blood boil.

Felipe -- You, sir are, of course, correct. I am licensed to drive; I just do not have a document to prove that. In the United Sates, if stopped under those circumstances, I would be whisked off to the local hoosegow (by the way, a word stolen from Spanish). In Mexico, where paper and seals are adored, I wouldn't even get to first base.

You may also be correct about the insurance issue. I have heard that insurance companies will refuse to cover accidents where the driver does not have a license -- whether that is licensed to drive or license on person, I have no idea. I need to look at my policy.

I have been lucky these past two months. The little red truck will stay stabled until I return from Oregon with license in hand.

jennifer rose said...

Babs, pomegranates arils can be successfully frozen. Yesterday, we juiced pomegranates, and the next project on the drawing board is to make pomegranate molasses.

Christine said...

That road is where we first encountered the word "Derumbes!"
Did I remember it correctly?

glorv1 said...

Sounds like a wonderful meal. Frida Kahlo did that dish every year and right on time. Esposo and I planted 3 pomegrante trees and I just love eating the seeds. My idea on how to use them (if they fruit) is to make molasses as Jennifer says and also fruit drinks. I do have that recipe for
Chiles en Nogada, maybe I'll give it a try. See you Steve.

Anonymous said...

I had a delightful Chiles en Nogada at the San Patricio Yacht Club last February... it was so delicious! I'm hoping they will have them on the menu when I visit at Christmas this year!!

Vanya said...

Ive been looking for a pomegranate juice source... any in Melaque or Barra that are easily accessible?

I, too, try not to drive at night. You should have seen us driving in on the first night here last October... Of course, it was raining and it was dark, and Melaque was just getting over the last rainy season and the roads were really (and I mean, REALLY) bad both in Melaque and the road from PV... yikes! Our windows were fogged up and we were both hanging out of the side windows in order to see anything! Quite the adventure.

Steve, you can email me at vanya_evans@yahoo.com for those housing issues. We didnt really get a chance to talk at Walmart. haha My computer is down right now,(Omar informs me that living next to the water I should be taking apart my computer and cleaning it of dust and any moisture every 2 weeks!!) but I can use Shawns a couple times a day so go ahead and contact me. :-)

Nice picture.

Mic said...

A very Christmasy looking dish!! Hard to believe it's that close but I'm in the mood. Had Termination Dust on the mountain tops 2 mornings ago.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say,My thought are with you and glad,you are going home soon.... min

Steve Cotton said...

Jennifer -- Thanks for the tip on the pomegarantes. I assume the seeds would not survive a feezer, would they?

Christine -- Collapse. Correct. Derrumbe. That road, like almost all hilly coastal roads, regularly suffers from subsidence.

Gloria -- It was well worth the trip.

Anonymoius -- I will need to remember that as the Christmas season rolls around. It is just a short walk down the road for me. Maybe a mile or so.

Vanya -- I cannot guarantee I will not drive it again. But it is not high on my bucket list.

Mic -- Snow? Already?

Min -- Thanks.

Mic said...

Yep - Snow. The mountains ringing the Valley are quite high so it will take awhile before it reaches us.

Mexico Cooks! said...

Click the link for more info about chiles en nogada.


The recipe calls for fresh walnuts, which are in season during late August through mid-October; pomegranates are also in full fruit during that time period. There's little difficulty in preparing this dish, but the fresh ingredients are purely seasonal. Hence the short period of availability!