Thursday, December 16, 2010
A lovely salvadorena named Silvia, who is the mother of a good friend of mine, taught me how to make pupusas in high school. On a sunny afternoon, we gathered in her kitchen and she taught us how to make the masa dough, how to pat our pupusas, how to cook them and then, at her backyard table, how to eat them piled high with curtido, washing bites down with cool, sweet horchata.
A pupusa is a savory pancake made of fine ground masa cornmeal, filled with cheese, beans or shredded, juicy pork, and fried on a hot griddle. They can be sand-dollar sized or dinner-plate sized and are about one half of an inch in height. They are eaten warm, with a tomato sauce or a spicy, crunchy cabbage topping called curtido.
This year, I drug a horde of my university friends together and passed on the lesson. I didn't have any curtido, but we made do. For fillings, I bought a salty, crumbly white cheese, a can of beans (black, though I think refried beans are more authentic for this), and I made carnitas (shredded pork) and roasted some vegetables.
This is a great party food, because everyone gets to make their own. Though some pupusas will be prettier than others, they will all taste good.
4 C masa harina (This will be in the baking or the "Hispanic" section of most grocery stores, especially if you live in western or southern USA. It's a very fine pale corn flour and is also used to make tamal and other doughs)
1/2 C shortening
Mix the masa and the shortening together with your hands. When they are combined, splash water in, mixing, until the dough comes together in a lightly moist dough that holds together when you clench it in your fist. If it crumbles, add more water.
choose your fillings
roasted vegetables (I chopped and roasted them at 400 for 10 minutes; bell peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, potatoes, jalapeno peppers, corn kernels)
Take a golf ball of dough if your hands are smallish, a little more if they're bigger. Roll the dough into a ball between your hands. Pat the dough into a flat disk on your palm, using the flats of your fingers. Spoon a LITTLE of whatever fillings you want onto the center of the disk. If you overfill, this is going to explode and you don't want that.
That's actually a bit too much filling.
Fold the dough over and filling and seal it into a half circle on the other side. When you've sealed the edge of the dough, pass it back and forth between your hands, patting lightly, shaping it into a ball again. When it's vaguely ball-shaped, start rolling it between your palms to smooth it into a good sphere.
Pat the ball into a disk again in your palm, using the flats of your fingers lightly. If the edge of the disk tears and filling peaks out, just poke it back in and re-seal it gently.
Place the shaped pupusa onto a hot, lightly greased griddle. Let cook about five minutes on each side. I'm still working on how to tell when a pupusa is done. Tip it up on one edge and let it fall; it should sound very solid when it hits the pan. That's the best way I can explain it. Another way is to cut a sacrificial pupusa in half to check the doneness of the pupusas that went into the pan at the same time.
Curtido is spiced, fermented cabbage (similar kim chi). Finely slice cabbage and mix with a little vinegar and spice and let sit in a bowl in your kitchen overnight at least. If I get a more specific recipe one of these days, I'll post it. But curtido tastes fantastic on warm pupusas. You'll have to trust me.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
These puff pastry savory treats are delicious and extremely easy. I made them as one of the appetizers for my mother's 50th birthday. You'll want to make it right before serving--they're best hot, with the brie still melted and the pastry warm and soft.
1 pkg puff pastry, frozen
1 wedge of brie
Defrost the pastry overnight in the fridge.
The next day, unfold the pastry and use a sharp knife to cut it into nine squares.
Take one square and place a dollop of cheese in the center of it. Fold the points together so they meet in the center, and then pinch the edges sealed.
Repeat with the other eight squares, then with the second sheet of pastry.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. If you bake them too long, they'll get crunchy. I like them flaky and soft--these were a bit on the too-golden side for me. But still, with puff pastry and brie, you can't really go wrong.
I also did a variation of this the next day, because I only used one sheet of the pastry for the brie. I cut the pastry into 16 squares (4x4) and filled them with a mixture of chopped apples and cream cheese.
They came out lovely; not too sweet and very rich.