Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My New Favorite Mexican Delicacy

I had lots of leftovers in the 'fridge, and an inexplicable, urgent craving for sopes. You may not even know what sopes are, but if you did, you'd crave them, too.

One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago is Salpic├│n, down in Old Town on Wells Street, that my friend Zzilda introduced me to. It was voted Best Mexican Restaurant in 2005 by CitySearch. I've eaten there maybe half a dozen times, and every time I leave happy. The menu item that makes me happiest is the one called sopes rusticos--fat country tortillas topped with a bit of tomatillo sauce, queso fresco, onions and avocado.

So anyway, this afternoon I started tasting those delicious fat tortillas in my mind, and I couldn't help myself. I unloaded several shelves worth of leftovers onto the kitchen counter: pork roast, cooked shrimp, a zip-lock baggie of sauteed onions, a chunk of crumbly Mexican cheese, an almost-overripe avocado, some refried beans. Now we were talking!

I made sopes from masa harina (finely ground corn flour), water, and a little salt. To make the tortillas, you mix the dough, form little balls, and then squish the balls down into 1/4" thick wafers with a little bit of a raised edge. You can make them with as big or small a circumference as you like. My preference was to make the tortillas about 1.5 to 2.5 inches across. Fry those puppies up in hot oil using a cast-iron skillet, and drain them on a paper towel.

Now you're ready to create some fabulous toppings from the leftovers in the 'fridge. For the first batch, I diced the leftover pork roast into 1/4" bits and mixed it with chopped sauteed onions. I topped each sope with a couple teaspoons of the mixture, and then a bit of Mexican cheese, and broiled until the edges were starting to brown. Plop a bit of mashed up avocado on the top, and decorate with a tiny tomato chunk, and you've got a sope appetizer worthy of a great Mexican restaurant, made in your own kitchen!

For the second topping I peeled and chopped my leftover shrimp and mixed it with some chopped green onions and a tiny bit of cocktail sauce. I plopped a spoonful of this yummy mixture on several sopes, but this time I topped it with grated mozzarella cheese before broiling. Yummy!

And for the final batch, I used up my leftover refried beans. Each sope received a medium coating of beans, followed by some chopped up tomatoes and onions, and topped off with whichever cheese sounded great at the moment. After broiling, I again garnished with a bit of mashed avocado, because in my world, you cannot go wrong with avocado.

I was going to post photos, but I can't find them when I back up my phone data onto the computer, so you'll just have to use your imagination. But still, aren't you hungry?


Boy George said...

I was hungry before I read your post. Now I'm positively famished! (And my options for Mexican food for lunch today aren't all that great, so I'll have to settle for something totally different...)

Anonymous said...

Wow! You make your own sopes? I really do love those too, but only buy them. I nominated you for an award on my blog.

Boy George said...

Yeah, I was impressed too at your culinary skills, E. Naturally it took me back to that one time I tried making tortillas from scratch back in 1980 (I was just a baby...) and they were as tough as beef jerky. Several years later I was talking with a Latina friend (and excellent cook) who said, "Oh, making tortillas is a real art. Almost everybody just buys them at the store."

E. Peevie said...

Boy--1980! You really WERE just a baby!

But now, you know, they have special tortilla presses that make the whole thing a lot easier, I'm guessing.

Boy and Elbee--Sopes, though, are different, because they don't have to be paper-thin. In fact, I think that's why they're so good--because they're a little thick and chewy and corny-tasting.

They were so, so good that I will definitely try them again.

And El--wow. Thank you very much for the honor.

mjune said...

Oh my gosh - my mouth is watering so much after reading your post! I would suggest Frida's on Clark street in Andersonville - it is right next door to the best bakery in town, Taste of Heaven. I always walk out of Frida's very happy.

E. Peevie said...

mj--I wonder if it's the same Frida's that used to be on Damen just south of Fullerton? Either way, I'm going to check it out. Thanks for the tip, and thanks for visiting The Green Room.