Papadzules are the Yucatan’s extraordinarily delicious and irresistible breakfast enchiladas. Freshly made corn tortillas are dipped into a toasted pumpkin seed sauce and filled with hard cooked eggs and finished with additional sauce and a Yucatecan spicy salsa de jitomate! The nuanced flavors of the Yucatan’s pre-Colombian Mayan cuisine will all be revealed within the very first bite.
There are several components and perhaps some unfamiliar ingredients used for this recipe, but the preparations will allow you time to immerse yourself in the flavors and techniques that make the food of the Yucatan so unique. I find working away in the kitchen is a perfect time to let your thoughts wander and savor the journey as well as ending up with a meal that has a story of its own to tell.
There are a couple of ingredients that are Yucatan specific that may be hard to find, but I have included alternatives that reflect the intended flavor.
Epazote is especially popular with cooks in the Yucatan. It is a wild herb with a slightly astringent resinous flavor that is best used fresh, although dried is perfectly acceptable. It is an acquired taste, but pairs well when cooked with beans as well as soups and stews. Available fresh in some Latin markets or dried online. It is also easy to grow if you become a fan. An alternative flavor combination is provided in the recipe.
The Yucatan is the largest exporter of Habanero chiles in the world. The Habanero is a relatively small chile but packs a wallop of heat, so
beware! That said, the slightly sweet fruity flavor of this chile counterbalances the heat just a bit. Available fresh as well as dried, although they can be hard to find. A reasonable substitute would be several small fresh red Thai chiles.
For authenticity I have referenced Diana Kennedy’s recipe for Papazules from her wonderful book The Cuisines of Mexico first published in 1972.
Papadzules serves 4
Have on hand:
- Freshly made corn tortillas (or packaged)
- 4 hard cooked eggs
Yucatecan Salsa de Jitomate
- 4 plump vine ripe tomatoes
- 1 onion
- ½ head garlic
- 1 red Habanero chile, or 4 medium size fresh Thai red chiles
- 1 teaspoon of salt or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
This salsa can be made well in advance and stored in the refrigerator for several days.
Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c
Brush the whole tomatoes, onion, garlic. and the small red chiles (if substituting for the Habanero chile) with oil and place on the grill, or stove top grill, and roast until the skin is evenly charred on all sides. Then transfer the tomatoes, onion, and garlic to a baking tray and place in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. Remove the garlic after about 30 minutes and set aside to cool.
Place the charred chiles in a small bowl and seal with clingfilm and set aside to sweat.
When the tomatoes and onion are fully roasted and quite soft remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When they are cool remove the charred skin from the tomatoes, cut in half and remove the seeds and cores. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and crush them using your hands. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and add them to the tomatoes.
Remove the outer skin of the onion, chop the onion finely and add it to the tomatoes.
Finally remove the charred skin from the small chiles, slit open lengthwise, and remove all the seeds. Then dice the chiles and add them to the tomatoes.
If you are using a fresh Habanero chile I would suggest using gloves to avoid a lingering burning sensation on your fingers from the capsaicin residue. Open the Habanero chile and remove the seeds, finely mince the chile, and add it to the bowl of the tomatoes.
Smash the tomatoes, garlic onions and chiles together to release all the juices. Then place a large skillet over medium high heat and add the peanut oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the tomato salsa mixture and fry for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the salsa juices have reduced and the salsa has thickened. Season with salt to taste and set aside to cool. You can then store the salsa in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Broth for the pumpkin seed sauce
- 2 ½ cups water
- 2 large sprigs fresh epazote
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
If epazote sprigs are not available substitute:
- 3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- coriander root
Place the water in a saucepan along with the epazote, including the stems, and the salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. If epazote is not available add the parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, coriander root, and salt to the water and simmer for 15 minutes.
Allow the broth to cool. Then strain the broth and set aside to use later.
Toasted Pumpkin Sauce
- 6 oz/ 170g unsalted green pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted and finely ground
Place the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet set over medium heat. Keep the seeds in motion so they toast evenly without loosing their green color. Once the seeds begin to pop keep turning the seeds until they are evenly toasted. Promptly transfer the seeds to a tray to cool.
When the seeds are completely cool transfer them to a spice grinder and grind into a flour like powder. You will have to do this in batches and be sure to shake the grinder so the seeds are evenly ground. Place all the ground seeds in a wide shallow dish.
Then sprinkle about ¼ cup of the both over the ground seeds. Using a silicone spatula mound the damp seed mixture together until it binds together in a mound on one side of the dish. Prop the dish up on one side so it is slightly inclined with with mound of damp seeds on the elevated side of the dish.
Begin compressing the seed mixture with the spatula and you will see pumpkin seed oil appearing and flowing to the lower side of the dish. Diana Kennedy explains in her recipe that the oil is then used to decorate the Papadzules just before serving. This step is entirely up to you. The collected oil will be about 2 tablespoons. If you don’t want to bother with this step just mound the seed paste together and transfer it to a small saucepan.
Add some of the broth to the saucepan and stir it into the seed mixture until the mixture is quite fluid. Place the saucepan over medium low heat and stir continuously while the sauce heats up, without actually boiling, and begins to thicken. At this point it is important to stir continuously as the sauce will otherwise stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch.
Once the sauce is slightly thick you can blend the sauce with a hand held blender until the sauce is very smooth, adjusting the consistency by adding additional broth as needed. Ideally the sauce should resemble thick cream.
The best way to hold the sauce until you are ready to assemble the Papazules is to transfer the sauce to a stainless mixing bowl set over a pot of nearly simmering water; a ban marie kind of arrangement. This will keep the sauce from curdling as it tends to do if it is held over direct heat. Keep the remaining broth on hand to stir into the sauce if it begins to dry out or curdle.
Assembling the Papadzules for serving. Traditionally Papadzules are served warm rather than hot.
Gather all the components together for easy assembly. Be sure the sauce is warm and slide a tortilla through the sauce to coat. Do this quickly as you do not want the tortilla to get soggy. Promptly place the tortilla on a plate, scatter the chopped egg over the inner surface, and roll the tortilla to encase the chopped egg filling.
Place 2 filled tortillas on a plate for each serving. Spoon additional pumpkin seed sauce over the filled tortillas, and then spoon the salsa diagonally over the sauced Papadzules. Garnish with fresh epazote leaves if available, or with fresh oregano leaves as pictured.
Buen proveche !
Other recipes from the Yucatan you may want to try:
Pollo Pibil (click here)
Cochinita Pibil (click here)