Yesterday was our chance to celebrate, just the two of us. Our third Christmas. That meant full hearts, full glasses and full bellies. Antipasti featured blue cheese and pear slices wrapped in prosciutto, steamed artichoke, thick tomato slices, pepato salami and Tuscan peasant bread After flutes of Cava clinked, we dug in to a citrus-pomegranate salad with vanilla syrup and speech-stealing chiles en nogada

Chiles en nogada is said to be a symbol of patriotic and national spirit for native Pueblans, the colors representing the Mexican flag — green, white and red. For us it said Christmas.

This festive entrée is similar to chiles rellenos Both consist of picadillo — a mixture of meat, fruit, spices and nuts — stuffed into roasted poblano peppers. Instead of the sweet-spicy tomato broth served underneath chiles rellenos, chiles en nogada is covered with a creamy walnut sauce (nogal = walnut), pomegranate arils and chopped cilantro strewn over top. Some chiles en nogada recipes call for batter-frying, like chiles rellenos; however, this recipe did not.

Chiles en nogada is called “platillo poblano por excelencia” — a poblano dish par excellence. After the first bites, we believed it. We couldn’t stop talking about the peppers, the picadillo, the sauce and how perfectly they combined and meshed together to form one unique, phenomenal dish. Hands down one of the best things we’ve eaten this year.

The recipe is as complicated as it looks, but you cannot miss this. Another Christmas mold-breaker

Chiles en nogada — Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Walnut Sauce [serves 4]

Printable recipe

For the Chiles:

4 medium-sized poblano chiles

2 t vegetable oil

1/2 lb ground pork (we used ground turkey — a mix of breast and thigh)

1/4 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t dried oregano

1/4 t dried thyme

1/4 t ground allspice

1 Roma or vine-ripened tomato, chopped (or 1/4 c canned crushed tomatoes, drained)

1 medium-sized green apple, peeled, cored and chopped (Gala works fine)

1/4 c raisins, chopped

1/4 c dried apricots, chopped

1/4 c pecans, chopped

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

+ + + +

For the Walnut Sauce:

1/2 c walnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off

1/2 c low fat sour cream

4 oz fat free cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 t cinnamon

1/4 t salt

1/4 c milk, plus more if desired

+ + + +

For Serving:

Arils from 1 ripe pomegranate

Chopped cilantro leaves

Roast the poblano peppers under the broiler or on the grill until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place poblanos in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; let steam 20 minutes.

While the poblanos are steaming, in a large skillet on medium, heat the oil and then add the ground pork (or turkey). Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions; cook until are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and allspice. Add the tomato, apple, raisins, dried apricots and pecans. Salt to taste. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Remove the poblanos from the bowl and rub/peel off the skin, careful not to tear the pepper. Cut a lengthwise slit into each, from top to tip, and remove the seeds and pith with your hands or a grapefruit spoon. Stuff each poblano with one fourth of the filling.

To make the sauce, place the walnuts in a blender along with the sour cream, cream cheese and milk; puree until a smooth, slightly thick sauce forms. Add the cinnamon and salt to taste. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add more milk.

To serve, place a stuffed poblano on each plate and pour over some of the walnut sauce. Sprinkle with pomegranate arils and cilantro for garnish. Serve at room temperature.

Adapted from Homesick Texan