The Wild Table—Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes by Connie Green includes recipes like Cuitlacoche (Huitlacoche or Corn Smut); Cuitlacoche and Squash Blossom Quesadilla; Foil-Wrapped Matsutake with White Soy and Ginger; and Stir-fried Dandelion Greens with Duck Fat and Garlic.
When I go mushroom hunting with my pals in Mexico, I have to start in the great food city of Puebla. I jump into my Poblano friends Nuria and Fernando's car, and the street food tour begins. Fabulous cuitlacoche quesadillas made by a tiny Indian woman are always the goal of my pilgrimage. I can't wait to take this book to this gifted street chef to show her the picture of our version here. I hope we've made her proud.
We've used yellow corn masa, but white or blue is traditional. If you can find the little sprouted pearl-size onions with green tops, use them in place of the scallions. Daylily petals are an easily found and delicious substitute for the squash blossoms. This recipe calls for a comal (a round, flat Mexican griddle), a tortilla press, and Oaxacan cheese, all of which are inexpensively available at a Mexican grocery. See substitutions at the end of the recipe.
Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic, stirring to coat evenly with the oil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened and starting to turn translucent. Stir in the cuitlacoche and any of its liquid, the slivered epazote, and the salt. Lower the heat and simmer until any liquid has evaporated and the cuitlacoche is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
For the Tortillas
Combine the masa harina and salt in a small bowl. Add 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons hot water, mixing it in by hand until the mixture is smooth and moist. The water will absorb into the masa as you work it. Pat the dough into a ball and retum it to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes before shaping.
Place the 3/4 cup oil in a small bowl. Have the filling ingredients, the oil, and a small ladle near the stove.
Heat a comal or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Keep the comal or skillet hot as you proceed with the recipe.
Prepare a tortilla press: Cut the side and bottom seams from a quart-size resealable plastic storage bag, giving you two equal-size pieces of plastic. Lay one of the pieces on the bottom of the tortilla press.
Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Keep the balls covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel as you make each tortilla to prevent the dough from drying out.
Place a ball of dough just off center, away from the handle, in the tortilla press. Cover with the second piece of plastic. Press the tortilla. Open the press and gently peel off the top layer of plastic. Turn the tortilla over into the palm of your hand and gently peel off the top layer of plastic. Place the tortilla immediately on the hot comal or skillet.
Cook the tortilla for 30 seconds. Turn it over and quickly begin to assemble the quesadilla, placing the filling ingredients just off center of the tortilla: 2 tablespoons of the cuitlacoche mixture, 1 tablespoon poblano chiles, some of the remaining epazote, and some of the squash blossoms, finishing with 1 to 2 tablespoons Oaxacan string cheese. Fold the tortilla in half over the filling and press down with a spatula.
Ladle 1 to 2 tablespoons oil onto the empty part of the comal and slide the quesadilla over into the hot oil, moving it around to coat it evenly with the oil. Cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute, or until crisped and golden brown. Tum over the quesadilla and cook for another 45 seconds to 1 minute, adding more oil, if needed, to crisp and brown the bottom. The filling should be heated through and the cheese melted.
Remove the quesadilla to a plate and repeat with the remaining tortillas. Serve the quesadillas whole or cut into quarters.
Tips and Techniques
The filling ingredients can all be prepared up to 2 days ahead of time.
Have everything ready and assembled to make the cooking process go quickly and smoothly. Depending on the size of your comal or skillet, you can make 2 to 3 quesadillas at a time.
The quesadillas are best eaten right out of the pan, but they can be cooked and kept in a warm oven until all of them are made.
Giving the tortilla press an extra push at the end will make the tortillas come out round and even.
The masa dough absorbs more liquid the longer it sits, which can cause the dough to dry out. You can add a little extra water if this happens and reshape the balls.
Peeling the plastic off the pressed tortilla slowly helps prevent tearing the tortilla. With practice, it will get quicker and easier.
Variations and Substitutions
String cheese or Monterey Jack can be substituted for the Oaxacan string cheese.
Canned green chiles can be substituted for the poblano chiles.
Canned or frozen cuitlacoche can be substituted for fresh.
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This page created November 2010
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