Friday, April 17, 2015

Passport to Pudge


I love how foods have traveled around the world, and wormed its way into places where you would never imagine it could get a foothold.  Sure you can expect to find a veritable UN of cuisines in the big city, but when you come across a thriving Greek restaurant in a Podunk little community that doesn’t even have a moving picture screen, THAT impresses me.  Blue House in Vernonia, OR would rank right up there…..a lovely Greek family that shares its love of their heritage in a town probably most notable for having a swimmin’ hole in the middle of downtown.
Mexican food is a fave – its just so earthy and unpretentious, and the flavors from a handful of ingredients can blow your mind….makes me wonder who figure out dried chili peppers were even edible.  I’ve learned to love peppers, which for many, MANY years I would not touch with a 10 foot pole if they were cooked.  Handsome Stranger is not quite as evolved, but he has been known to eat them recently, and without shouts of “NO FAIR!!” and lengthy bouts of pouting.  I still have so much to learn about what all the countries regions have to offer, but because Google will take me places I have never been, it is my tour guide to the treasures our southern neighbors have to offer.

I go through cycles,  and will master/mess with one dish, then move on to another – tamales?  Check. (what a pain in the arse…I know why even Mexicans only make this a couple times a year at most)  Carnitas?  Check.  (If you do it right it should come with a stent….fatty pork DEEP FRIED??)  Pork Verde?  Check.  I’m throwing that in too, because it’s what I use to top the following wonder….

These are a lovely little item that I first had at my favorite (long gone) Mexican establishment….one of the many things I have to live without since I have never found their equal.  Think of the base as a corn tortilla on steroids, but with a tender side….you'll have to trust me.  Toppings can be as varied as your tastes, I just like nice tender meat in a piquant sauce, so you can go wild with that.  As always….eat what you like, not what someone says you should….well, except this, THIS you should eat!

Sopes (the base of Sopitos)
1 C. masa harina (look in Mexican aisle….4# bag I think is the smallest container)
¾ C. warm water
¼ C. vegetable oil (I use light olive oil in everything)
½ tsp. salt (it’s just dough, no raw eggs, so taste it for salt…I LOVE it raw!)

Put masa in bowl, make a well and mix in water and oil with your hands until it forms a moist dough.  It should be soft, and not too sticky….if it’s too dry, it will be hard to form the discs without them cracking.  More water if dry, more masa if too wet….easy peasy.  Divide dough into 4 equal pieces  and roll each into a ball, then put under a towel or in a plastic bag to keep them from drying out.  Roll out each ball with rolling pin or wine bottle (see me for an empty one…) to about ¼” thick - I do them thicker, build up the edge a bit, then put them in a hot oil bath, but I am not right in the head, but this is Aaron Sanchez’s recipe and he’s the MAN.  I have put the ball on the bottom of a plate, then pressed with the bottom of a same size plate to good success as well:

Pinch ridge along edge
Form into ball....
Flatten with bottom of plate...

Heat a skillet over medium to medium high heat, brush with a little oil or use pan spray and carefully put sope in.  Cook until little brown blisters appear on the bottom, about 45 seconds (a bit longer if the heat is lower, same for the other side).  Flip carefully and cool other side another 30-45 seconds, flip one more time, count to 10, and transfer to a towel or parchment lined cookie sheet.  Keep warm in 300 degree oven.   Now for toppings:

Pork verde
If you are lazy or don’t eat pork (you live a sad existence, my friend), rotisserie chicken meat warmed with a little green salsa makes a quick and light substitution)
1 lb. pork butt or pork steaks, remove large chunks of fat and cube 1”
1 T. oil
1-3 jalepenos or serrano peppers, chopped (seed and devein?  Your choice….how hot you like it?)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
4-6 tomatillos, husk removed, cored and coarsely chopped
½ onion, chopped
Salt, pepper, and cumin to taste

Heat skillet or large saucepan over medium high, add oil and bring to smoking point, then add pork that you have sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.  Let  sit for a minute or two so it can get nice and brown, then stir a bit and let sit while it comes back up to temp.  Continue to stir and brown most sides of the meat, then add garlic, onion and peppers, cook and stir a couple more minutes, then add tomatillos, salt, pepper and cumin to taste.  Tomatillos have a lot of water, so you shouldn’t need to add any, but keep an eye on it as it simmer and add a little if it threatens to stick.  Bring to boil, cover and simmer for about an hour or until pork is fork tender and try not to burn the skin off your tongue trying it.  It should be enrobed in a beautiful tart/spicy/savory sauce, not runny…if it is, just cook a bit longer with no lid.

Sopitos Assembly:
Refried beans, warmed (optional, but REALLY FILLING and adds a creamy element)
Pork verde
Queso fresco, crumbled, or Mexican blend cheese
Thinly shaved lettuce
Diced tomato
Sour cream

To assemble Sopitos, put your warm sopes on a platter, then top each with a smear of beans, a healthy scoop of pork verde, then top with crumbled queso or Mexican cheese, shaved lettuce, and diced tomatoes, then a dollop of sour cream and a little sprig of cilantro if you wanna get all fancy.  I think you could make twice as many with this verde recipe, or just eat half of it while you’re assembling and pretend you eat like a supermodel at dinner and save your portion for lunch the next day.  

Enjoy, and all I ask is that you not burst my bubble and tell me that some dude in a greasy spoon in the Midwest originally invented this with a corn muffin mix and a can of Dinty Moore beef stew….it would break my fat little Corazon. (I forget how to make that little doohickey above the o….my apologies to my Mexican friends)

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