Empanadas De Hongos
(Tortillas Filled with Mushrooms)
A couple of summers ago, I was driving along the Oaxacan coast, as usual stopping in at the villages en route to look for any novelties their markets could provide. In one, near Pinotepa Nacional, there were the usual vegetables carrots, tomatoes, and onions and small piles of dried fish, which provides the main source of protein in that rather poor area. Then a basket of very tiny, grayish-brown mushrooms caught my eye. They were most appropriately called mouse ears, orejitas de raton, or honguitos de palo. The old lady, the only one selling them, was reluctant to tell me how she prepared them or allow me to take a photograph without my agreeing to buy a large quantity at a greatly inflated price. Of course I did, and hurriedly and hopefully took them to a small food stand that had just opened for breakfast and seemed to specialize in empanadas.
The woman cook did finally agree to prepare them for me in the local fashion. To my surprise she put all the ingredients raw and roughly chopped into a blender. She then pressed a very large, thin tortilla, covering half of it with the raw filling and a sprinkle of dry, salty cheese, then, folding the tortilla over to make a large empanada, she cooked it very slowly with a smear of lard on the comal. I could hardly wait. Despite her warning, I bit into it right away; I burned my tongue, and the hot juice ran down my arm but what a delicious breakfast, just compensation for a very early morning start from Puerto Escondido.
When trying the recipe at home, I used tender little field mushrooms and juicy chanterelles, but you could use any small juicy mushrooms, preferably wild, either gathered or sold in your area.
I have tried the filling both raw and slightly cooked and prefer the latter, frying it in a little oil for a few minutes to heighten the flavors and reduce the juice. I also prefer to chop the mushrooms rather than blend them. The filling is delicious in quesadillas and tacos.
- 1 pound mushrooms such as tender little field mushrooms, juicy chanterelles, or any small juicy mushrooms, preferably wild, either gathered or sold in your area
- 10 costeno chiles or any small, hot, dried chiles, or 8 chiles de arbol
- 2 hoja santa leaves
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup finely grated salty cheese, Romano or pecorino
Wipe the mushrooms clean and chop fine. Wipe the chiles clean, slit open, remove the seeds and veins, toast lightly on a comal or griddle, and tear into pieces. Wipe the hoja santa clean, cut out the main rib, and chop roughly. Put the water into a blender, add the garlic, leaves, and chiles, and blend until smooth.
Heat the oil in a skillet, add the blended ingredients, and fry over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until well seasoned and some of the juice has evaporated 5 to 8 minutes.
Spoon the filling into tortillas to make tacos or quesadillas or, if you have the large local tortillas, use them to make empanadas. Sprinkle a little salty cheese on top.