Feature

Recipe of the week: Sopes: Tex-Mex meets authentic Mexican

Some of the ingredients and dishes that Americans associate with Mexican cuisine were Tex-Mex contributions.

A sope (pronounced SO-pay) is a corn cake that’s essentially a thicker version of a corn tortilla, said Louis Lambert in Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook (Ten Speed Press). Its exterior is generally fried until crisp, but it has “a soft, creamy center” and is too bulky to work as a wrap. Sopes are often topped with beans, meats, cheeses, and salsa.

Tex-Mex is a cuisine native to Texas ranch country, the area I’m from. It arose in the early 19th century, when Mexico ruled the area and Anglo settlers and Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) borrowed ideas freely from one another’s kitchens. Some of the ingredients and dishes that many Americans associate with Mexican cuisine, like cumin and fajitas, were Tex-Mex contributions. Sopes, though, can be found throughout Mexico. I found inspiration for this dish in the sopes sold by Mexican street vendors.

Recipe of the weekChicken sopes with roasted corn crema

2 cups instant masa harina½ cup all-purpose flour½ tsp baking powder1 tsp kosher salt2 tbsp vegetable shortening1½ cups warm waterVegetable oil for the pan and for frying1½ pounds cooked shredded chicken2 cups roasted corn crema (below)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In mixing bowl, combine masa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add shortening and warm water. Stir to combine into loose dough. Knead until evenly moist and smooth. Divide into 10 balls and cover with plastic wrap or moist kitchen towel.

To shape sopes, place a ball between two layers of plastic wrap and flatten with bottom of a pan or a rolling pin to 4 inches round and ¼ inch thick.

Cooking sopes is a two-step process. Warm a heavy skillet or comal (Mexican griddle) over medium-high heat and lightly coat with vegetable oil. Cook sopes, turning once, until light golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. To finish sopes, pour vegetable oil 2 inches deep in a skillet and heat the oil to 350 degrees. Fry each sope until cooked through and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes, turning once. Transfer to paper-towel-lined platter. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve. To serve, top each with shredded chicken and a healthy dollop of the crema. Makes 10.

Roasted corn crema1 ear of corn1 tbsp olive oilKosher salt and fresh ground pepper1 tsp chile powder1 cup Mexican crema or sour creamJuice of 1 lime1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Brush ear of corn with olive oil and lightly season with salt, pepper, and chile powder. Cook corn on oiled grill or in broiler, rotating occasionally so it cooks evenly, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Cut roasted kernels from the cob and place in mixing bowl. After corn is cooled, add crema, lime juice, and cilantro to bowl and combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Makes 2 cups.

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