Makes 12 salbutes, serving 4 as a light main course, 6 as an appetizer
Recipe from Season 5 of Mexico--One Plate at a Time
Corn Masa Cakes
3/4 pound fresh masa
OR 1 1/4 cups powdered masa harina for tortillas mixed with a generous 3/4 cup hot tap water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (1/3 cup if using masa harina)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large leaves of green leaf lettuce, each torn into 6 pieces
12 thin slices cucumber or tomato
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into slices
About 2 cups shredded chicken in escabeche (recipe follows)
Vegetable oil to the depth of 3/4-inch
1. The dough. If you are using the masa harina, mix it with the water, cover and let stand for 1/2 hour to reconstitute. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder with fresh or reconstituted masa, then adjust the consistency of the dough, if necessary, to make it soft (like cookie dough) but not sticky. Cover and set aside.
2. The toppings: Set out the toppings at easy reach: the pieces of leaf lettuce, the slices of cucumber or tomato, the avocado and the chicken in escabeche.
3. Form, Fry and Top the Salbutes. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls; cover with plastic to keep from drying out. Line a tortilla press with 2 pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (to be on the safe side, cut them from a food storage bag). With the tortilla press, gently press out a ball of dough between the sheets of plastic to a 4-inch disk. Peel of the top sheet of plastic, flip the salbute uncovered side down onto the fingers of one hand and gently peel of the second piece of plastic. Slide the salbute into the heated oil and fry for 30 to 45 seconds per side until lightly browned, puffy but not crisp. As the salbutes are fried, drain them on paper towels (patting them with additional towels, if necessary, to absorb any excess oil); keep warm in a low oven.
When all of the salbutes have been fried, place them on a warm serving platter. Top with pieces of lettuce leaf, cucumber or tomato slices, portions of chicken and avocado slices. Serve at once to your guests, who may wish to eat then with a knife and fork or fold them up, taco-style, and eat them with their fingers.
Chicken in Escabeche
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 large white onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 cup vinegar, apple cider vinegar is traditional
2 to 4 canned pickled jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
2 loosely packed cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely shredded cooked chicken
Heat the oil in a medium (10-inch) skillet over medium. Add the sliced onion to the skillet and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are browned, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, stir for about 1 minute, then add the spices and herbs, the vinegar, jalapeÃ±os and broth. Simmer gently over medium-low heat until the mixture is nearly dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken. Season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon. This mixture can be prepared up to a day ahead, but should be warmed before using.