Once you eat a Mexican gordita, your life may never be the same again: Corn cakes made from masa dough are pan-fried to create a crisp exterior and a steamy, tender interior, then stuffed with any number of traditional fillings, from spicy beans, to fresh white cheese and tender shredded meats.
Why this recipe works:
- Shallow-frying the gordita shells delivers enough heat to activate the baking powder in the dough, creating a light, puffy interior—without the mess and hassle of deep-frying.
- A quick cabbage slaw adds freshness and acidity to the rich braised meat, and a drizzle of dense Mexican crema adds creaminess.
Note: Masa freezes beautifully. After forming gordita shells (see Step 1), place extras on a baking sheet in a single layer for 1 hour, then transfer to a zipper-lock bag or airtight container and store in freezer for up to 3 months. To defrost, set gordita shells on a plate at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then proceed with recipe.
Using wet hands, roll masa dough into 15 golf-ball-sized balls. Pat balls into flat 4-inch rounds about 1/4 inch thick; if edges crack, run a wet finger around them to smooth them. Place rounds on a baking sheet and keep covered with a towel as you work.
Fill a large cast iron skillet with 1/4" oil and heat over medium-low heat until shimmering. Working in batches, add masa rounds and fry, flipping once, until well-browned and crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Test for doneness by poking shells with a finger: if they feel soft inside, return to oil and continue frying, flipping as needed to avoid burning, until firm to the touch. Drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Continue until all masa shells are fried, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.
Using a sharp serrated knife, split masa shells in half crosswise. For each gordita, pile about 2 tablespoons braised meat on lower halves of masa shells, then top with about 2 tablespoons curtido. Smear top half of gordita shell with about 1 teaspoon crema. Close sandwich and serve immediately.