Savory Vegetarian Corn Pudding (Pastel de Choclo)

Recipe and photo contributed by Morena Escardó Yield:  6 servings
Prep Time:  35 minutes Cook Time:  55 minutes

Savory Vegetarian Corn Pudding (Pastel de Choclo)

“Unlike corn bread, Peruvian corn pudding (pastel de choclo in Spanish) is made with fresh corn, not cornmeal. That is why the texture is creamy instead of cakey, making it more similar to a fresh tamale than a bread. What makes this corn pudding—or pie—even more unique, is the type of corn used to make it. Peruvian giant kernel corn is one of a kind, and found only in the Andes. Each kernel is as big as your thumb's fingernail (and sometimes even bigger), and the taste is not particularly sweet. For this reason, the original recipe adds sugar to the corn mixture, to make it sweeter. Since I don't consume sugar, and I don't live in Peru, where Peruvian giant kernel corn is readily available, I replaced it with yellow sweet corn, which gave it a richer yellow color, but a similar taste. I also made the filling vegetarian, as always.”--Morena Escardó

Ingredients

Filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon aji amarillo paste or cayenne pepper (less if you don’t like spicy food)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅔ cup chopped Alfonso olives

⅓ cup raisins

Corn Batter:

¾ cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing

4 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or thawed)

1½ teaspoons salt

½ cup milk

5 eggs, yolks and whites divided

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan set over medium heat, and cook the onion and garlic, stirring and shaking the pan, for 3 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the tomato, bell pepper, mushrooms, tomato paste, vinegar, aji amarillo paste or cayenne pepper, and freshly ground pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes. Turn the heat off, add the olives and raisins, and stir well.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch-square baking pan (or a pan that’s similar in size).
  4. Melt the butter in a small pan set over low heat, stirring. Transfer to a blender, and process with the corn, 1 teaspoon salt, the milk, and egg yolks.
  5. Beat the egg whites at high speed until firm (see Kitchen Tip), and fold this into the corn mixture, until completely incorporated.
  6. Pour half of the corn mixture into the prepared pan. Cover with the olive and mushroom stuffing, spreading it evenly, and then pour the remaining corn mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the fennel seeds.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes on a cooling rack before cutting and serving. The longer you wait before cutting it, the firmer it will be and the more it will hold its shape.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Instead of the mushrooms, you can use vegetarian minced meat to resemble the original pastel de choclo even more.
  2. From the Test Kitchen: When the egg whites reach the stiff or firm peak stage, they are glossy and very firm; they retain their shape, cling to the bowl, and will stand straight up from the overturned beater. They will still creamy and flexible enough to fold in with other ingredients.

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