Crispy Fried Sopes

Sopes Fritos
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I came across this method of sope making 40 years ago at a now-defunct Mexico City restaurant. The experience of biting into the golden, crispy exterior, yielding to the soft masa within, is remarkably different from that of the classic griddle-baked sopes. But it’s wonderful. And because these sopes have higher sides, they make perfect vessels for saucier fillings. When we opened Frontera Grill in 1987, we offered a quartet of these sopes, each with a different filling: shredded chicken with mole rojo and sesame seeds; black beans with fried plantains, crema and fresco cheese (my favorite); guacamole with sliced radishes for garnish, and savory shredded beef with roasted tomatoes. I’m listing those as options here, though you should just consider them as starting points. Since these sopes are deep fried, it’s easier to finish more of them at once. Plus, you can keep them warm in a low oven for 20 minutes or so before filling and serving—not something you can say of the griddle-baked sopes.
Servings: 8sopes, serving 4 as a snack or substantial appetizer
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Ingredients

  • 1pound fresh-ground corn masa for tortillas OR 8 ounces (1 ¾ cups) dried masa harina for tortillas plus 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 2tablespoons fresh-rendered pork lard or vegetable or olive oil
  • 1teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4cup flour
  • Oilto a depth of 1 inch for frying

Instructions

Choose one of the following fillings:

  • About a cup of warm shredded chicken mixed with warm mole plus some toasted sesame seeds
  • About ½ cup warm Frijoles Refritos plus about ½ cup warm, diced Fried Plantains, a few tablespoons Mexican crema (or a substitute), and a little crumbled fresco cheese (or a substitute).  These are good with the addition of Chipotle Salsa as well.
  • About ¾ cup Guacamole plus a few radish slices for garnish
  • About a cup of warm Savory Shredded Beef plus a little grated Mexican añejo cheese or other garnishing cheese like Parmesan or Romano

***

Form and bake the sopesHeat a griddle or very large (12-inch) heavy skillet over medium heat.  Adjust the consistency of the masa, if necessary, working in a little water to create a dough that is soft—it should be tacky but not sticky.  Mix in the salt, lard or oil, baking powder and flour.  Divide into 4 portions (each about 4 1/2 ounces), roll into balls and flatten into fat disks that are 3 inches wide and a little over 1 inch thick.  Lay on the hot griddle or skillet and bake until richly browned underneath, about 4 minutes, then flip and bake the other side.  The masa will not be cooked through.  Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the counter top, then split them in half as you would a bagel (it will be soft since the masa is uncooked in the center), flipping the top part over so it rests on a cooked base.  One at a time, use your thumbs and first fingers to pinch up a thickish wall around the edge of each sope, widening the base so that the sopes so they end up being about 3 ½ inches across (anchored by the cooked base) with ¾-inch walls all around. It’s important that the wall be uniformly thick and the bottom be flat so the masa cooks evenly as it fries.  These can be prepared a day or so in advance and kept refrigerated, well covered.  

Fry and fill the sopesIn a deep, heavy skillet or medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan set over medium-high, heat an inch of oil to 360 degrees (lacking a thermometer, the oil is hot enough when a corner of a sope sizzles sharply when dipped into the oil).  Fry the sopes a few at a time, turning them regularly, until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Drain upside down on paper towels.  Fill each sope with your chosen filling, layering it in the order listed and mounding it slightly.  Serve right away.   

A note for professionals: The sope bases can be formed, baked and pinched a day or so ahead. They may be fried up to 20 minutes before they are filled and served.  They make a good passed appetizer.  

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