More on Green Walnuts

By Corby Kummer

The green walnut emails keep coming. I'm going to ask Jerry Baldwin about nocino, the green-walnut liqueur that is a fall ritual in Emilia-Romagna and other regions. And I have a call in to Rick Bayless--of Frontera Grill, Frontera products, authoritative books, and master of all things Mexican--who's in the wilds of Baja finding Mexican wines, about the dish that my friend Pam Hunter told me she made from the green walnuts I kept running over in her long Napa driveway. Turns out it was one Rick immediately told her she needed to make, and one suited for August in Mexico, where walnuts start to ripen then rather than in September in California. She wrote:

The green walnut story actually ties back to Rick Bayless rather than Darrell [Corti, authority on all things Italian and doubtless nocino too]. He and his Frontera team kept up the demanding fall tradition of hulling green walnuts for the beloved dish of Puebla, Chiles en Nogada. This is a rich festival dish commemorating Independence Day, August 21, 1821, in green, white, and red to celebrate the Mexican flag and General Agustin de Iturbide's defeat of the French.

This dish can be too rich but, as I recall, Rick worked with a recipe that embraced all the beautiful complexity of flavor with some restraint.

Many recipes for this dish use ripe walnuts, but green are better. When I last visited Rick in Chicago, he had worked out a way to source them directly from an organic walnut orchard in California.

For home cooking, this is a dish for a group effort that allows everyone to lose themselves in the social experience to tolerate the tedious work of hulling green walnuts. Tight gloves are essential to prevent longterm purplish black walnut stains.

I'm asking Rick what his source is, so you can try shelling, picking, and blanching the fresh nutmeats yourself--something I've done and can't say I'd leap to do again, though for the "white walnut" sauce of his I found and give you with his office's blessing, I intend to order more by mail. It's got milk and bread, like the original gazpacho, and sherry and cinnamon too. Sounds good enough to invite friends over for, making them help with the work, as Pam sagely suggests--and of course eat the nutmeats, though they're sufficiently astringent that you won't lose too many to the helping hands. Here it is, over fruit-stuffed pork, and more to come on things nogada and nocino.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/10/more-on-green-walnuts/28007/