We form the patties, filled with cheese, and then serve them in a sauce. The sauce can be as simple as a tomato sauce or be made of pasilla, guajillo, chipotle, and even serrano peppers. Huautzontles are usually found at Latin Markets from March through October. Surprise your family today!
1large bunch of Huauzontle branchespreviously rinsed* (about 1 ½ pound)
⅓cupwhite onionfinely chopped
Salt to taste
8ozMexican Panela Cheese or Queso Fresco⅓ by 1-IN strips.***
½cupof vegetable oilor more to fry the patties
Remove the flowers buds from the main thick steams and place in a strainer. Make sure to remove any stems and small leaves, since they tend to have a bitter taste. Once you have removed all the florets, place under running water to clean again, then shake the strainer to removed any excess water. Personally, I don’t like to feel any stems while I eat them, that is why I only remove the small florets. Your original branch of Huauzontles will look like the picture at the left corner after you take away all the little green florets.
Cook the Huauzontle florets in a medium-sized pot with water and a pinch of salt at medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. They will be tender but still have a bright beautiful green color. Remove and drain any excess water.
Place the cooked Huauzontles in a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible, or use a strainer and shake to remove the moisture. Check for any little stems, sticks, or leaves that we didn’t catch before cooking and discard them. Set aside to cool.
While the huauzontles are draining, lets cook the salsa…
Cook the tomatoes and garlic in a pot with water until they are soft and the skins start to peel.
Once cooked, place the tomatoes (skins discarded) in a blender along with the garlic. Process until you have a very smooth sauce.
In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil at medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook until transparent and stir in the tomato sauce. Season with salt and gently simmer for about 5-7 minutes until sauce reduces a little and all the flavors are blended.
Time to form the Huauzontle Patties
To form the patties, or “tortitas,” place a small amount of the huauzontle in your hand and squeeze to remove any remaining moisture. Add a slice of the cheese, cover with more huauzontle, and squeeze from the patty.
Spread the flour on a large plate and lightly coat the patties in it, one by one. Shake off any excess flour, making sure the patties keep their shape while doing this step. Form the rest of the patties using the same process.
Now, in a large frying pan, heat the oil. The oil should be about ¾ in. deep. While the oil heats, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then stir in the yolks one by one while beating until you have a fluffy batter. Season with salt.
Once the oil is hot, dip each patty into the beaten eggs, making sure it is well coated. Carefully place the patty into the hot oil; do not overcrowd the skillet. Fry each side until it gets a deep golden color (it will take a few minutes for each side). It takes practice to master this step, now: use a large spatula to help you turn the patty gently. After you’ve fried it, place the patty on a paper towel to absorb the oil.
To serve, you have two options: warm the tomato sauce, add the patties to the sauce, and let them absorb some of the tomato sauce and serve covered with the salsa; or: place a small amount of the warm tomato sauce on a plate and top with the patties.
*If Huauzontles are not available in your area, you can use cauliflower, broccoli, or even spinach.** I use plum tomatoes for this type of sauces since they render a denser sauce.*** In some regions of Mexico, people use local cheeses, like Oaxaca or Chihuahua.