It’s hard to explain nicuatole without comparing it to a type of gelatin dessert, because of its bouncy texture, but it has zero gelatin in it. The way it gets that gelatin-like consistency is through all the starches naturally occurring in corn. When you’re cooking and reducing the corn, it thickens the milk, giving it a tender, slightly chewy texture. I sometimes wonder if someone just left their atole in the pot for too long, turning it into nicuatole, and that’s how this dessert was created. However it came to be, I’m glad it did. Think of it as a lightly sweet Oaxacan panna cotta with toasty undertones. It’s become iconic in Oaxaca because of its two-tone pink and white signature look. The majority of cooks use naturally derived carmine powder from nopales to achieve the striking color.
In a large pan of any kind over medium heat, toast the dried corn until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine the toasted corn and enough water to completely submerge the corn by 2 inches (
Remove the corn from the heat and allow it to continue to soak and cool for a couple of hours, or overnight. Once the liquid is back to room temperature, pour the corn through a colander and discard the water.
In a blender, combine the cooked corn with
Pour the strained masa water with the sugar, milk, and cinnamon into the large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Let boil for another 10 minutes. The nicuatole mixture should be thick enough that you can see the bottom of the pot as you stir.
Add a fat pinch of the carmine powder to the bottom of each of 8 ramekins to form a thin layer on each. Pour the nicuatole mixture into the ramekins. Let cool to room temperature and serve. When cool, flip the ramekins onto a bowl so that the red side is at the top.
© 2019 All rights reserved. Published by Abrams Books.