I hadn’t eaten corn in months. But then, there were pupusas.
Something about the masa harina (lime-processed corn) seems gentler on my tummy than most other grains. It could be some sciency stuff about soaking in an acidic medium, or it could be that these pupusas are just so incredibly delicious that my body graciously forgives me for eating them, corn and all.
If you aren’t familiar with the wholesome corniness and epic cheesiness of pupusas, then let me tell you as a friend that you’ve been sorely missing out. But fear not, picklefriend, because pupusas con curtido (gringo translation: masa cakes with cabbage slaw) are super easy and pretty darn fun to make! I stuffed my pupusas with “authentic” cheese I procured from Publix, but you could use mozzarella or Monterey Jack instead and still make some sock-rockin’ awesome pupusas.
It may seem like the pupusas are the stars here, but what I think really makes this dish so incredibly exciting and unique is the curtido. It’s bright, crunchy, zingy, a little spicy, and it’s a perfect complement to the cheesy corn cakes. Traditionally, curtido is fermented like sauerkraut, but this version gets its tang from a generous splash of vinegar and a few days soaking in the fridge. The longer it sits, the better it
gits gets. I so corny. ← And again.
Bret and I prefer just to let the cheese do its amazingly creamy awesome thang inside the warm corn of the pupusas, but you can fill them with other fun things like refried beans or pork. Let me know what you put in yours, and definitely let me know how you love them. Happy pupusa-ing!
pupusas con curtido
adapted from The Kitchn
for the curtido:
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (I used plain ol’ organic sugar)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (go easy if you’re a spice wuss; 1 tsp packs a kick!)
Combine the cabbage, carrot, and onion in a large bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour over the cabbage mixture and stir.
Cover and refrigerate for two or three days.
for the pupusas:
note to my vegan/lactose intolerant friends: I think these would work really well with Daiya or some such substitute!
2 cups masa harina
good dash of salt
1 1/3 cup warm water
8 tablespoons cheese: quesillo, queso fresco, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella
heat-stable oil for frying
When your curtido is nicely pickled, prepare the pupusas by combining masa harina, salt, and water in a large bowl. Knead like you’re an artisan playdough baker. If the dough is overly sticky, add a bit more masa harina, a teaspoon or two at a time. If it’s dry, add more water. Cover bowl with a towel and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes or so.
Coat your hands lightly with oil, then divide the dough into 8 sections, forming each section into balls. Use your thumb to make an indentation into a dough ball, forming a small cup. Fill the cup with 1 tablespoon of cheese and press the dough around the filling to seal it. Gently pat the dough back and forth between your hands to form a flat disk. Do the same for the rest of the balls.
Heat a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high. Fry the pupusas for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Serve pupusas hot with cold curtido on the side, or just plop the curtido right on the pupusas. It’s all good.