Yield
Makes about 4 cups, enough for 12 generous tacos

Calabacitas y Elote con Rajas y Crema

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 (about 1 pound total) zucchini, cut into cubes a little smaller than 1/2 inch
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups poblano rajas (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican crema
  • 1 sprig epazote, leaves removed and thinly sliced or 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

Instructions

When I want a vegetarian soft taco filling, I heat the oil in a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high. When really hot, I add the zucchini, stirring and turning the pieces frequently, until they are richly browned all over. That's when I add the corn kernels. I let that brown (which takes just a couple of minutes).

Then I scrape in the 2 cups of rajas, along with the sprig of epazote or chopped cilantro.

When everything comes to a simmer over medium heat, I add a couple tablespoons of crema (or one of its stand-ins) if I think the mixture needs it, taste the dish for salt and scrape it into a serving bowl.

Though it's not absolutely necessary, the mixture is delicious sprinkled with crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese.

Roasted Poblano Cream (Crema Poblana)

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (about 1 pound) medium fresh poblano chiles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 3/4 cup Mexican crema, crème fraiche or heavy cream (if I’m planning on turning the rajas into soup, Greek-style yogurt is also an option)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

No matter how I’m ultimately going to use my poblanos and cream, I start by making what’s called rajas a la crema, Roasted Poblano Strips with Cream. If a gas flame (or charcoal fire) is available to me, I roast the poblano chiles directly over high heat, turning frequently.   

I want the heat intense so the tough skin of the chiles will blister and blacken before the flesh has softened too much—it shouldn’t take much more than 5 minutes to roast a chile on an open flame. (When using only one burner, I roast the poblanos in batches.) If only an electric stove is available, I heat the broiler, adjust the shelf as high as it will go, lay the chiles onto a baking sheet and slide them under the broiler. As they blister and blacken, I turn them until all are uniformly charred, about 10 minutes. (Broiler-roasting works fine, though the chiles’ flesh tends to get a little more cooked and takes on less smoky flavor than when flame-roasting.)  

Whether the chiles are broiler- or flame-roasted, when they are evenly blackened, I collect them in a bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel to trap a little steam to loosen the charred skin. (Some cooks put them in a plastic bag, but for me, that traps too much steamy heat, leading to flesh that’s softer—more cooked—than I like.) When the chiles have cooled enough to be handleable, I rub off their charred skin, remove the seed pod by pulling firmly on the stem, then rinse the peeled, seeded flesh briefly under cool water. Lastly, I slice the roasted chile into 1/4-inch strips. 

To finish the rajas a la crema, I heat the vegetable or olive oil over medium-high in a very large (12-inch) skillet. When hot, I add the white onion and cook, stirring regularly, until the onion is richly browned, but still a little crunchy, about 7 minutes. Then I stir in the garlic cloves and the dried oregano.

After a minute or so, when the garlic is fragrant, I stir in the chile strips and Mexican crema. When the cream has thickened enough to coat the chiles nicely—that takes only a couple of minutes over the medium-high heat, though it needs to be stirred nearly constantly—I taste the mixture and season it with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. This is the perfect accompaniment to grilled meat or fish tacos, to steak or pork chops, or to grilled, sautéed or broiled fish or chicken.

From More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, W. W. Norton & Company 2015.