Friday, April 3, 2009

Kids Make Pupusas

Our "food appreciation" classes arrived in El Salvador on our virtual world food tour and there's nothing more typical on a menu in El Salvador than pupusas. Pupusas are like thick pancakes filled with any combination of meat, vegetables and cheese and like just about everything else in this part of the world they start with corn meal.

To make dough for 15 or more pupusas, mix 3 cups Maseca or other prepared corn meal with 2 2/3 cups water. (This corn meal, the Hispanic version of Bisquick, has been "nixtamalized," meaning the corn was first soaked in a solution of water and lime or lye. It's widely available in Latin groceries.) When the water is fully incorporated, use your hands to continue the process. The dough should be spongy but not rubbery, moist but not sticky. Shape the dough into a big ball and knead it vigorously on a flat surface for a minute or two. Then wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or more, but not more than 24 hours.

Pull off pieces of dough and shape them into rounds a little bigger than a golf ball, depending on how large you want your pupusas to be.

In El Salvador, you'll hear a familiar "pat, pat, pat" as grandma flips the dough from one hand to another, flattening it into a perfect round. But we're new at this, so we used our tortilla press. Don't press too hard! You want your round to be about 1/4-inch thick.

Next, lay a spoonful of your filling in the middle of the round. We made a simple filling of refried beans and mozzarella cheese. What we call "refried" beans actually translates as "well-fried" in Spanish. You can make them yourself mashing cooked pinto beans with lard in a skillet over moderate heat. Canned refried beans also work. We mixed 1 cup fresh mozzarella with a 28-ounce can of beans.

Now carefully fold the edges of the round over the filling and smooth out all the rough edges. Gently mold the package into a ball.

The object is to flatten your package into a pancake shape without creating any cracks or squeezing out the filling. Place it under a layer of plastic and gently press into shape.

Now you are ready to cook your pupusas. Any moderately hot griddle will do. We used our Mexican comal, a flat iron skillet covered with just enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat both sides of the pupusas. Fry on each side until golden.

Now for the best part. At the many Salvadoran restaurants here in the District of Columbia, pupusas are typically served with a traditional cabbage and vegetable slaw called "curtido." But nobody says you can't eat them just like this.

You can read other great stories about how we are taking back our food system at Fight Back Fridays.


jess said...

The pupusas look delicious! But the asparagus photo is way to big for the page. said...

Mmmm. This looks fantabulous. My mouth is watering just thinking of it!

Thanks for participating in today's Fight Back Fridays carnival.

(AKA FoodRenegade)

Oscar said...

I think you might mean curtido, not crudito

Ed Bruske said...

Oscar, thanks for that correction. That's exactly what I mean.