When you dine at a typical Mexican restaurant, you're probably already familiar with the usual offerings of enchiladas, tacos, refried beans and rice. It's kind of ironic that many dishes served in most of today's Mexican joints are actually of American origin by way of Texas or California. We Americans have put our own twists on the originals over the years and labeled them "Mexican food."
To get a little more authentic taste of south-of-the-border cuisine, try Mexican sopes, a zesty appetizer that will have you ditching your old gringo go-to of nachos or chimichangas.
Sopes are a handheld Mexican street-food dish made from a dough of masa flour (dried and finely ground corn) that's flattened, typically fried, then topped with either meat or beans and salsa. This version of the classic Mexican dish sees the little masa "boats" baked instead of fried, saving you some calories and a greasy mess on your stovetop. I use flavorful Mexican chorizo sausage for the filling and top it with a Yucatecan-style (i.e.: from the Yucatan Peninsula) sauce comprised of toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro and habanero pepper. These sopes can be made any size you please — from smaller for appetizer servings to larger ones if you're serving them as a snack or main course.
Sopes de Chorizo y Salsa Sikil P'aak
(Masa Boats with Chorizo and Yucatecan Pumpkin Seed Sauce)
Makes 4 large or 6 small appetizer servings
Adapted from Rick Bayless
3/4 cup masa harina (corn “flour”) mixed with 1/3 cup hot water (or more if needed)
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup finely grated Mexican queso añejo or Parmesan cheese
2 large egg yolks
1/2 pound Mexican chorizo sausage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves
1 serrano, habanero, or jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
Juice of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup (or more) neutral-flavored oil
Water, as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet tray. In a large bowl with a rubber spatula, mix together the reconstituted masa with the oil, baking powder, cheese and the egg yolks. The mixture should be the consistency of a medium-soft, slightly sticky dough (add more water if it's too dry; more masa if too wet). Divide into 4 or 6 balls, flatten each one, then pinch up a ¼-inch-high border all around. Put the sopes on the sheet tray and bake until puffed and lightly browned on the edges, about 20 minutes.
While the sopes bake, make the chorizo filling. Preheat a medium saute pan over medium heat. When it's hot, add the chorizo and cook, stirring only occasionally. When the chorizo is almost fully cooked, add in the onion and cook until the onion is soft and the chorizo is cooked through.
To make the sauce, heat a saute pan over medium heat and add in the pumpkin seeds. Toast them, shaking the pan often, until they start to lightly brown and make a popping sound. Immediately remove from pan to a small bowl. Put the pumpkin seeds in a blender or food processor along with with the cilantro, garlic, spicy pepper of choice, cumin, orange and lime juices. Process until roughly chopped, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Process again and gradually pour in the oil. Add enough water to get it to a smooth consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, spoon some of the chorizo mixture into each of the sopes, then top with a small spoon of sauce and top with chopped cilantro.