Maiz Caquiao or Chaca (Cracked Corn Pudding) is one of those humble dishes that in our country serve many purposes, borne out of necessity: It can be served as breakfast, dinner or dessert. Made with common, easy to find, inexpensive ingredients. It is also a popular dessert for Lent.
And as you may have noticed, for both Aunt Ilana and I, inexpensive is one of our favorite words. And if you think we sin of excess parsimony, trust me, we’re not misers. Frugality is the art of properly prioritizing what’s important over what’s simply necessary. And budget accordingly.
This is important in a country like ours.
Once again our country has found itself in one of our cyclical financial quagmires, and the word “frugality” has been disinterred and put into everybody’s mouth. The truth is that for our ancestors this would have been a laughable thing. Most of them lived a frugal life, not because, as us, they have just noticed that we are depleting the environment, or running our lives on credit, but because they had no choice.
So what shall we do? Learn to live with less, says I. Is there any other choice?
And speaking of our ancestors, this is a dessert I saw my grandmother make, then my mother. Called Maíz caquiao (cracked corn) in the northern and Cibao region, and “Chacá” in the south of the country. There’s a similar dish in Haiti, and at another one in Ecuador called Morocho, Mazamorra (Peto) in Colombia/Venezuela, Canjica or Munguzá in Brazil, Tujuré/Tojorí in Bolivia, Chicheme in Costa Rica, the Jamaican Hominy Porridge served for breakfast, as well as possibly other American nations (Thanks Layla for some of the info).
In the Dominican Rep., this is traditionally prepared using dry corn, the skin removed by mixing the corn with hot ashes, grinding the corn in a big mortar until the skin loosens. The corn is then washed and boiled for a few hours until it is tender.
Needless to say, that takes a great deal of time. I simply use cracked corn that I buy in the supermarket. I may be all about frugality and doingitmyselfness, but I am sure my neighbors will not appreciate my starting a fire to obtain hot ashes. If you can’t find cracked corn where you live, dry golden hominy (link to affiliate store) would be your next best choice (though not the same).
- 1 cup of cracked corn
- 1/4 cup of rice (optional, if you prefer it pudding-like)
- 4 cups whole milk
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon of cloves
- 1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
- 1/4 cup of raisins (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of brown sugar
Soak corn overnight.
Boil corn until it is very soft. For this I highly recommend you use a pressure cooker (it will take 45 minutes in a pressure cooker, 2-3 hours or more in a regular pot).
In a thick bottom pot add corn, rice, 1 1/2 quart of water (better if it is the water in which you boiled the corn, add fresh water if needed), milk, cinnamon and cloves.
Cook over low heat until the liquids reduce to half and the rice is cooked through. Add the butter, raisins, salt, and sugar to taste.
Chill before serving.
The consistency of this dish is a matter of taste. While purists will aim for a thick, creamy one, my taste is for a less-thick (more like soup) one. My solution is just to add more milk and adjust sugar once it's chilled.