To celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16), many people in Mexico traditionally go out the night before, to main plazas all around the country; there, mayors, governors and other government representatives re-enact the initial call for an independent nation, known as – “El Grito de la Independencia” – “The Cry for Independence.” The festivities are not short of light displays, music and street vendors. A parade the next day is also traditional. Due to COVID19, re-enacting ceremonies will still be held this year, but with no public gatherings, and parades have been cancelled. For Mexico City, President Manuel López Obrador has announced that the downtown Zócalo will be closed to the public for both September 15 and 16, with an empty plaza for his El Grito re-enactment at night, and a low-key ceremony will replace the parade the next day.
For an at-home Noche de Grito, this September 15, and to set the mood for a festive, socially distanced, Independence Day on September 16, nothing like some homemade antojitos (little cravings).
In my previous post, I talked about different kinds of folded treats, fixed from tortillas or corn dough (masa), grilled or fried, all falling under the umbrella name of quesadillas, and how this has caused arguments involving regional names for some of these treats, as well as claims of recipes being spurious for their lack of cheese or inclusion of extra ingredients. But, what’s in a name? That which we call a quesadilla, by any other name would taste as good. And so, called quesadillas in Mexico City, dobladas in Guadalajara if they have fillings other than cheese, or molotes in Puebla and empanadas in Southern Mexico if they are deep fried, all these corn-dough folded treats by any name are still pure Mexican delight.
Happy Independence Day! ¡VIVA MEXICO!
Quesadillas from Corn Dough –
Quesadillas hechas con masa
Ingredients (for a dozen)
Corn Dough – Masa
2 cups nixtamalized corn flour (masa harina, such as Maseca™, or Bob’s Red Mill™)
1 ½ cups water, plus more as needed
½ tsp salt, or to taste
Vegetable oil, only for deep frying
½ lb (225 g) Melting cheese, preferably stringy such as Oaxaca or Mozzarella; shredded
Other fillings, to taste (click on highlighted text, for recipes): Hongos (Mushrooms with Epazote), Huitlacoche (from canned, or prepared), Potatoes (cooked and pressed), Pancita (beef tripe stir-fry), Flor de calabaza (Squash Blossoms), Tinga Poblana (Puebla Style Shredded Beef), Picadillo (Ground Beef Stew)
Salsas, to serve (click here for my recipes, or bottled)
Set up either a tortilla press, or a board or flat-bottomed dish, with plastic lining (such as a large freezer bag, cut open). Set aside.
Mix all ingredients for the masa in a bowl, making sure to hydrate all the flour (photo below, left); form a soft dough, and allow to rest for ten minutes, covered (photo below, right):
To test for adequate texture, take a portion about the size of a lime, roll into a ball and place between the prepared plastic linings (photo below, left). Gently press to form a thick disc; if it appears cracked, as shown in the photo below, right, add one tablespoon of water to the dough, mix thoroughly:
Once the dough is not cracking, and may be pressed easily without sticking to the plastic sheets (in which case, a little more flour may be added), divide the dough into twelve portions. Keep the dough covered while working with one portion at a time. Roll one portion into a ball, slightly flatten into a disc and place on plastic in the tortilla press (photo below, left); close the press (or use board or pan) and flatten disc to a thin circle (photo below, centre). Rotate the disc with plastic a quarter turn (90 degrees), and press again, to obtain a thinner, and slightly elongated shape (photo below, right):
Note: if using a board or pan to flatten the discs, roll with a pin instead of pressing twice, to achieve the oval shape.
For grilled quesadillas: Cook oval on a dry iron skillet or large frying pan (no oil), approximately one minute per side, so it is dry but still malleable for folding (photo below, left). Place some cheese and filling of choice on one half of the oval, lengthwise (photo, centre, with pressed potatoes and cheese). Close oval over filling, folding along the longer axis (photo below, right):
Continue cooking, flipping once, until dough is fully cooked and crispy, but not hard. Repeat with more dough portions, and other fillings, to taste, and serve with salsas of choice:
For deep fried quesadillas: Prepare a pot with at least one inch of vegetable oil; warm up over medium/high heat.
After pressing, still on the plastic sheet, place some cheese and filling of choice on one half of the dough oval, lengthwise, making sure to leave a rim around the edge (photo below, left); Fold plastic over to close dough over filling along the longer axis, and press down with fingers along the rim to seal into a patty (photo below, right):
Remove patty from plastic, set aside and continue forming patties with more dough portions, cheese and fillings, to taste.
Once the oil is hot but not smoking, fry patties in small batches without crowding (I used a small pot with one patty at a time, photo below, left). When placing patties in the oil, it should start foaming and the patty browning quickly (photo below, centre), so do not leave unattended. Flip after a few seconds, and continue cooking until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to paper towels, to remove excess oil (photo below, right):
Serve hot with salsas (photo at the top of the post). At the table, open patties, and add salsa of choice:
About the dough: A few extras may be used, such as wheat flour, to increase malleability, or baking powder for extra fluffy fried patties. I personally prefer to control the texture of the dough by simply adjusting with water, as described in this recipe, since I like the extra crunchiness and clean flavour from pure corn dough.
I have some photos of quesadillas that I would like to share. If you make quesadillas from the recipes in this post, have made some in the past, or have eaten them at your favourite joint, send me photos to share in this section.
From my sister, a grilled quesadilla loaded with huitlacoche and cheese, ready to be folded (I think cactus and beans are on the side):
The fried quesadillas below are from a street stand called “Don Chema” (Rafael Buelna 1134), in Culiacan, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. This type of quesadilla is not typical of this region, but Don Chema and his family are originally from Mexico City (CDMX), and customers know that Don Chema’s quesadillas are fried and have all sorts of fillings:
FUN FACT: In Venezuela, quesadillas are sweet pastries filled with cheese, and empanadas are made with PAN™ non-nixtamalized corn flour:
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I am sharing my recipe at Thursday Favourite Things #457, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.