I had never made my own masa until last week. I’d been thinking of making my own tortillas for a while, since my local grocery store only sells a dreadful, “central american foods” brand of tortillas that, in an attempt to make Caribbean and Mexican products, puts out pretty bland varieties of all products.
In Houston, where I grew up, we had many brands of tortillas and even a couple of legit tortillerías where you can buy freshly made tortillas every morning. All this to say, when I first arrived in New England for college, I was shocked by the lack of tortilla variety and by the size of tortilla packs. Who buys a pack of ten corn tortillas? In my family we went through a 100 pack of tortillas every week or two. I laughed at the tiny tortilla packages here. I called my mom and told her about this weird part of the country where people bought tortillas in 10 packs and grocers didn’t ask you about your day. Since then, I’ve moved to Boston where there are a few more “hispanic foods” grocers, but the rubbery tortillas I buy at my local grocery stores are still mediocre at best. These tortillas turn into dry tostadas and crumbly enchiladas that fall apart within minutes.
This past December, I went to my sister’s graduation in Cholula, Puebla. The day after her graduation, we ate quesadillas from the mercado. The masa was made from freshly ground blue corn, yielding light and supple tortillas. These tortillas in turn enveloped the gooey queso quesadilla, the flores de calabaza, and the salsa de molcajete, making up for an unbelievable street-food treat.
Since then, more than ever before, I’ve come to resent the bland, rubbery, wannabe, tortilla disks I’ve been cooking with. Memories of those tortillas from Cholula render the poor tacos or chilaquiles that I’m currently eating flavorless and dull.
So, for the past few months I’ve been daydreaming of fresh tortillas without really doing anything about it. Finally though, this past week, I decided that I would try making my own masa to make sopes. Sopes are tortillas’ slightly chunkier cousins; they are pretty much thick, fried tortillas with a raised edge. Imagine all that delicious fresh corn tortilla taste in a slightly thicker form. Now add refried beans, bistec, queso fresco, lettuce, sour cream and salsa, and you have your sope de bistec! Yum!
I bought the masa harina and followed the recipe on the back of the masa package with no difficulties. Lunch was ready in about an hour since I also cooked the bistec. However, if you already have leftover meat (e.g. ground beef or shredded chicken) this is an even quicker meal. The sopes turned out both supple and crispy, just like I had wanted. Once loaded with all of the toppings and drizzled with crema and salsa, the result was a satisfying and well-layered lunch.
My husband, my most demanding food critic and faithful feedback giver, loved them!
Sopes de Bistec
Author: Daniela Cho
Yields 6 small sopes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- 1/2 lb of steak cut into small cubes
- 1/2 diced onion
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 Cups of Masa Harina
- 1.5 Cups of warm water
- 1 cup of refried beans
- ½ cup of lettuce
- ¼ cup diced tomatoes
- Queso Fresco (or any other cheese)
- Sour Cream
- Bistec: Add oil, garlic and onion to skillet and cook for a minute on medium heat. Add steak and salt to skillet and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until fully cooked.
- Sopes: Add water into masa harina in small increments until you achieve a soft playdough-like texture. Cut dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll pieces into balls. Cut a ziplock bag or plastic wrap large enough to cover the sope. Use a tortilla press or a dish to flatten dough into 1/4 inch thick disks.
- Sopes (cont.): Heat skillet with two tablespoons of oil to medium heat. Fry sopes for about 45 seconds on each side (just enough to heat up). Then remove from heat. Allow to cool for no more than a minute and pinch sope along the border to create a raised edge. (This will allow you to load sopes with food). Once the edge is formed, cook for another 1-2 mins until golden brown.
- Assembly: Place beans, meat , cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream and cheese on sope.