This Frida Kahlo biopic stars Salma Hayek in a flying whirlwind of colors, emotions, and pain as we see the artist’s life from a rabble-rousing, cross-dressing teenager to the brilliant cultural icon history remembers. Much like Frida’s art, the film tells her story in surrealistic and visceral montages. It also tells it with some pretty fantastic-looking food.
I will admit I was outright stumped when watching this movie. You see my mission here on The Gluttonous Geek is to give you recipes fitting to the source material, but not really anything you can find anywhere else. First I thought I’d make a molé that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera would live for. Then I realized I’ve never made molé before and you can find hundreds of recipes far more authentic than mine with a five-second Google search. Like Kahlo, I didn’t want to do anything using any of the usual trends of tricks.
So throughout the film, I also noticed the repetitive use of tomatillos, cantaloupe, and other produce of bold and vibrant colors in reference to Kahlo’s still-life paintings. There’s also this scene where Frida prepares Diego a beautiful, technicolor lunch featuring this dish. What the heck is the gorgeous plate of food?! I wondered.
Luckily Wikipedia answered my question with a quick look up of Mexican cuisine. What you’re looking at is Chilies en Nogada – Poblano peppers stuffed with picadillo, battered in egg whites, fried, smothered with a creamy walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds.It’s also one of the recipes listed on the Frida Kahlo museum website.
So how do I make this already popular dish unique to the film? I opted to cook up some fresh tomatillo and cantaloupe with ground beef for the picadillo portion.
Traditionally the sauce is white – walnuts, milk, crema, queso fresco, and sherry. Frida Kahlo had a tendency to take the traditional and amp it up to 11. This is a habit I can fully stand behind, so I also mixed in some cocoa powder and ground cinnamon.
Frida's Chilies en Nogada
Equipment: Stove top, oven (if you don’t have gas burners), blender, wire whisk or mixer with whisk attachment, skillet, saucepan, tongs, paper bags.
- 3/4 lb ground beef
- 1/4 cantaloupe, diced (about 1 cup for the filling, 1/2 cup for garnish)
- 2 tomatillos, diced
- 2 tablespoons crushed almonds
- 1/2 small white onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- large pinch kosher salt
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- 3/4 cup milk
- 6 oz queso fresco, crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup crema or sour cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons sherry
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- kosher salt to taste
- 8 poblano peppers
- 4 egg whites
- flour for dredging
- 2 cups canola oil
- 1/2 pomegranate’s worth of seeds
- fresh cilantro
Make the sauce: Place walnuts in the saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, cook for five minutes, then drain. Pour milk into the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and let sit for about 30 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender before transferring the contents of the saucepan. Puree the mix until smooth and season with salt to taste.
Make the filling: Heat skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop with a tablespoon of cooking oil. Add ground beef and onion. Cook, stirring intermittently for about 2-4 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until the meat has browned and all liquid has cooked off. Remove from heat and transfer contents to a bowl.
Prepare the chiles:
If you have a gas stovetop: Blacken the sides of the peppers on the open flame of the burners, rotating with the tongs. Place each pepper when done in a paper bag to steam the skins.
If using the oven: Turn the broiler on high and blacken peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet. Use tongs to turn the peppers so they are blackened on all sides. Place each pepper when done in a paper bag to steam the skins.
Peel the pepper skins and cut a slit along the side of each pepper. Remove the ribs and seeds. Stuff the peppers with 2-3 tablespoons of filling and wrap tightly.
Beat the egg whites with the whisk or mixer until stiff peaks form. Heat the canola oil in the skillet over medium heat. Dredge each pepper in flour. Coat the pepper with egg white and place in the oil. Flip once and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate after a total 5 minutes of cooking.
Distribute peppers to serving plates, smother with sauce, and garnish with pomegranate seeds, diced cantaloupe and cilantro. Serve.