MAIZE, BEAN AND SQUASH SEED FRITTERS
POL'KAN IS MAYAN FOR "SNAKE HEAD" – (pol means "head" and kan means "serpent" – giving new meaning to the name Cancun or kan-kun, which in Maya means "snake pit"!) This scrumptious Maya fritter takes its name from its shape: an elongated egg shape resembling the threatening head of the rattlesnake – an important deity in Maya culture. Pol'kanes obviously date to the pre-conquest era, although until the Spanish introduced the domesticated pig and lard, they were cooked on a comal or griddle instead of deep-fat fried. The dish is typically prepared with ibes – a local fresh white bean found only in the Yucatán. Substitutions are suggested below.
• 6 oz. (175 g) green pumpkin seeds, toasted in a heavy skillet until light brown and then ground to a powder in a food processor
• 9 oz. (250 g) ibes (Substitute: lima beans or Great Northern), cooked in salted water until just tender
• 3 oz. (80 g) spring onion, finely chopped
• 11/4 oz. (35 g) chives, chopped
• 1 chile habanero, finely minced (Substitute: Scotch Bonnet chile)
• 1 oz. (20 g) cilantro, chopped
• Salt to taste
STEP 1 PLACE GROUND PUMPKIN SEEDS in a medium cast iron skillet over high heat. Add beans, onion, chives and chile, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. Cook 3-5 minutes or until mixture is hot and onions are softened. Add cilantro; stir and check for seasonings. Remove to a bowl and set aside (do not leave in skillet; the residual heat can scorch the pumpkin seeds). This mixture is known as toksel, and can be used as a side dish or as a filling for Maya tamales.
• 18 oz. (500 g) masa (Substitute: masa prepared according to the instructions on the packaging of "masa harina")
• 1/4 cup (75 ml) melted lard (Substitute: vegetable oil)
• 13/4 oz. (50 g) flour
• 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) baking powder
• 2 tsp. (10 ml) powdered chicken bouillon, mixed with 2 Tbs./ 30 ml boiling water
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 3 oz. (8 g) salt or to taste
STEP 2 PLACE ALL OF THE ABOVE INGREDIENTS in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix at high speed for 5 minutes or until mixture is lightened.
• 2 cups (500 ml) vegetable oil or lard
• 1 recipe X'nipek, or the salsa of your choice
STEP 3 SHAPE MASA INTO 2-oz. (55g) BALLS. Pat one ball into a 3" tortilla in the palm of your hand. Top the tortilla with 1 heaping tablespoon (15 ml) of the toksel. Fold in half, sealing edges. Form into smooth elongated egg shape. Set aside and continue with remaining balls. If dough breaks and the toksel appears, seal opening with a little more masa.
STEP 4 HEAT THE FAT in a medium skillet until hot but not smoking. Add 3 - 4 of the pol'kanes at a time, being careful not to overcrowd. Fry until golden brown; flip and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels until fritters are at room temperature. Serve with X'nipek or the salsa of your choice. To eat, invite diners to slit the pol'kan along one side, open, and spoon in the salsa.
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