Masa Harina Is The Textural Ingredient To Upgrade Green Chili Cheese Fries

Packed with smokey poblanos, spicy jalapeños, and tangy tomatillos, green chili puts a zesty Mexican twist on classic American chili cheese fries. Peppers and green tomatoes aren't the only Mexican ingredients green chili needs to convert it from a stew to a french fry topper. Masa harina is the quintessential staple that'll bind green chili into a more cohesive garnish for your green chili cheese fries.

If you've ever indulged in the dish, you've likely ended up eating the bulk of the chili off the plate after it slips off a flimsy fry. Chili is, after all, meat stewed in a flavorful broth. While melted cheese forms a thick, gooey barrier, it's not strong enough to contain stewed green chili. That's where masa harina comes into play. Meaning "dough flour" in Spanish, masa harina is the benchmark of Mexican culinary culture. It is the white corn flour made from drying the nixtamalized corn masa used to create tortillas and tamales. Flour is a well-known binding agent used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews. Wheat flour is a more common thickening agent in European and American cooking.

Masa harina has the same textural effect as wheat flour while also supplying a savory, corn flavor to complement the spicy, zesty peppers and tomatillos in green chili. As a thickening agent, masa harina transforms green chili's flavorful broth into a gel-like consistency that coats the solid ingredients and makes the chili easier to scoop with a cheesy fry.

Masa harina tips

While it may sound exotic, masa harina is widely available outside of Mexico, and sold in most major grocery stores. You'll probably see it labeled as "maseca" instead of masa harina. It's as finely ground as wheat flour, so cornmeal would not be a good substitute if you have trouble finding masa harina. While you could use Venezuelan arepa masa as an alternative, the main difference is that maseca undergoes nixtamalization which provides a much more intense corn flavor.

To thicken green chili, you'll need around ¼ cup of maseca per 4 cups of chili. You can add the masa to the sautéed meat, vegetables, and broth to simmer or cook for around 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. If you're making chili on the stove, dissolve the masa harina in water separately before adding it to the chili and simmering for a minimum of 40 minutes. Note that masa harina will also tamper the spice level of green chili, so you should do a taste test to see if you need to add extra seasonings.