Mexican Dinner: Moctezuma Pie
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A one-dish meal with a Mexican flair
This is a recipe that my mother used to make, many years ago when we lived in Mexico City.
Because it’s based on the cooking style of central Mexico, it doesn’t have the heavy spices that are usually associated with Mexican cooking, like cumin, chili powder and ground coriander seed. I think of those spices as characteristic of Tex-Mex cooking, from the hot desert areas on the border.
Parts of this dish can be made in advance (see instructions below) to save time on the day you’re cooking. None of this is difficult! It just takes a little time to go through all the steps.
8 corn tortillas (and cooking spray or small amount of vegetable oil)
3 poblano chiles
1 lb. fresh tomatoes (or 1 can (16 oz.) petite diced tomatoes)
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
½ teaspoon salt
½ pint sour cream, thinned with 2 Tbsps half-and-half
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (or 12 oz. packaged pepper jack slices, 8 in all)
2 cups cooked, diced chicken or pork
Prepare the poblano chiles
Poblano peppers aren't too spicy; their heat level is closer to green peppers. You want a mild, fruity pepper for this dish. The spice in this dish really comes from the pepper jack cheese.
Preheat broiler on “high.” Core and seed the poblanos. Place them skin-side up on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil.
Broil close to heat for about 5-10 minutes, until skin is blackened and blistered. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cool, peel off skins with fingers or sharp point of knife. Chop into strips.
(You can do this step ahead of time, then store the peeled and chopped poblanos in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days.)
Prepare the tomato sauce
If you buy a lot of fresh tomatoes at once and want to store them, just core and quarter the fresh tomatoes and put them in an air-tight plastic freezer bag in the freezer. They'll be mushy like canned tomatoes when thawed, but will work just fine in sauces. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes will do.
Core and quarter the fresh tomatoes. Grind them in a blender or food processor, until they are a lumpy puree.
Dice the onion and fry in a small amount of corn oil (or Pam). When the onions are translucent, add the minced or pressed garlic. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Then add the tomato puree and cook until some of the wateriness is evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add salt, if desired.
(You can prepare this simple tomato sauce in advance and either store in refrigerator for a couple of days or freeze for up to a month.)
Prepare the tortillas
This recipe calls for corn tortillas, NOT wheat ones! Corn tortillas are basically gluten-free when made the traditional way. Nevertheless, if you are sensitive to gluten, make sure the package says "gluten-free."
Tortillas must be warmed, to make them soft before using.
Original method: Heat a small amount of corn oil in a skillet. Place corn tortillas in skillet and lightly warm, until the tortilla is softened. Turn once, and then remove and keep warm.
Alternative method: Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread tortillas out on a baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Place tortillas in oven for a few minutes, until softened.
Prepare the chicken or pork
We always prepared this dish with chicken or pork. It was a great way to use up leftovers. However, if you prefer, the meat can be left out altogether, making the dish vegetarian.
Cut up about 2 cups of already-cooked chicken or pork into bite-size pieces.
Assemble the dish
- Grease an 8” x 8” glass or ceramic baking dish.
- Place 4 of the softened tortillas in the dish. Top with half the tomato sauce. Cover with half the diced meat. Drizzle with half the amount of sour cream mixed with half-and-half. Spread half the chile strips on top of that, and top with the pepper jack cheese.
- Place a second layer of tortillas, tomato sauce, meat, cream, chile strips and pepper jack cheese.
- Heat in 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve.