Sunday, April 18, 2010

¡Huaraches! ¡Sopes! ¡Sin grasa! ¡Sin colesterol!

Perhaps you already have an idea what a huarache is from the carne deshebrada post. If you've ever had a sope, you might even have a better shot at guessing what I'm referring to.*

Sope, pictured above


The sope (as in, "Too bad my mother didn't wash my mouth out with a soh-peh instead of a bar of soap") and the huarache are actually cousins--both are shaped and fried masa dough topped with an assortment of fillings and sold on street corners across Mexico. (ON STREET CORNERS. And we eat hot dogs in America. We'd lose big time in a street-food competition.) Huaraches, however, are shaped like huaraches, while sopes are shaped like round little boats with raised edges. They both taste especially good with fillings like grilled shrimp, refried beans and crumbled cotija, potato and chorizo, and carne deshebrada en salsa roja.

There is a man in the town where my mom lives who sells "¡HUARACHES! ¡SOPES! ¡SIN COLESTEROL! ¡SIN GRASA!"

That is, "Huaraches! Sopes! Fat free! Cholesterol free!"

Yeah I know. I wish he was telling the truth too... but he's not. (Sorry if this post title totally got your hopes up.) The huaraches and sopes he sells are freshly fried and dripping in melted panela cheese. That dude, by the way (or that güey, depending on where you're from) has been selling those in the same spot since I was a little girl and still looks the same. The colesterol and grasa have apparently made him ageless.

Since huaraches and sopes are so closely related, I went ahead and made both tonight. I decided to keep things simple (and vegetarian) by making refried bean and cotija huaraches and sopes, but feel free to experiment with other fillings like carnitas or carne deshebrada en salsa roja.

Refried Bean Huaraches and Sopes
makes 8 sopes or 8 huaraches
The main difference between sope/ huarache dough and the dough for plain tortillas is the addition of baking powder.

Dough for Huaraches or Sopes:
• 2 cups masa harina
• 1 3/4 cups of water
• pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon of baking powder
• vegetable oil for frying (if you want to be strictly traditional, use lard)

Huarache and Sope Toppings/Fillings:
• grated Panela Cheese or Crumbled Cotija Cheese
• hot refried beans
• pico de gallo or fresh chopped tomatoes
• salsa of your choice
• crema
• guacamole
• shredded lettuce
• Tapatio

For Huaraches:
I made medium sized huaraches tonight--the same as the ones the huarache man in my mom's home-town makes. I have, however, seen huaraches the size of my 7 foot tall brother's feet. As long as you maintain the huarache shape, feel free to experiment with size.

Mix together all dough ingredients, except oil or lard. Knead until thoroughly combined.
Cut dough in half, and divide each dough half into 4 portions. Form each small piece into torpedo shaped logs, about 3 inches long by 1 inch wide. Using the palm of your hand, flatten each log slightly.

Place each log between two pieces of plastic wrap (like we did when we made tortillas) and roll using a rolling pin into ovals, roughly 8 inches long and 4 inches wide.

Cook's Note: Huaraches may be made up to this point up to 2 hours ahead of serving. Store between pieces of wax paper and cover lightly with a damp paper towel in the fridge.

Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat and add enough shortening or lard to coat the bottom of the pan. Place a huarache in the pan and cook for 1 and a half minutes until the bottom is golden. Flip over, and allow the bottom side to cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until golden. Remove huarache from pan and allow to drain on paper towels.

Top with cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, lettuce, crema, guacamole and hot sauce (if desired). Serve immediately.

For Sopes:
Mix together all dough ingredients, except oil or lard. Knead until thoroughly combined. Cut dough in half, divide each half into 4 portions. Form each piece into small balls.
Flatten each ball into a 3 inch circle using a rolling pin, the bottom of a plate or a tortilla press between 2 pieces of plastic wrap (like we did when we made tortillas). Fold sides up about 3/4 an inch. They don't have to be perfect! Prick the bottom of each sope lightly with a fork.

Heat about 1/4 of an inch of oil in a cast iron skillet to about 350 degrees. Fry sopes about 1 minute on each side, or until lightly crispy and slightly golden.

Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Top with beans cheese, pico de gallo, salsa, lettuce, crema, guacamole and hot sauce (if desired). Serve immediately.

*To what I'm referring. This isn't an English lesson, but it will bother me for the rest of my life if you think I think it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. I must, however, preserve the colloquial effect of my blog, and I can't do this without occasionally splitting infinitives, using comma splices, forming passive verb sentences (with or without subjects) and ending sentences in prepositions. You understand, right? And you also understand that I have obsessive tendencies that prevent me from letting things like this go, right? Good. I feel a lot better now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Carne Deshebrada en Salsa Roja

I know that's a mouthful if you don't speak Spanish, so let me break it down. Carne deshebrada en salsa roja simply means shredded beef in red sauce. It isn't especially difficult to make (as most traditional Mexican dishes are not in my opinion) but it does require a lot of time. The recipe calls for a tough cut of meat that stews for hours until it becomes tender and ropey. The cooked beef is then shredded and mixed with a homemade red sauce that might consist of beef stock, onions, garlic and dried california or guajillo chiles. (This is exactly the way my mother makes it.) Depending on where else you may find it in Mexico (and depending on whose native Mexican mother you consult) carne deshebrada might even be served without the red sauce, making it taste more like a spicy, shredded American pot roast.

Think of it as common comfort food. People in Mexico eat carne deshebrada at all times of the day (how's that for a morning hangover cure?) over rice, in sopes, burritos, tacos, on huaraches, or simply with a side of tortillas and beans. I can guarantee you won't ever find a taqueria in Mexico without carne deshebrada on the menu, just as any self-respecting LA taco truck wouldn't be caught dead without this staple either.

Wait, are you still hung up over me saying " on huaraches" (wah-rah-chehs) before? Because if you think that word translates into "leather sandals," you'd be right.

I'm not trying to imply that the beef is so good you can serve it on a leather sandal, although this statement probably isn't untrue (I haven't tried that combo yet to say for sure)... Huaraches in relation to Mexican street food refer to something else entirely.

But that's a whole other story. I'm going to save the huaraches post for next time.

Today, it's all about carne deshebrada--a basic but important Mexican dish that warrants its own post. Learn how to make carne deshebrada en salsa roja and you'll be adding one of the most versatile Mexican recipes to your culinary repertoire.

Carne Deshebrada en Salsa Roja
You will need a food processor or a blender to make the red sauce.
serves 4-6
1.5 pounds of flank steak or brisket
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 ounces dried California or guajillo chiles (guajillos are spicier), seeded and stemmed, and soaked in hot water to rehydrate for 20 to 30 minutes
1/2 a small onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups of beef cooking liquid
salt and pepper to taste

For the Beef:
In a large pot, add enough water to cover the beef, garlic, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until beef is tender and ropey.
Drain beef, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid, and place on a large platter. Once the beef is cool enough to touch, use the tines of a fork to shred into small pieces.
Strain reserved cooking liquid and skim fat off the top.

For the Sauce:
Place the rehydrated chiles, garlic, 1/2 onion, and 1 cup of cooking liquid in a food processor or blender until the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Clean and dry the same pan used to simmer the beef. Heat vegetable oil in pan over medium-high heat and slowly (and carefully!) add red sauce. Simmer about 5 minutes and add the last 1/2 cup of cooking stock. Stir to combine and add shredded beef to sauce. Simmer until beef is heated through.

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