Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Sopes con Pescado Adobado

Can we talk salsa? I practically need to count it as one of my food groups. I definitely can’t live without it, and I have several favorites. A new one just joined that list thanks to the book My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions: A Cookbook by Gabriela Camara of which I received a review copy. The book is about so much more than salsa or any other particular dish. The recipes and tips combine to explain Camara’s style of cooking, with the freshest and best-produced ingredients, inspired by Mexican traditional cuisine. The menus at her Mexico City and San Francisco restaurants vary due to availability of locally-grown and sustainably-produced ingredients in each location. In Mexico City, she offers a Tuna Tostada when sustainable tuna is available. But, in San Francisco, a locally-farmed trout is a better choice, and that’s what she uses there. She also explains her choice of cheeses. In Mexico, she’s able to source traditional cheeses that are made with high-quality milk from pastured cows. Those cheeses aren’t available in the US, and our Mexican-style cheeses tend to be from larger companies making compromises on the milk used. She recommends choosing similar cheeses that aren’t Mexican but are well-made rather than being strictly traditional. The recipes will mostly seem familiar, but upon closer inspection, Camara’s personal touch is revealed. The chapters include basics, breakfast, first courses, main dishes, desserts, and drinks. The simplest dishes are taken to new levels when each ingredient is carefully considered. For instance, the Tacos de Huevo are made with fresh-made corn tortillas, a soft-boiled egg, beans, rice, and a homemade salsa or two. And, the photos convey the deliciousness. Seafood figures heavily in the recipes, which I loved seeing, and its use in the soups got my full attention. There’s a spicy crab soup, a shrimp broth made with adobo sauce and whole shrimp and served with lots of garnishes, and an herb and chile inflected soup with fish meatballs. There’s even a Chiles en Nogada made with seafood as the filling rather than pork. The Mexican-style clams, mussels in chipotle sauce, and the signature red and green grilled red snapper all delighted me, but there are plenty of meat options as well. Those include chicken and pork stews; cochinita pibil; an al pastor approach that would work well for pork, chicken, or vegetables; and an actual meat meatball recipe in salsa de chile morita. Speaking of salsa, the one that got added to my favorites list is the Adobo de Chiles Rojos made with dried chiles, fresh tomatoes, onion, lots of garlic, and some citrus. It’s added to cooked fish and reduced before the mixture is spooned into masa sopes. And then I started adding it to just about everything else I cooked. 

I love playing with masa, and I’ve made lots of shapes from masa dough like tlacoyos, gorditas, and various tortillas. So, I was excited to try the sopes which were similar in shape to gorditas. Masa harina was mixed with water to form the simple dough that was divided into ping pong ball size pieces before being shaped into rounds with a cupped top. The sopes were then fried in oil and left to drain. The salsa was made by reconstituting dried ancho, guajillo, and pasilla chiles. The softened chiles along with chiles de arbol, chopped fresh tomato, onion, lots of garlic, olive oil, orange juice, lime juice, achiote seeds, cumin, oregano, and salt were pureed in the blender. There’s a surprising amount of salt in this salsa at one and a half tablespoons, but this is the correct amount. The sopes are not seasoned at all. They are simple masa vehicles for all the flavor of the filling. So, the aggressive seasoning of the salsa is balanced. For this version of sopes, a firm-fleshed fish was to be cut into small cubes and cooked in oil. I used halibut. After the fish was cooked, the salsa was added and reduced a bit. The fish and sauce mixture was spooned into the sopes and topped with a crumbly, salty cheese and purslane leaves. Queso fresco would ordinarily be used, but ricotta salata is also suggested depending on what you can get that is better quality. I used a locally-made goat feta. 

Little, crispy masa cakes will be addictive with just about any filing, but this adobo-sauced fish version was a big winner. I use a lot of purslane while I can get it at a local farm stand in the summer. So, I was thrilled to see it as a suggested topping. Cilantro or finely chopped lettuce would work well too. For the salsa, I’ll be doubling the recipe from now on and stocking my freezer with it. It was great in tacos, for dipping chips and vegetables, and especially on huevos rancheros. Next, a soup and a couple of the desserts are on my to-try list.

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