Calabazas Horneadas (Baked Squash with Chiles, Corn)
This chile pepper is often mislabeled ‘Pasilla’, which is a different pepper entirely.It is one of the most popular chiles in Mexico and has won the appreciation of many a chef worldwide because of the superior flavor it has over regular bell peppers.
They have a tough outer skin that usually requires roasting and peeling before use. These very large chile peppers are most popular in chiles rellenos recipes, but cooking with these as a substitute for bell peppers in any recipe will enhance the flavor.
5 ears fresh corn on the cob
3 chiles poblanos
2-1/2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. sweet butter
1 pound calabazas (any variety of young squash), cut in 1″ pieces
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
36 flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), often available at Mexican, Italian, and farmers’ markets (can used canned if out of season)
2 sprigs epazote, leaves only, or 2 tsp. dried (available at Mexican markets and some gourmet stores)
1 cup Mexican crema, créme fraîche, or sour cream
salt and ground white pepper to taste
1/2 pound queso fresco (or quesillo, manchego or Muenster cheese), crumbled
Scrape the kernels from the corncobs and reserve the cobs. You should have about 3 cups of kernels. Put the cobs in a 4 quart stockpot with 1 quart water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 20 minutes and strain the stock. Set aside for later use, then discard the cobs.
Roast the chiles over an open flame until they are charred. Put them in a plastic bag to sweat for about 5 minutes. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, peel off their skins and discard. Do not rinse the chiles with water or you will wash the oils off and reduce the flavor. Cut the chiles into 1/4″ strips, or rajas.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a 4 quart, heavy stockpot, clay cazuela, or deep, cast-iron frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the butter until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels, squash wedges, and garlic. Continue frying for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chile strips and cook for 10 minutes longer. Gently stir 1 cup of the corn stock into the corn-chile mixture and add the squash blossoms and epazote. Cook for 5 minutes longer, then gently stir in the crema and season with salt and pepper.
Top with the cheese and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Note: This dish should be slighty runny. Serve with fresh hot tortillas, preferably corn.
Hint: If you make this in a deep frying pan, you can either transfer the mixture to an oven-proof casserole before topping it with cheese and baking it, or just add the cheese, cover the frying pan, and simmer for 15 minutes on top of the stove. Serves 8 to 10.
Recipe adapted from Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico (Ballantine Books) by Susana Trilling.