Corn tortes are very popular in all South American countries. They are made with a base of ground fresh corn kernels mixed with butter, eggs, cheese, onions, or tomatoes, depending on the country. This base can be wrapped in cornhusks and steamed; these packets are called humintas in Bolivia and humitas in Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador. Or it can be baked in a shallow baking dish (huminta al homo). Sometimes it is layered with cheese or with a savory mixture of ground beef or chicken.
There is a considerable difference between South American and North American corn varieties. Because South American corn is drier and starchier, it is important for U.S. cooks to look for mature corn, and it is necessary to add cornmeal to get the right consistency for the huminta mixture. This particular corn torte hails from Bolivia, where it is usually cut into slices and served with a cup of coffee.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 medium-size onion, halved and thinly sliced into half-moons (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium-size ripe but firm tomatoes (10 to 12 ounces), peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried hot red pepper puree, store-bought or homemade, or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- ¼ cup seedless black raisins (optional)
- 2 pounds frozen corn kernels, thawed
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon pisco
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 4 ounces Swiss, Emmental, or other good melting cheese, shredded
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf, salt, sugar, and hot pepper puree. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the wine and chicken broth and cook, uncovered, until thickened. Stir in the chicken and raisins (if using) and continue to cook for a few minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little more. Discard the bay leaf and taste for salt and sugar. Let cool, then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
2. To make the huminta, place the corn in a food processor and process until smooth. Mix the cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a small bowl and add to the food processor. Add the eggs, egg white, and pisco. Process until smooth. Add the butter and cheese and pulse until well mixed. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a shallow 6-cup baking dish.
4. To assemble the torte, spread half of the huminta in the prepared dish. Spread the chicken mixture on top and cover with the rest of the huminta. Brush with the beaten egg white and bake on the middle oven rack until golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. It can be made ahead, cooled, and refrigerated. To serve, bring to room temperature and bake in a preheated 350°F oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.