This week's Co-op menu: Sopes

This week's menu was inspired by the abundance of tomatillos in my garden. OK, what I really mean to say is that the tomatillos completely took over both my gardens this year, trampling everything in their path and weilding their cloaked fruit like some sort of demented weedy monks. The funny thing is, I remember thinking back in May, "Gee, I forgot to plant tomatillos. I'm bummed I won't be able to harvest any." Evidently, the tomatillo gods heard my lament. I have truckloads to harvest.

lime and charred jalopeno
And so this menu takes advantage of an abundant crop yet again. And I thought it would be fun to try my hand at making sopes, a dish that I had the privilege to learn to make with some friends from Mexico City a few years ago. Fair warning here: this was not a speedy dinner. There are a number of components to make but a few can be done the day before and the side dishes: rice and jicama-orange salad, are pretty effortless. And I love these kinds of composed dishes for a few reasons. They are modular, so there's almost always something even picky eaters will agree to. They can be vegetarian or not, and the meat is not the centerpiece, but rather a garnish. Finally, they are fun and delicious and a little bit festive and who doesn't like a little party in the middle of the week, right?

Sopes for 12 with black beans, chicken, salsa verde and queso fresco.


There are a few ways to make these and the video here is most like what I do: seared in a cast-iron pan, not fried in oil.

2 cups masa harina (found at any mexican grocery store)
4 cups hot water

1. Add the water to the masa and stir well. Cover and let sit for about an hour (Note: I found my dough stiff and dry, I would probably add more water or let it sit for less next time).
2. Heat a cast iron griddle or frying pan. I painted on a thin layer of oil but it isn't really needed.
3. Divide dough into 24 balls. Shape and flatten them and then toast them on the griddle about 2 min per side or until they are golden and crispy.
4. Remove from heat and let cool until you can handle them. Then push the edge of each sopa into a rim (watch the video if this doesn't make sense!). It's ready to fill!

Black Beans
I cook mine from dried beans, but you can also use canned.

2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight.
1 medium onion halved
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1tbsp cumin
bay leaves

1. Drain the soaked beans and then cover with fresh water to 3" above the beans.
2. Add all other ingredients and bring to a slow simmer until desired tenderness.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end of cooking.

The beans can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, just rewarm before serving.

Salsa Verde
This is a loose and fast recipe because it's very forgiving of proportions.

Tomatillos (I made enough to fill the cast iron frying pan three times)
2 white onions, peeled and halved
1 jalopeno
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes
salt (I also use a vegetarian "chicken" broth powder that works great instead of salt)

1. Heat the cast iron pan. Add tomatillos, onion and jalopeno and char them on all sides.
2. Dump it all into a food processor, throw in the cilantro, lime juice and salt. Pulse to desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky).

Poached Chicken
This is entirely optional, the meal is really satisfying without it, too. I chose to simply poach my chicken but you can roast it. Or use chorizo, which is a more traditional topping. For this recipe, I used 2.5 lbs chicken total.

To assemble the full meal, place black beans, shredded chicken and salsa verde on your sopa. Crumble queso fresco (or feta) on top and garnish with cilantro and another squeeze of lemon.
Serve with white rice and a side salad of sliced jicama and orange wedges.
This is what dinner looks like

This is what a happy diner looks like

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