BUDIN AZTECA (Moctezuma pie, for six)

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For the salsa verde:

3 cups cooked tomate verde (about 1-1/2 pounds) drained, reserving ½ cup of the liquid (If using fresh tomatillos, blanch them, along with the 3 serrano chiles below, in a large saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes and drain, reserving ½ cup of the poaching liquid). 

3 serrano chiles, cooked with the tomate verde

2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the rajas:

7 poblano chiles, charred, peeled and cleaned

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/3 cup thinly sliced white onion

salt to taste

For the budin:

1/3 cup vegetable oil

18 freshly made tortillas, cut into halves about 5 inches across

2 cups shredded, poached chicken, well salted

To serve:

 1-1/2 cups thick sour cream (see note below)

1-3/4 cups grated chinuahua cheese or cheddar

1.Have ready an ovenproof dish, 3-½ inches deep and 10 inches in diameter. Preheat the oven to 350*.

  1. In a blender, blend the tomate verde with ½ cup of the reserved poaching liquid, the serrano chiles, garlic and onion to a smooth sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet, add the sauce and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking, by which time it will have thickened a little and will be well seasoned. Set aside.
  1. Toast the poblano chiles on a comal or griddle until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft.  Remove the seeds and veins, scrape away the skin, cut them into narrow strips and set aside.  In another skillet, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, add the onion and fry until translucent, about 1 minute.  Add the chile strips and salt, cover the pan, and cook over gentle heat until the chiles are tender but not too soft, about 5 minutes.
  1. In a third skillet heat 1/3 cup vegetable oil and fry each tortilla for a few seconds – they should not get crisp or hard. Drain them on paper towels.
  1. Spread 1/3 of the tortillas over the bottom of the dish. Then spread, in layers on top of them, half the chicken, half the rajas and 1/3 each of the sauce, sour cream and cheese.  Repeat the layers and finish off with a layer of tortillas, sprinkled with the rest of the sauce, sour cream and cheese.
  1. Bake the budin for about 25 minutes or until it is well heated through and the cheese has melted.

NOTE:  The dish could be assembled about 2 hours ahead of time, but it would be best not to add all the sauce.  Just half of it between the layers and then, at the last moment before putting the dish into the oven, pour in the sauce around the edges. Be careful not to cook it for too long or the tortillas will disintegrate – they should be soft but keep their shape.  This dish does not freeze successfully.

If you wish to make your own sour cream, put ½ pint heavy cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk into a glass bowl or jar and mix them well together.  Cover with plastic wrap and set the mixture in a warm place, but not too warm (a strong pilot light is too warm — the cream will taste cooked and a skin will form).  Some creams will sour more quickly than others, depending on the composition of the buttermilk, among other factors, but most creams will set after about 6 hours.  Put the cream into the refrigerator overnight.  It will thicken and become more solid.

adapted from Diana Kennedy, The Cuisines of Mexico

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