Sopes (Corn Flour Patties)
When we chose Sopes for this month’s recipe, I knew that the folks at my Fort Collins neighborhood’s excellent Mexican restaurant Las Salsitas would be able to tell me all about them. So I stopped in and talked with José Ramos, the restaurant’s owner and founder.
I found out that variations on the sopes theme appear all over Latin America, though each region knows them by a different name. In Cuernavaca, Mexico, where José is from, sopes are known as “antojitos” (translation: little cravings). These antojitos are really a modified corn tortilla – they are small in size, usually about 5-6 inches in diameter, with a lip along the edges. They tend to be a bit thicker than what we usually think of as tortillas and they are topped with anything that is around (at home one would put leftovers on them). Sopes/antojitos are sold everywhere in town; you can usually find stands that will have them freshly made and a choice of toppings for the passerby. Sopes are made with the same corn masa as the corn tortilla, which is basically just corn meal boiled for a long time, then ground until it is a powder, and salted.
At Salsitas they grill the sopes, but you can fry them as well. Salsitas makes all their sopes in house and freshly grilled when you order them. You can add whatever you want to them from their choice of meat, beans and sides. I can personally recommend them!
The following recipe is not from Las Salsitas – that’s a trade secret! – but will give you a sense of what sopes are like. Feel free to experiment with different toppings if you’re feeling creative.
2 cups instant corn flour (masa harina)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix flours, baking powder, and salt, and add the warm water. You may need a little more warm water to make moist, smooth dough.
Traditional sopes forming method: Make balls the size of a walnut, a few at a time, and keep the dough in a plastic bag to prevent it from drying out. Moisten a cloth napkin or tea towel and spread out on a flat surface. Roll each ball of dough in the moistened palm of your hand until it is smooth. Lay ball of dough on the damp towel, cover with a plastic bag, and press down with your hand to flatten to the size of a silver dollar. To shape the patty, flatten again with a small can or flat-bottomed glass into a perfectly smooth circle, 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/4-inch thick. Peel the plastic bag off the top, then lay the tortilla in your hand and peel off the damp cloth. Smooth any rough edges with your fingers and the tortilla is ready to fry.
Quick sopes forming method: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out sopes. Re-roll unused dough.
Heat a cast iron skillet and add enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When hot, slide the patties into the hot oil and fry until they are a light golden brown and slightly crisp on top–about 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels and make a slit on the side as soon as they have cooled enough to handle. Fill with chorizo and potato filling. These do not keep well; they must be eaten immediately!
Chorizo and Potato Filling
4 baking potatoes, like russets, peeled and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
Begin by cooking potatoes in a pot of water; when tender remove and set aside. In a large saute pan add a little oil. While shaking, add chorizo and cook for 4 minutes. When crispy, add garlic, onion, and all the peppers. Cook for 8 minutes. At that point, add the chicken stock and cook for 3 more minutes. Then add the potatoes, cilantro, and scallions; cook for 3 minutes more and season with salt and pepper to taste. Use for stuffing sopes.