Simple Street-Style Sopes

Sopes Callejeras
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Quintessentially simple, perfectly made sopes—hot off the griddle—are about the best thing a person can eat. But like all street food, they can be a challenge to make indoors. First of all, you aren’t the vendor who’s made a reputation and livelihood by crafting thousands of sopes. Simple as they may look, the perfect pressing, baking and pinching takes practice. Plus, you won’t have the same equipment as the street vendor, and possibly not the same ingredients. That said, it’s worth plunging in and creating some deliciousness. A lot of street food sopes have very simple toppings, as I’ve outlined here—spicy salsa, pungent grating cheese, onions and cilantro. The corn masa base is the real star.
Servings: 4, making 8 Sopes as an appetizer or snack
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Ingredients

  • 1 pound(about 2 cups) 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
  • About 1/3 cup vegetable oil (depending on the size of your pan or griddle)
  • A generous ½cup salsa (see note below)
  • About ¼cup grated Mexican queso añejo (such as the one from Cotija) or other grating cheese like Parmesan or Romano
  • About 1/3cup cup finely chopped white onion mixed with chopped cilantro.

Instructions

A note on salsa: Green Chile-Tomatillo Salsa or Chipotle-Tomatillo Salsa  are good places to start but by no means the whole story.

Press out, bake and pinch the sopes.  Heat 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.  Divide into 8 balls, each weighing 2 ounces.  Using a tortilla press lined with two pieces of plastic, gently press a ball of masa between the sheets of plastic into a disk that is 3 ½ inches in diameter, about ¼ inch thick.  Peel off the top piece of plastic, flip the uncovered disk onto one palm and peel off the second piece of plastic.  Lay this fat little tortilla onto the hot griddle and bake until lightly browned underneath, about 3 minutes, then flip over and bake the other side.  Remove from the heat (it is called a gordita at this point) and let cool just until handleable (don’t let the gordita cool completely or the malleable masa will become firm).  With thumbs and forefingers of both hands, pinch a shallow border all around, then pinch up little “waves” all over the bottom (now you call it a sope.  Once you get into the rhythm of the process, you’ll quickly move through the baking and pinching of all the sopes. This can be done an hour or so ahead, but, for that perfect texture, the fresher, the better.  

Finish the sopesIf your griddle has edges, you can use it to shallow fry the sopes; if not, change to a very large skillet.  Heat the griddle or skillet over medium.  Film the surface liberally with oil (enough to allow the sopes to lightly fry) and, when hot, lay on a few sopes in an uncrowded layer.  Drizzle a little oil over the top of each one.  (The typical street vendor set up allows them to splash a little hot oil over each one.) In a minute or 2, the sopes will be crisp underneath.  Splash on a little salsa, then sprinkle on some cheese and the onion-cilantro mix.   Serve without hesitation.  

For the professional: This is an average- to small-size sope, so feel free to shrink or expand them.  Unless you can bake and pinch the sopes just before service and have a dedicated griddle space to finish them, these can be hard to work into a regular restaurant flow.  Easier are the deep-fried sopes, which are much more forgiving, both before and after they are fried.  On a buffet or in banquet service, these sopes always suffer in my opinion.  

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