By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Ever since it opened its first restaurant here in Mexico City back in 2014, the Puebla-based Entre Fuegos group has been dedicated to bringing the true tastes of one of Mexico’s most culturally rich and historic states to capital consumers.
From that most classic of Pueblan dishes, mole poblano, to deep-fried pelonas stuffed with black beans, lettuce, cream, shredded beef and fiery salsas, to tangy rajas poblanas (sliced strips of poblano chili peppers grilled to perfection with corn and cream and topped with melt-in-your-mouth quesillo cheese), to deliciously crunchy cemita sandwiches packed with avocado, soft cheese, pork, onions and chipotle, if you want to savor the taste of Angelópolis without making the two-hour trek along Highway 150D, Mexican cuisine foodies will tell you that your best bet is to head out to one of the Entre Fuego eateries.
From ultra-high-end sirloins (prepared, of course, with a Poblano flair) at the Entre Fuego Steak Houses (there are three in and around Mexico City, in Polanco, Cuajimalpa and Satelite), to haute cuisine mexicaine elegantly prepared at Novorigen in Santa Fe (there are also branches in Puebla and Cancun), to the downhome atmosphere of La 3ra Ronda (three-for-one drinks and plenty of Poblano flavors and décor in Polanco, plus branches in the State of Mexico, Quintana Roo, Tlaxcala and, of course, Puebla), the Entre Fuego group restaurants are The Place to go for true Poblano tastes.
So now that chile en nogada season is starting up, it only seems natural that the chain is offering the most authentic Pueblan chili peppers at all 11 of its eateries nationwide.
“Every single ingredient that we use to make this iconic recipe (and there are 16 of them, in case you were wondering) is brought in directly from Puebla,” explained the brand’s executive chef Amauri Romero Martínez during a press sampling of the group’s special chiles en nogada menu, which will be available through mid-September.
And while most chefs are willing to substitute local ingredients to produce this most classic of Mexican dishes (after all, how difference can an apple grown in Puebla taste from one grown near Mexico City?), Romero Martínez said that even a slight variation of the chain’s exclusive recipe, honed from a combination of Puebla recipes passed down from generation-to-generation, “could spoil its perfection.”
And perfection it is!
The succulent orchestration of contrasting sweet, spicy, salty and tart flavors come together for a crescendo of gastronomic ecstasy in this extraordinary interpretation of what many consider to be Mexico’s national dish, a large Poblano chili pepper stuffed with a hash of meats and fruits, bathed in a creamy sweet walnut sauce and topped with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds to showcase the colors of the country’s flag: green, white and red.
Allegedly created by nuns in Puebla in 1821, the dish was supposedly presented to the general of the Mexican Army, Agustín de Iturbide, after he signed the treaty that recognized Mexico’s independence from Spain.
Unprepared to receive such a noble guest and with the cupboards bare, the story goes that the nuns used the best of the late-season harvest in the dish, including poblano chilis, peaches, pears, apples and walnuts grown in farms near Puebla.
The original dish was stuffed, battered and fried, making it significantly heartier than the modern version as interpreted by chef Romero Martínez.
Over the years, recipes for this dish have been adapted to modern dietary practices and personal tastes, but come August and September, in Mexico people are excited about it being chiles en nogada season.
And chiles en nogada are not just appreciated by Mexicans.
The gastronomic tradition — which this year celebrates its 200th anniversary — has been trumpeted worldwide by discerning connoisseurs for its extraordinary blend of subtle tastes and historic tradition.
In fact, the chile en nogada was included as one of the country’s most important culinary treasures when Mexican food made it to the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
Romero Martínez said that even a slight change in the ingredients could alter the inherent flavors of the dish.
How could a sweet apple from the state of Durango replace the minerally goodness of a Puebla apple, or a juicy pear from Michoacán capture the intense tartness of one from the Zacatlán region of Puebla? he asked.
“This dish is a regional masterpiece, and if you want to reproduce it in all its glory, you have to use ingredients from Puebla,” he added.