Masa, or corn boiled with mineral lime and ground, is part of a vast family of deliciousness—from the familiar corn tortillas and tamales to treats that aren't as well known north of the border, like bocoles and sopes.
Sopes are like an unusually thick corn tortilla, but with vertical sidewalls that allow them to hold a filling. To make them, you underbake the masa, use your fingers to form the walls, and then fry them in hot oil just before serving. Once you get the hang of it, you can prepare a batch of 16 in about 20 minutes, after the dough has rested.
For the filling, I made a basic chile con queso. Poblano peppers are roasted, peeled and sliced, then cooked with tomato. A meltable cheese such as asadero or Monterey Jack mixed with a bit of cheddar turns the whole mixture into a gooey, tasty mess.
Serve these with plate of brothy or refried beans, Mexican rice and a bit of salad, maybe some proper homemade guacamole, and you'll have a happy and well-fed crowd.
Sopes de Chile Con Queso
Adapted from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless.
- For the sopes:
- 2 1/2 cups masa harina
- 1 3/4 cups hot water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Finely diced red onion for garnish
- For the chile con queso:
- 4 poblano peppers, roasted, skinned, seeded and sliced thinly
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vegetable broth powder (optional; I like Seitenbacher)
- 8 ounces asadero cheese or a mixture of Monterey Jack and cheddar
- Salt to taste; start with 1/2 teaspoon
Thoroughly combine the masa and hot water, cover, and let stand 30 minutes. In the meantime you can prepare the chile con queso.
In a saucepan, heat the sliced peppers, tomato puree, water, and broth powder to a simmer and continue to cook until rather thick and reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, which will melt, and add salt to taste. If you will be serving this soon, hold it warm, otherwise refrigerate until ready.
Mix the remaining ingredients into the sope dough. Preheat a comal or griddle to medium high. Divide the dough into 16 pieces, roll into balls (which should be about 1 1/4 inches in diameter) and cover with plastic wrap.
Using a lined tortilla press or your hands, press one ball out to about a 3 1/2 inch round, which will be about 1/4" thick. Bake on the griddle for 10 seconds on each side and remove. Allow to cool for a few seconds, until you can touch it comfortably. Use your fingers to pull dough from the middle out to form walls around the perimeter, about 1/4" thick and 1/2 inch high. Return to the griddle for one minute, on the flat side only, and then set aside, covered, until ready to fry.
Repeat with the remaining balls of masa. Once you have the hang of it, you can have two going at once, in staggered stages.
When you are ready to finish the dish, heat a large skillet with 3/4" of vegetable oil over a medium-high flame. When it is hot enough to sizzle if a scrap of dough is added, fry the sopes, wall side down, for about 45 seconds to a minute, until they are golden brown in spots and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Fill each sope with about 1/4 cup of the chile con queso, top with a bit of red onion, and serve.