What Are Quesadillas?
In Mexican cuisine, quesadillas are part of the vast family of foods known as antojitos (“little cravings”), small, savory bites served as appetizers (other examples include tacos dorados and tostadas) or as a late-night bite after a few drinks. In Mexico City, the word quesadilla is something of a catchall, used to describe almost anything folded up in a corn tortilla.
On the streets in Mexico City, quesadillas are often served fried, like an empanada. Hence these vegan (so, yes, cheeseless) quesadillas filled with a special part of the corn known as huitlacoche. Huitlacoche is used frequently in Mexican food and is, technically speaking, a fungus that infects corn and causes the kernels to swell up into dark, puffy growths.
Gabriela Cámara’s Quesadillas Doradas Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time45 min
Cook Time30 min
Gabriela is all about experimenting with the ingredients that are readily available to you, so if corn smut isn’t something you can find (or stomach), try this same technique to create quesadillas with other fillings. Gabriela recommends ricotta cheese, chicken tinga, braised greens, squash blossoms, crumbled chorizo, or some combination thereof.
- 325 grams fresh huitlacoche
- 1 Liter grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)
- 95 grams white onion, minced
- 12 grams garlic, minced
- 3 grams chile serrano, deseeded and minced
- Salt, to taste
- 260 grams fresh corn masa
- 7 grams epazote, finely chopped
- 200 grams Salsa Verde Cruda
- Prepare the huitlacoche: Remove the husk and any stray hairs from the corn cob. Holding the kernel upright on its stem side, use a sharp knife to slice the kernels off, working top to bottom.
- Cook the filling. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, heat 12 milliliters of the grapeseed oil. Add the onion and sweat until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and the serrano, stir to combine, then add the huitlacoche. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add more oil if necessary to avoid sticking or burning. Cook, stirring often, until all vegetables are softened, 3–5 minutes. The huitlacoche will darken as it cooks. Season with salt and stir in the epazote. Turn off the heat, cover the mixture, and set aside while you make the tortillas.
- Make the tortillas: Roll out golf ball-size masa balls and press in a tortilla press, between two sheets of plastic. Open the press and remove the top sheet of plastic, leaving the tortilla on the bottom piece of plastic and on the press. Spoon 2 scant tablespoons of the huitlacoche mixture in the center of the tortilla. Be careful not to overfill.
- Seal the quesadillas: To seal, lift both sides of the plastic and bring the bottom edge of the tortilla to meet the top. Using your fingers, gently pinch the edges of the tortilla together through the plastic, pushing out any air before closing completely. Your finished quesadillas should resemble empanadas or ravioli. Repeat this process until all of the filling is gone.
- Fry the quesadillas: Heat the remaining grapeseed oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until a thermometer reads 350°F. Line a plate with paper towels. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, carefully add 2 to 3 quesadillas to the hot oil. Use a spatula or wire skimmer to ensure that they do not stick together, and cook, rotating occasionally, to ensure all sides are golden brown, about 8–10 minutes.
- Let cool and serve. Use a fine-mesh strainer or wire skimmer to transfer the quesadillas to the paper towel-lined plate and allow them to drain and cool slightly. Serve hot with Salsa Verde Cruda on the side.
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