If you haven't visited Mexico most likely you have never heard of Peneques. A peneque is a corn tortilla, stuffed with cheese, egg battered, fried and served with a more liquid tomato sauce. This dish brings tasty childhood memories.
As you know by now, my mother was one of the two the most Argentinian women living in Mexico City. My aunt and her always made a point to exaggerate their South American accent because they felt that this behavior made them more noticeable -as if you could not notice them... believe me... everybody always noticed-
My mother being Argentinian of Italian descent loved cooking. Even though she always was trying to loose weight (actually she never needed it... as she was never fat...well...not as Jabba the Hutt). I lived in a house that always had some sort of home baked goods and where on Sundays pasta was the main attraction. Also I have to say, my mother fell in love with Mexican food (who doesn't, I mean, besides Donald Trump) and she cooked all sorts of Mexican food, most of the time with great results.
I was not a great eater. I remember clearly being left at the table, with my dinner in front of me, while my brother and my mother were doing something else. I was left at the table for hours and hours with a cold platter in front of me... and my mother would come back every so often just to find out that the plate was untouched. 9 out of 10 times I won. She used to give me the old... do you know that there are thousand of kids starving and you are wasting this food speech. All I wanted was to leave the table. Unfortunately the idea of the starving kids never touched my soul... to me I won 9 of 10 times.
Now... some dishes were my favorites and usually those I would eat right away. Peneques was one of those fantastic dishes, so today I'm sharing with you the recipe. It is worth to say that back then there used to be what we knew as 'tortilleras" or "señora de las tortillas" who also sold the peneque shaped corn tortillas. With globalization they have disappeared and most young Mexican don't even know what a peneque is. I guess that the big supermarket buyers, working in I don't know were, don't get what a peneque is therefore is not a product that they would sell nowadays. Shame!!!
Cooking Time: 60 Minutes Makes 4 servings
100 g Mozzarella Cheese (or a good melting cheese)
6 Corn tortillas
3 Egg Whites
1 Egg Yolk
1 Cup Canola Oil
Caldillo (Tomato sauce)
1/2 Onion cut in thick slices
4 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Can of Stewed Tomato (411 g or 14.5 oz)
1/2 Cup of Beef Stock
- Seasoning (I use a Knorr Beef cube)
2. While the tortillas are on the “comal” (you can use a pan to warm them up) we cut the cheese in the size to make a quesadilla (1/2 inch for the sides, 3 inch length, approx).
3. In a frying pan warm the oil to a frying temperature (high). Keep warm.
4. We are going to put the cheese in the middle of the tortilla and close it (as a quesadilla) BUT we are going to “close it” with two toothpicks, semi-closing it. Set aside (they will get cold, don’t worry).
5. In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until you get firm peaks (you can turn the bowl upside-down and it wont spill). Once the egg whites are firm then we’ll add the egg yolk and beat again to incorporate.
6. Dip the “closed” quesadilla in the egg mix trying not to over cover it, then, carefully place the future peneque on the warm oil. We want to turn it when one side is light-brown (we don’t want to burn the egg !). Once the two sides are ready, remove from the pan and place each piece on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Reserve the 6 peneques.
7. Now we’ll prepare the “caldillo” (a more liquid tomato sauce): in a medium pot, fry the onion until it gets a bit clear, add the stewed tomatoes and mix well.
8. Using your food processor, blend the onion/tomato mix until smooth. Return to the pot and lower the heat to simmer. Incorporate the seasoning (again, I use a Knorr beef cube) and mix well. Close the lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
9. After the 20 minutes we should have a nice and tasty tomato sauce. To make it more liquid (“caldillo”) we add the beef stock and mix well. Cover and allow it to simmer for another 10 minutes.
10. The final step: put the peneques on the sauce (carefully so they don’t break) and make sure that all are covered with the tomato sauce. Close the lid and simmer the whole thing for another 10 minutes or so.
11. I serve two peneques per person with some nice Mexican white rice and some sauce. They should be fantastic!