Calabazas Horneadas (Baked Squash With Chiles, Corn, and Cream)

This combination of corn, squash, chiles, and cream is a comfort food for me, and this method is one of my favorite ways to make it. It is best eaten as a taco filling in corn tortillas and served with soup for a light supper.

5 ears fresh corn on the cob
3 chiles poblanos
2 1/2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 pound calabazas (any variety of young squash), cut in 1-inch wedges; if using zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then in wedges
13 garlic cloves, finely chopped
36 flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), often available at Mexican, Italian, and farmers’ markets (can used canned if out of season)
2 sprigs epazote, leaves only, or 2 teaspoons dried (available at Mexican markets and some gourmet stores)
1 cup Mexican crema, créme fraîche, or sour cream
salt and ground white pepper to taste
1/2 pound queso fresco (or quesillo, manchego, or Muenster cheese), crumbled

Remove the kernels from the corncobs and reserve the cobs. You should have about 3 cups of kernels. Put the cobs in a 4-quart stockpot with 1 quart water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 20 minutes. Strain the stock and set aside for later use; discard the cobs.

Roast the chiles over an open flame until they are charred. Put them in a plastic bag to sweat for about 5 minutes. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, peel off their skins and discard. Do not rinse the chiles with water or you will wash the oil off and reduce the flavor. Cut the chiles into 1/4-inch strips, or rajas.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In 4-quart, heavy stockpot, clay cazuela, or deep, cast-iron frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the butter until transparent, about 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels, squash wedges, and garlic. Continue frying for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chile strips and cook for 10 minutes longer. Gently stir 1 cup of the corn stock into the corn-chile mixture. Add the flor de calabaza and epazote, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Gently stir in the crema and season with salt and pepper.

Top with the cheese and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Note: This dish should be slighty runny. Serve with fresh hot tortillas, preferably corn.

Hint: If you make this in a deep frying pan, you can either transfer the mixture to an ovenproof casserole before topping it with cheese and baking it, or just add the cheese, cover the frying pan, and simmer for 15 minutes on top of the stove. Serves 8 to 10.

From A Good Mango Is Hard to Find Texas Monthly, April 2002.