I’ve been on a bit of a Mexican cooking kick and figured Cinco de Mayo would be the perfect occasion to share what I’ve been cooking. After having sopes in Mexico on vacation (more on that in a few days), I decided I wanted to try my hand at making them.
This street food is comprised of fried masa with toppings of vegetables and meat – everything from beans to cheese to salsas. The fried masa is circular and has a small ridge around the edge to hold all the goodies on top. They originated in the central and southern parts of the country and like many regional dishes, each province has a slightly different take on it with different sizes or ingredients common.
I adapted Kelsey Nixon’s sopes recipe with shredded beef. It has a few components – the shredded beef, the homemade sopes and various accompaniments – but I was up for the challenge. And with various aspects of this final dish, you can make some parts ahead of time. The beef needs a couple hours to simmer and break down and can be made in advance. Similarly the guacamole can be refrigerated ahead of making the sopes dough.
To pair with the succulent spicy meat, Kelsey suggested a tomatillo guacamole. These fruits, often called husk tomatoes, are a staple of Mexican cuisine. They are related to cape gooseberries and have an inedible paper husk around the fruit which you remove to find the spherical fruit below (sometimes there’s a sticky coating on the fruit which always throws me off).
I’ve only worked with tomatillos one other time, but I’m struck with how much I enjoy their flavor. This guacamole is a perfect fresh and cool accompaniment to the heat in the beef, adding a great contrasting texture to the fatty beef and crisp sopes!
- 2 lbs boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
- ¼ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
- ¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 6 to 8 tomatillos, husked and coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and quartered
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
- ½ jalapeno, coarsely chopped with seeds
- ½ onion, coarsely chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups masa harina
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt, plus more for finishing
- 2 cups warm water
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Sour cream
- 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- For the shredded beef: Put the beef, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, cumin, salt, coriander and garlic in a large Dutch oven, and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking on a gentle simmer for 2½ to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more water to cover if needed.
- Once the beef is tender, let it cool slightly in the braising liquid and then shred with two forks, while still in the pot.
- For the tomatillo guacamole: Combine the cilantro, tomatillos, garlic, avocado, jalapeno, onion, lime juice, cumin and salt in a food processor or blender and pulse until combined.
- For the sopes: Combine the masa harina, flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and slowly add the warm water while incorporating the dry ingredients using a stiff spatula. Once the dough comes together, transfer it to a floured surface and knead it by hand until it is smooth and not crumbly, about 5 minutes.
- Roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness and then cut it into 2-inch circles with a biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass; you should get 36 circles. Re-roll and re-cut scraps of dough until all of it is used. Create a ridge around the edge of each sope using your thumb, and working from the center outwards.
- Fill a skillet with 1½ inches of vegetable oil and heat to 350 degrees F over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the sopes until their edges are crispy and just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the sopes to a paper-towel-lined plate and season with salt as they come out of the oil.
- Fill each sope with some shredded beef and a little tomatillo guacamole. Top each with some sour cream, cotija and cilantro.