Zucchini Stuffed with Corn with Roasted Tomato Sauce
Calabacitas Rellenas de Elote
adapted from Diana Kennedy’s The Cuisines of Mexico, Harper & Row, 1986
From Diana Kennedy—her books and in-person workshops—I learned how to cook with the native foods of the Americas: squash, corn, tomatoes, chiles. And isn’t that what we are supposed to be celebrating on Thanksgiving? At their 1621 autumn harvest feast, the Pilgrims and the Native Americans probably shared those very foods.
This side dish could not be more perfect on the fall-winter table for any occasion. It’s a bit time-intensive, but you can put it all together the day before (like I’m doing today) and bake it while your turkey is resting. The flavors are just right with turkey and the roasted tomato-ancho sauce is divine over sweet potatoes. You’ll have plenty of leftover rich-earthy sauce, which is also great on chicken, fish, steak….
6 medium zucchini squash or 12 small ones, like the ones pictured here, unpeeled, scrubbed
5 large tomatoes
5 or 6 dried ancho chiles
freshly shredded cheese to measure 1 heaping cup (half asiago and half muenster is very good)
1-lb bag frozen corn
nutmeg, white pepper, salt, sugar, oregano
SAUCE: Broil the tomatoes until they’re blackened all over. (Note: if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, you can use canned tomatoes—Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed are good— seasoned with some chili powder or a teaspoon of juice from canned chipotles in adobo. You can also omit the hollowed-out squash and bake the corn custard in a buttered casserole dish with some of the sauce dribbled over and the rest on the side.)
Toast the chiles in a dry frying pan. Tear them open, take out the seeds and stems and soak them in boiling water for about 20 minutes.
While the tomatoes are broiling (and cooling a bit) make zucchini shells by cutting a strip off the top and carving out the centers with a melon ball cutter (the insides can go into a delicious soup). Taking a sliver off the bottom will keep them from rolling around.
CORN CUSTARD: In a food processor, break in the eggs and add the corn, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, a big pinch nutmeg. Process until the corn kernels are a rough puree. Add the cheese and give the mixture one or two pulses to combine.
SAUCE: Rinse out the food processor and process the soaked chiles and the broiled tomatoes (skin and all) with enough chili-soaking liquid to make a rough-textured but pourable sauce. Pulse in 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp oregano, 1 tsp sugar or to taste. You’ll have lots of sauce — enough to drizzle over the stuffed zucchini, serve on the side in a sauce boat, and maybe even some to freeze for another meal (which makes a time-intensive dish like this extra worthwhile).
ASSEMBLY: Lightly oil an attractive shallow baking/serving dish. Spread a little sauce around the bottom. Fill the zucchini shells with the corn mixture and arrange in the dish. Drizzle a little sauce across the top.
Cover the dish with foil (at this point it can be refrigerated overnight). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 40 minutes or so before serving, bake, covered for 1/2 hour, uncover for the last 5 minutes. Simmer the sauce separately and serve it in a sauceboat.