Tuesday, July 09, 2013
No Radio Sope!*
Quite some time ago, I had the pleasure of dining out with friends, at a Mexican restaurant other than Taco Bell (in the middle of the Midwest cornfields, that used to be a lot less common than it is today). At that time, I had a dish I'd truly enjoyed – sopes – which I have had some trouble finding at restaurants today. Maybe it's the extra effort required for making the tortilla "bowls", over simple flat tortillas one can run through a press, but there's only one place in a fifty mile radius of my home which even offers the darned things, and their fillings often lack freshness (a common problem with small-town eateries). And I have frequent, unbearable cravings, made worse by the fact that I have little money for dining out, even when the ingredients are up to snuff at the local place.
Thus left with a taste for something, I was left to try to figure out how to make my own. The above-linked recipe was useful, to a point. But it's pretty vague about measurements for making the tortillas, and I did a bit more research before discovering that everybody and his brother has a different way to do these things - including one where there is cooking, halving, shaping, and then deep frying them, as in this video (and my Spanish is abysmally bad, so I was just grateful for the visual instruction). Today, I went as simple as I could.
It helps to have started your meat and frijoles in advance, by the way. Fudging with canned frijoles is acceptable, as long as they're a decently tasty brand and they're pre-warmed for prep. But the meat, you can't cheat. It needs to be finely shredded. If you like spicy versions, simmer (do NOT boil! Boiling toughens meat) your chicken, beef, or pork in a pot with onion, garlic, and a cup or so of your favorite salsa picante. If you don't like heat, skip the salsa. Either way, you can save the liquid for soup or sauce for a later recipe. All you need is for the meat to cook up so tender you can easily shred it with a fork (or, if you cook it long enough, you can take a potato masher & make it right shreddy).
Other toppings necessary for this would be finely shredded lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco (or whatever is your preferred soft white cheese, shredded or crumbled)…heck, some folks, I'm told, put the same stuff on these that they put on their tacos! For me, I like simplicity. Beans, meat, Mexican sour cream, and a little Co-Jack cheese, finely grated. And, if you're lucky, fresh, diced tomatoes.
And the tortillas. Tender-crispy tortilla bowls. Especially the "tender" part. You can start them a little ahead of time, but don't go more than an hour or so, and don't try to freeze them. If you have to toss them in the fridge before the final stage, warm them in the oven or the nuke, under a moist cloth or paper towel, before loading them with the beans and giving their bottoms the heat. Just get out your griddle and get to work.
As you can see, the ingredient list is very long and complex…
Tortilla-Bowls for Sopes (or picadas or garnachas, or…)
3 1/2 cups corn flour (not corn meal)
About 2 cups water
In a large mixing bowl or on a clean counter, heap flour, make a well, and add 1 cup of water. Mix by hand, continuing to add small amounts of water until you can knead it into a soft, smooth, tender dough.
With moistened hands, take some dough and form it into a ball about the size of a medium egg. Pat into a disc about 3 1/2 to 4 inches across (you don't want it anywhere near as thin as a standard corn tortilla). Place on un-oiled non-stick griddle at medium heat. Repeat with more dough until all the dough is used up and the tortillas are cooking.
When each has become lightly golden on the bottom, remove from heat and, cooked side up, carefully press down flatly from center to push some dough outward. Pull soft dough upward from uncooked side to make a rim for your tortilla-bowl. Place back on griddle long enough to seal the bottom. Remove from heat.
Fill each bowl with about a tablespoon of heated frijoles.
Generously butter or oil your griddle, fry the bottoms of the tortilla-bowls until lightly golden and crisp. Top with hot meat, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and other preferred toppings.
Serve hot and fresh†.
*For those who wonder about my choice of header for this entry, see here.
† Bragging rights: the tomato & lettuce on these little babies came from Pop's garden. With the current temps & forecasts, this is probably the last of the lettuce, but only the second and third 'maters, at the start of a nice, long season of real (not cardboard) love apples.