Makes 12 sopes; serves 4 to 6
Why This Recipe Works: Sopes are small, savory tarts, traditionally served for dinner with endlessly variable fillings. The sopes shells are made with the same ingredients used to make tortillas, although they are thicker and have a rimmed edge to hold the fillings. The key to this recipe was to create a dough that was easy to shape, fry, and fill. For the base of the dough, we turned to masa harina. For the water, we found that slightly less than a 1:1 ratio of water to masa harina gave us the perfect texture: malleable enough to handle, but not over-hydrated and sticky. Traditionally, the dough is flattened like a tortilla and cooked on an ungreased cast-iron pan called a comal. The edges are then pinched up and, finally, the sopes are shallow-fried. Handling hot dough was a nonstarter for us; we wanted to find an easier and less painful way. We started by making flat, thick tortillas; although some recipes used a tortilla press to flatten the dough, we preferred the equally common method of pressing the dough with a pie plate. This allowed us to see our progress through the plate’s clear bottom, and also made it less likely that we would press the dough too thin. We then pinched the raw dough to create rimmed edges. Putting the raw shells directly in the frying oil produced exceedingly greasy results with either a doughy or overly crisp texture. Our simple solution was to parcook the shells in a dry skillet before frying. This gave us the crispy outside and tender inside we were looking for.
Be sure to use masa harina or Maseca Brand Instant Masa Corn Flour. We like to use a straight-sided sauté pan here because it makes frying the sopes in step 5 a little easier; however, a 12-inch skillet can be substituted. Any type of refried beans will work well here.
2 cups (8 ounces) masa harina
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups hot tap water
2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup refried beans
1 recipe filling (see below), warmed
1. Mix masa harina and salt in medium bowl, then fold in water with rubber spatula. Using your hands, knead mixture in bowl until soft dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes.
Cover dough with damp dish towel and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut sides of 1-quart zipper-lock bag, leaving bottom seam intact. Knead dough briefly, then divide into 12 equal pieces.
Roll pieces into balls, and place on prepared sheet. Cover dough with damp dish towel.
3. Working with 1 piece dough at a time, place on 1 side of zipper-lock bag and fold other side over top. Press dough flat into 3 1/2-inch-wide disk using pie plate.
Remove plastic from top and pinch dough around edges as needed to create 3/4-inch-tall sides.
Remove plastic from bottom of sope, return sope to baking sheet, and cover with damp dish towel.
4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat until hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully place 6 sopes in hot, dry pan. Using paper towels, press lightly in center of each sope to ensure contact with pan.
Cook until bottoms begin to brown, 4 to 5 minutes; return to baking sheet (do not cover). Repeat with remaining sopes. (Sopes can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months; thaw completely before continuing.)
5. Line baking sheet with paper towels. Carefully add oil to now-empty pan and heat over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Add 6 sopes, browned side down, and fry until bottom is crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain oil temperature of 325 to 350 degrees. Gently flip sopes and fry until sides are crisp and golden (center of sopes will not brown), 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Transfer sopes upright to prepared sheet and dab with paper towels to remove excess oil; keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining sopes. Spread refried beans evenly into center of sopes, then top with filling and serve.
Filling: Tomatillo Chicken with Radishes and Queso Fresco
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks and stems removed, rinsed well and dried
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, halved, and seeded
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves plus 1/4 cup chopped
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt and pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
4 radishes, sliced thin
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (1 cup)
1. Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, and garlic with oil and spread over prepared sheet. Broil, shaking sheet occasionally, until vegetables are well charred, 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Transfer broiled vegetables to food processor and let cool slightly. Add cilantro, broth, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pulse until coarsely chopped, about 7 pulses. Transfer to 10-inch nonstick skillet, season with salt to taste, and bring to simmer.
3. Nestle chicken into sauce. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to carving board and let cool slightly. Using 2 forks, shred chicken into small pieces. Toss chicken with sauce left in pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with radishes, queso fresco, and cilantro.
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