I haven’t cooked much lately because I’m trapped in the customary post holiday apocalyptico barren cupboard flabby brained hellscape of doom and I couldn’t think of anything amazing to try or share. But then! I was inspired by two close friends who love awesome snacks and now here we are. Pupusa town!
So come on kids! Gather round, for one more story from the tales of how to cook AMAZing food that’s cheap and easy!
Pupusas are corn cakes stuffed with treats like cheese, refried beans, and pork. I kept everything vegetarian but BY GOD add pork if you have it. Curtido is pickled cabbage and carrots and herbs and sometimes onion or radishes and is best the longer it languishes in your fridge, so make it the night before ideally or at least a few hours before serving. Off we go!
FOR THE CAKES!
2 cups masa harina (Maseca brand is cheap and at every tiny latin grocery you can find)
1 3/4 cups warm water
Coconut oil for frying
FOR THE CURTIDO:
3 cups purple cabbage, thinly shredded
2-3 carrots, peeled and thinly shredded (just peel it into the bowl until it disappears in your hand
1 half red onion, sliced into very thin little half moons
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tsps sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 tsp Mexican oregano (you can definitely just use regular oregano if you want)
Half can pinto beans
dash olive oil
The other half of that red onion, thinly sliced
Cumin, achiote, salt, pepper, and garlic powder
1 cup queso fresco, quesillo, or mozzarella, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
Oregano to taste (IF YOU LIKE OREGANO); I think dried cilantro or parsley might do well here too, but any way you do it, try to squeeze something herby in the cheese
Like we agreed, the curtido is best the longer it pickles, but there aint nothing wrong with a quick pickle either, so at least 4 hours before you want to eat, start dat curtido. Shred and slice up your veggies and put them in a heat resistant container. I used a glass wide-mouth quart-sized mason jar. Bring the vinegar, water, oregano, salt, and sugar to a boil and pour over the vegetable mixture. Let cool on the counter, then refrigerate.
Now that’s out of the way, the rest of the process is suuuper simple. First, pour the two cups of masa harina into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Whisk quickly to combine, then add the water and knead until the dough is firm but malleable, like Play Doh. Add a little water if it’s too dry and crumbly, a little more masa harina if it’s too wet and sticky. Cover with a towel and set aside. Let the dough rest for fifteen minutes.
And set the timer! Because you’ll be amazed that the rest of this prep will take exactly fourteen minutes and it’s really satisfying when the planets align and you can pull off a goddamn meal seamlessly and perfectly timed. Which you will!
Grate the cheese into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper and the herb of your choosing to taste. Set aside. Warm your extra virgin olive oil and a bay leaf in a small pan over medium. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the pinto beans and pour half into the pan. Let them warm through while you slice up the onion then add that too. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, achiote, garlic powder, and scoot everything around in the pan. When the fourteen minutes are just about over, use a handheld immersion blender to puree the beans into a paste. If you don’t have one, you can either transfer the beans into a food processor in small batches or even just mash them all up with a potato masher or a fork. Anyway, once it’s a paste set them aside as well. Time’s up! ‘Ssssgo!
Grab a piece of dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a lime. Gently make an indentation with your thumb, as deeply as possible without cracking or crumbling the dough or busting through the bottom with your giant fingers like I did. If you do make a crack or a hole, just smooth it over like you’re working with clay. Fill the hole with cheese or beans or both, pinch the hole closed, then GENTLY work the dough back and forth between your palms, patting it into a chubby disk. When you’ve got all your pupusas padded and patted, heat a large skillet with coconut oil to medium high and slip in two or three cakes. They need 4 minutes or so on each side, just until they get a bit gold with nice brassy burnished spots.
Serve warm with your curtido and some greens. Enjoy. Hooray! Yay. To Latin food. To something wholesome and warming and really cheap. To friends. To Chad and Bailey!