Sopes are golden, crispy little bowls of fried masa (corn flour) which hold any dreamy combination of beans, meat, cheese and salsa you fancy. For some ungodly, cruel reason, they are extremely difficult to find on Mexican menus in the Northwest. But, when done right, sopes make hand-made tortillas recoil in shame like the totally inferior corn cakes they are. Attention to quality ingredients makes all the difference on these. Honor the sope and do them right, with homemade salsa and cotija cheese. Ojala que my great-grandmother Mama Luisa, whose culinary prowess is the standard by which I measure myself, would be proud of me for these.
First, get the pork on the stove...
Pulled Pork Madrigal
Pork Shoulder bone-in - $7 (@1.99/lb) Organic Orange - $.79 1 cup tomatillo salsa - $.98 (@1.99/jar) 1 cup water 1/4 cup white vinegar olive oil flour for dredging salt y pepper to taste
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or other heavy sturdy pot with a lid. Dry your pork with a paper towel and then dredge it in flour. When your oil is sizzling, brown your pork starting with the fatty side first. When your kitchen smells like bacon and your meat is a crispy brown on all sides, cut the orange in half, squeeze the juice into the pot and then nestle the orange halves next to the pork. Add the salsa, water and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to simmer. Cook for three hours or until you can gently nudge the meat apart with a fork. Pull the meat into a bowl, leaving the fat, bones and broth in the pot. Shred it, baby. Shred it.
Masa Harina (Corn Flour - I use the brand Maseca) $4.99 Water Chicken Broth Salt Vegetable Oil
You can shape your sopes ahead of time, but wait to fry them until everything else is ready and you want to eat. Follow the instructions on your flour to make masa as you would for tortillas, BUT, replace half the water with Chicken broth. This is important. You can make it vegetarian, but it won't be as flavorful. You could try vegetable broth, but...you've been warned. Once you've mixed everything together, the dough should be soft and moist. If it cracks when you try to roll it into a ball, add more water tablespoon by tablespoon until it softens up. Let the dough sit for an hour covered by a moist towel.
Shape the dough into small balls the size of a golf ball. Flatten them with your palm then pinch the edges up to form a little bowl. Here's a picture of the finished sopes for your reference. As you can see, we're not talking a deep bowl, sopes are shaped more like a tart crust than anything else.
Once you've shaped your sopes, heat about half an inch of oil in a skillet. Throw in a pinch of salt to keep it from splattering and wait to fry your sopes until the oil is really hot. Test it by throwing in a small piece of masa. It should float and fry like crazy. Fry each side until it's golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.
Pico de Gallo
Four Vine Ripened Tomatoes $4 (@$2.98/lb) Juice of 2 limes $1 (@$.50/lime) 1/2 sweet onion $.33 1/4 cup diced organic cilantro 1 jalapeno (seeded and finely diced) SALT. Lots.
The best pico de gallo has perfectly diced components, plenty of lime and plenty of salt. If you've done the right work with your dice, all you need to do is combine your ingredients and let sit (or not- usually this doesn't last long in our house).
The only other things you'll need for sopes are:
Refried beans - $.99 Crumbled Cotija Cheese - $5 (@$9.99/lb) Chopped Iceberg Lettuce - $.98 (Is it even possible to grow organic iceberg? Who knows, but baby lettuce or dark romaine won't do. Maybe greenleaf would be okay. We're going for a crisp, watery crunch to contrast w/ the hot, juicy pork.)
SO, take your hot, crispy sope and spread beans in a thin layer on the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle cheese, meat, lettuce and salsa IN THAT ORDER. Take a picture, post it on facebook to make your friends drool, then EAT it. Pair with Negro Modelo or fresh lime margarita.