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Chilies rellenos? This is simpler. It's Guatemalan "hide and seek." (recipes)

Chilies rellenos? This is simpler. It's Guatemalan "hide and seek"

Escondidas, or "hide-and-seek," is the playful name for this quick and tasty dish from south of the border. Hiding beneath a puffy mantle of golden-fried egg batter is a flavorful, cheese- and ham-filled tortilla. At first glance, thedish looks like chilies rellenos (stuffed chilies): this trick is part of the reason for the name.

You brown the tortillas at the last moment, but other steps can be done ahead.

Ham and Cheddar Escondidas

8 corn tortillas (6- to 7-in. diameter)

8 slices cooked ham (each about 1/8 inch thick; about 1/2 lb. total)

1 can (7 oz.) whole green chilies, cut lengthwise into 8 equal portions

1/2 pound cheddar cheese, cut into strips about 3/8 inch thick and 3 inches long

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Salad oil

Egg batter (recipe follows)

Mellow salsa (recipe follows)

In an ungreased 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, soften tortillas, 1 at a time. Heat each tortilla about 10 seconds on each side. Remove tortilla from pan and at once top with a slice of ham, then arrange down the center of the tortilla 1/8 of the chilies, 1/8 of the cheese (1/2 inch in from tortilla edge), and 1/8 of the green onions. Roll tortilla snugly around filling and pin shut with small wooden picks. Repeat to fill remaining tortillas. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 2 hours.

Pour about 1/4 inch oil into the frying pan over medium-high heat; heat to 350| to 360|. Using 2 forks, immerse tortilla rolls, one at a time, in egg batter and coat generously. Life out coated roll and set in hot oil. Cook until golden brown on bottom, then turn with the forks and brown remaining portion of roll (the browning takes about 1 minute per side). Lift roll from pan, drain briefly on paper towels, then set on an ovenproof platter. Keep warm, uncovered, in a 300| oven as you repeat steps to cook remaining rolls; do not stack. Spoon salsa to taste on individual portions. Makes 6 to 8 servings.-- Wanda Smith, Oakland.

Egg batter. Separate 6 large eggs. In a large bowl, whip whites at high speed until they will hold moist, distinct peaks. In another bowl, use same beater to whip yolks with 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently fold yolks into whites and use at once.

Mellow salsa. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, combine 1 tablespoon olive or salad oil and 1 medium-size onion, chopped. Stir often until onion begins to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in 1 can (14 oz.) stewed tomatoes with their liquid, 1 can (4 oz.) diced green chilies, 1/2 teaspoon each dry oregano leaves and crushed dried hot red chilies, and 1 cup regular-strength chicken broth. Boil, uncovered, until reduced to 2 1/4 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (coriander). Serve hot. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 3 days. Rewarm over low heat. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Turkey and Jack Escondidas

Follow directions for ham and cheddar escondidas (preceding), but instead of sliced ham use sliced cooked turkey breast, and instead of cheddar cheese use jack cheese.

Photo: Melted cheese oozes out of hot tortilla roll. Serve with cooked salsa; accompany with sliced avocado, cool sour cream, fresh cilantro

Photo: Sprinkle onion over ham, chili, cheese. Roll tortilla to enclose filling; pin to hold

Photo: Fry rolled tortilla, coated with egg batter, in shallow oil until golden; use two forks to turn
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Date:Apr 1, 1988
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