Blue corn has a deeper, earthier taste than the better known yellow and white corn. Filled with tomato-braised mushrooms, epazote and Mexican string cheese, these quesadillas are Mexico’s answer to the toasted cheese and tomato sandwich, but with a touch of Latin style. Buy the best quality pulled curd cheese you can find (see Note).
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 cup diced tomato, about 3 medium
- salt and black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 150 g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 sprig epazote (see Note)
- 400 g prepared blue corn masa (see Note) or 10 blue corn tortillas
- 200 g quesillo (see Note), torn
- 300 g tomatillos (see Note)
- 6–10 chillies de arbol (see Note)
- ½ small white onion
- 1 clove garlic
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 20 minutes
Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3–4 minutes stirring frequently, without colouring, until softened. Add the tomato and salt and stir through. Cover and cook for 3–4 minutes until the tomato releases its juices. Add the mushrooms and epazote, stir through and replace the lid. Cook for a further 4–5 minutes until the mushrooms soften. At this point the sauce will be quite watery. Remove the lid and continue to cook for a few mins until the sauce had reduced but is still quite moist. Adjust the seasoning and remove the epazote. Allow to cool room temperature before use.
Meanwhile, place the tomatillos and chillies in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then simmer until soft, 2–3 mins. Drain, reserving the water. Place the tomatillos, chilli, onion and garlic into a blender and blend until smooth. Season well with salt. If the salsa is overly thick, loosen with 1 tablespoon of the reserved water. Set aside.
To form the quesadillas, break the masa into 10 x 40 g balls (try one before you proceed, if the masa squeezes out the sides when flattened, make the balls smaller). Take a ball and roll it between your hands to make a tube of dough, around 3 times as long as it is thick. Place the dough in your plastic-lined tortilla press and flatten it with a firm press. Fold the tortilla in half so you have a semi-circle, cover with plastic and press again. It should now be a flat oval shape. Repeat with remaining masa.
Heat a non-stick or cast iron frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook each tortilla for around 30 seconds on one side then gently flip over. Place 2 tablespoons of mushroom filling down the middle of the tortilla. Add 20 g cheese and fold in half lengthways. Cook for 1 ½–2 minutes on each side until lightly golden and the cheese has melted.
These quesadillas are best served straight away. If not using right away, wrap cooked quesadillas in a tea towel until ready to serve. To reheat, remove the tea towel place in a 200°C oven for 2-3 minutes.
Serve immediately with the salsa.
• If fresh epazote is not available, substitute with 2 sprigs of tarragon. Stir through 2 tablespoons chopped parsley when the mushroom mix is ready. Though commonly available, dried epazote insn’t a good substitute for this recipe.
• Blue corn flour, known as masa harina, is available from Latin food stores, gourmet delis and online. While the blue adds great depth and dimension to these quesadillas, you could also make them with white or yellow corn masa harina. Follow packet directions to make the masa dough. 1 cup of water and 1¼ cups of masa harina will yield approximately 400 g.
• Quesillo is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese produced in a similar way to fresh mozzarella. The curds are stretched into fine threads before being sold in balls. It’s the perfect melting cheese for quesadillas and empanadas. In Australia, quesillo is available from specialist cheese producers. If unavailable, substitute fresh mozzarella.
• Tomatillos are only available fresh during summer from specialty growers. If unavailable, substitute canned tomatillos and omit the cooking step as they are ready to use.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Kristine Duran-Thiessen.