This month is all about dried corn in my kitchen. I’m obsessed with it, and this has led to some interesting research. That’s coming in my next blog post. Here is a great warming winter snack to get you in the corn mood too. This is a quick-and-dirty adaptation of the cheese empanada, and is pure gooey sin. We are so going to move past this in the coming month. So enjoy!
- 1 Poblano chile
- 1/4 lb queso fresco, mozzarella, or jack
- 1 cup masa harina (a dried corn flour found in the Mexican section–or fresh masa if you can!)
- 2 tablespoons butter (you can, if you prefer, use the more traditional lard)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
- 1 cup hot water
- oil for frying
Prepare filling: Blister the pablano chile over a flame until completely blackened. Place in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut cheese into 2″x1/4″x1/4″ pieces. When chiles are cool, remove from bowl, scrape off the blistered skin, and slice chile into julienned 2″ lengths.
Prepare cornmeal: In a bowl place all dry ingredients. Add the butter or lard to the hot water and stir into the masa until well combined. Form the dough into 1-1/2″ balls and place them one-at-a-time between two sheets of saran wrap. Press into a rectangle about 4″x 3″. Remove top plastic and place a piece of cheese and poblano slices in the middle, then sprinkle a little salt. Roll them up and seal well with water. With moistened hands, carefully flatten each ‘packet’ to about 1/3″-1/2″ thickness, and smooth over any tiny cracks of exposed cheese.
Heat a skillet with 1/4″ oil until very hot. Add the corn-wrapped cheese sticks and fry until golden brown. Turn and cook on the other side. Remove to paper towels and serve while hot with guacamole and cilantro.
A better crust…
If you are lucky enough to have freshly ground dried corn (see blog post ‘Bending an Ear’), you can make a nice sort of mush to use instead of the masa harina. I grind 1 1/2 cup kernels into a fine ground. Sift out the fine flour and set aside, leaving the coarser bran and germ (much like polenta). Add to this ‘polenta’ four times the water as you have grain, and soak overnight if possible. Then slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Let simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, add the reserved corn flour, 2 tablespoons lard, butter, or oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon (or more) salt. Let cool and use as the dough for your fritters.