Panuchos, a Yucatan Treat

Like so many other regions in Mexico, the Yucatan serves up some unique dishes, including one of our favorites – panuchos. Perhaps one of the reasons we love this area is because it’s where we’ve found the fieriest sauces. In fact, habanero peppers are the norm here and in a sauce drizzled across the top of a plateful of panuchos, you’ll find out how tough you really are. Pickled red onions are another required condiment for this dish – and one that you may find on the Yucatan tables every day.

Don’t be put off by the habaneros, though. Most of our friends and family can’t handle them and I’ve left them out here as well. Instead, I’ve substituted a fresh salsa and slipped in diced jalapenos for those who want a milder bite.

Another sacrifice is in our pickled red onions – no bitter oranges to be found, so a blend of orange juice, lime juice and red wine vinegar will have to suffice. I highly recommend trying it, though, because it’s nearly a requirement to serve with panuchos. You’ll see how nicely it can be paired with other dishes as well.

Typically, panuchos are puffy fresh corn tortillas stuffed only with pureed black beans, unlike their more robust counterparts, pupusas from El Salvador. Toppings can be anything you desire, but a shredded chicken breast provides flavor while lettuce and the pickled onions add crunch. With each bite, you’ll discover a burst of flavors to appease all the taste buds and senses!

I’ll break down the ingredients, so you can make as few or as many as you like. We’ll start with the pickled onions, then on to the corn tortillas and then the process of preparing panuchos. This is a wonderful adaptation that anyone can make, even without all the “authentic” ingredients you’d find in the Yucatan.

Pickled Red Onions
(about 3/4 cup)

For the bitter orange (naranja agria) substitution use:
2 parts orange juice
1 part lime juice
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

For this recipe, I added:
-1/4 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed)
-2 tablespoons lime juice
-1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

This was enough to cover 1/2 medium red onion (cebolla morada)
Make ahead of time to let flavors incorporate. Keep in the fridge for 7-10 days.

Corn tortillas:
Makes 6 (a serving is 2 each)

– 1 cup masa harina
– 2/3 cup warm water
– pinch of salt

Add a little salt to the masa. Then, slowly add warm water – more or less as needed. For panuchos, you may find they work best on the moist side. Knead gently and let sit, covered, for about 15 minutes.

Use your hands or a press and create tortillas about 4 inches in diameter. They should be a little thicker than usual, so there’s room to puff up. Wet your fingers and press them down around the edges to help make them puffier.

3 servings of 2 tortillas each

6 corn tortillas
1/2 cup pureed black beans (from canned or dry stock)

-1/2 boneless/skinless chicken breast, seasoned, boiled and shredded in coarse
-shredded lettuce
-avocado slices
-cucumber slices
-fresh salsa
-pickled onions

-Heat a dry cast iron skillet (comal) to medium. Add one or two fresh corn tortillas. They’ll require a longer cooking time – turn them once and let brown, then turn again for the puffing.

-Remove from heat and let cool.

-Heat precooked pureed black beans.

-Using a sharp knife, make a good 2-3 inch slit on top about 1/2 inch in from the edge. Use fingers, if necessary to create a larger pocket.

-Fill with two teaspoons of black bean puree. Smash down to spread inside tortilla.

-In a regular skillet add about 3-5 tablespoons of oil and bring to high heat.

-Add filled tortillas and cook about 30 seconds on each side; then drain on paper towels.

They’re ready to serve with any or all of the above toppings. Load ’em up and enjoy!

A couple of tips:
-Don’t worry if some don’t puff. You can pop them in the microwave wrapped in a dry paper towel and that should do the trick.
-After the chicken breast has come to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cooking at high heat breaks down protein.


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