I bought a tortilla press earlier this summer on impulse. It’s one of those single-purpose tools that has the very real potential to be used once, and then left, forgotten, in the back of the cabinet. (I have one of those cabinets, where kitchen tools go to die. Confession: it really hurts when I buy a tool, get home, and then dig through the cabinet, only to find I already had it. I’ve done that more than once.)
But not this summer. Much like the discovery of homemade pita bread (which absolutely rocks, folks), I wanted to enjoy fresh tortillas — lots of veggie wraps with crunchy summer produce. The grocery store selection is okay (the exception being soft corn tortillas, which must be purchased in bags of, I think, 50 — who, other than a family of 10, needs 50 corn tortillas for a weeknight meal?), but the freshness factor leaves something to be desired.
And tortillas — both corn and whole wheat — are so easy to make, it’s almost a crime not to make them fresh when you have a few extra minutes to spare. (Note: a tortilla press is not really required, but the fudging methods for flattening out the dough are iffy, and the press is just so easy — squeeze, and done. It was a worthwhile purchase.)
Searching for fool-proof tortilla recipes led me to other tortilla variations, like today’s pupusas, a stuffed tortilla native to El Salvador. Think corn flour quesadillas, only sealed around the edges. Made with fragrant masa harina and salty, melty Mexican quesillo cheese, this quick-to-make tortilla is the perfect vehicle for dipping in salsa or guacamole … or, my favorite, topped with an over-easy egg.
Like traditional flat tortillas, it really didn’t occur to me to talk about pupusas on this blog, until last week, when The Kitchn — one of my happy-place, regular stops on the Interwebs — rightly recognized the brilliance of it and published their recipe for pupusas. [Click!] (That’s the sound of my brain turning on, at last.) And so I just had to share my version, with the egg. It makes an amazing summer lunch (and, I predict a winter one, as a side with soup).
Although the dough is whipped up in minutes — mix water and masa harina, shape, and stuff (no resting period necessary) — and cooked up in about six, you easily make extra pupusas to freeze (before cooking) for a super-fast weeknight meal.
Pupusas are traditionally served — sans fried egg — with a side of vinegary, fermented slaw, called curtido, but I served mine with a big helping of my summery Crunchy Corn Slaw (watch for the post and recipe shortly).
The pupusas secret is out, because some things are too good not to share.
Fried Egg Pupusas
It should come as relief to know that there really isn’t a definitive pupusas “recipe.” Rather, as with flat tortillas, you simply want the dough to come together in a soft ball that holds its shape. The amount of water needed to accomplish that will vary with the seasons, depending on the humidity in your kitchen. I always start with one cup of hot water and mix in more as necessary.
2 cups masa harina
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quesillo cheese, shredded (or any good melting cheese)
neutral, high-heat oil
1. In a medium mixing bowl, add 1 cup of the water to the masa harina and stir to mix. When the water is incorporated, pick up the dough with your hands and work it into a ball. If it’s dry and crumbly, add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft and cohesive (you might not need all of the water). Divide into 6 equal portions.
2. Mold one piece into a ball and, using your thumbs, indent the center of the ball to form a small cup. Press a big pinch of shredded cheese into the indentation and fold the sides over to cover, pinching the seams closed.
3. Use your palms to flatten the ball into a disk about 1/4″ thick, taking care not let the cheese leak out. Set aside. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
4. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high until shimmering. Working in batches, add the pupusas as to the pan, leaving plenty of room in between for flipping (and to encourage even heating). Cook until brown spots begin to form (about 3 minutes), then flip and cook the other side. Remove to a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining pupusas.
5. Reduce heat to medium low, and let the pan cool down for a few minutes. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat to shimmering. Crack the eggs into the pan and cook to your preference (I like over easy, with the yolks still soft snd runny.)
6. Arrange the pupusas on plates and top each with an egg. Season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of cheese.
Diane, A Broad
Tuesday 4th of September 2012
That looks incredibly delicious. I remember when I was an officer worker in LA, I would sneak off every Thursday afternoon to the local farmer's market and have a long lunch of pupusas and fresh fruit. Sigh.
Tuesday 4th of September 2012
I am used to stuffing tortillas in my face, not stuffing the tortillas. But it is a brilliant concept!
My Tia (my best friend's mother) always uses a press that she brought with her from Colombia a gadzillion years ago to make her tortillas, but I still stubbornly cling to my rolling pin. I must ask her why she never gave me any papusas in my youth - I feel as if she was holding back on me.
Tuesday 4th of September 2012
I discovered your site recently and love it. Great job on recipes and photos! These looks wonderful, I will have to try them soon. I also get irritated that soft corn tortillas are only sold in packs of 30 to 50. I cook for two people - seriously, how fast can we use them up?! The answer is, not fast enough, despite the fact that I make a lot of Tex-Mex and Mexican food. I also love other uses for masa harina. What seems to always happen to me is that I buy a whole bag, then use a few tablespoons in my chili. What to do with the rest of it? I know, tamales, but it's nice to have other recipes on hand for when the mood isn't tamales. Thanks for posting this!