Chacales – Cracked Nixtamalized Corn

Chacales – Cracked Nixtamalized Corn

Chef Rico Torres of Mixtli, the famed progressive Mexican cuisine restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, shared his chacales recipe, saying that it evokes memories of his family, and growing up in El Paso, Texas.

It is a prized dish of comida casera, home-cooking, along the Rio Grande, in the region comprised of south Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. This traditional dish is originated in Chihuahua and is now shared in the region.  It is made with crushed nixtamalized corn. It’s a cousin of posole, (spelled pozole in central and southern Mexico), less soupy in texture and with a completely different flavor profile. I think that perhaps this is what Italians may have copied when they started cooking what they call polenta.

Nixtamalization is a chemical process engineered about 2,000 years ago by Mexican women that changes the molecular structure of corn, trans- forming it into hominy. The corn is first boiled with calcium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. This chemical process improves the quality of the protein and increases the overall nutrient value.

The corn is dried, then slightly crushed, yielding an intriguing texture. In combination with the balance of seasonings in Chef Torres’s recipe, this dish is certain to grow in popularity more widely than in south Texas and northern Mexico homes.  I hope you’ll agree that chacales is a delicious culinary treasure.

From the cookbook, Don’t Count The Tortillas: The Art of Texas Mexican Cooking

Recipe for Chacales, Cracked Nixtamlized Corn

Ingredients (serves 6) 
1 pound chacales—grocery stores and some online vendors sell it, sometimes labeled maíz trillado
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil, non-hydrogenated
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped.

1. Soak the chacales overnight in a pot of room-temperature water.
2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the chacales, salt, and enough additional water to cover by two inches. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for one hour or until fully cooked. It will be tender but firm.
3. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat; then add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomato, garlic, and one half of the cilantro and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the tomato mixture to the cooked corn and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt.

Serve hot and garnish with the additional coarsely chopped fresh cilantro. Chef Torres says you may also garnish with other fresh herbs and serve with aged cheese.

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