Pupusas are a Central American stuffed tortilla patty. Lindsay Sterling is a chef in Maine who has spent a lot of time in immigrant kitchens. She learned this recipe for pupusas from an immigrant from El Salvador.
She maintains an online cookbook of recipes and also offers workshops.
Recipe courtesy of www.ImmigrantKitchens.com, an online cookbook and live cooking class series in Portland, Maine, featuring authentic dishes from around the world.
Note: Pupusas are thick corn patties stuffed with various fillings. Here is a classic combo: refried beans and cheese. They’re served with cabbage slaw and tomato-pepper sauce.
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Makes: 8 pupusas (enough for a meal for 4 people or a snack for 8)
For the pupusas:
• 3 cups Maseca brand instant corn masa flour (available at La Bodega Latina and many supermarkets)
• 2 3/4 cups water
• 8 oz. refried beans
• 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
• 2 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
For the cabbage slaw:
• 1/2 small cabbage or part of a larger one, shaved finely
• 1/2 large carrot, grated on a grater
• 1/8 onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
• 1/2 jalapeno, shaved into rounds or minced
• 1/2 small beet, grated or sliced into ¼-inch rounds
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp oregano
For the sauce:
• 1/4 onion
• 3 tomatoes
• 1/4 green pepper
• 1 chicken bouillon packet (or 1 tsp Better than Bouillon)
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 tsp black pepper
• 1/8 tsp Goya sazon con azafran or achiote molido (ground) for color (optional)
1. Make the pupusa dough. In large bowl mix 3 cups masa flour and 2 3/4 cups water with your hands and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will be extremely sticky at first. As you knead it, the dough sucks in the water. Keep kneading until the dough is soft, pliable, holding together as one mass, and not clinging to the sides of the bowl or sticking substantially to your hands. You can make the dough dryer by adding more masa flour or wetter/softer by adding more water. You want the dough to be soft and malleable but not sticky. A sign of the right texture is that you should be able to press your handprint easily onto the top of the mass of dough. Once you have that, let the dough rest covered with a towel.
2. Make the cabbage slaw. Fill a medium pot half full of water and bring to a boil. Add cabbage. Cook for 15 seconds and then strain it in a colander (you just want to soften the cabbage a little bit), and run cold water over it so it stops cooking. In a large mixing bowl mix cabbage, carrot, onion, jalepeño, and beet. In a separate small/medium bowl, mix salt, vinegar, water, and oregano. Pour the liquid into the cabbage slaw and mix.
3. Make the pupusa filling. In a large saute pan, saute the garlic in 2 Tbsp oil. Once that is fragrant and soft, add the refried beans, stirring occasionally. Once refried beans are hot and smooth, add the shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is incorporated and completely melted. Set aside to let cool.
4. Make the sauce. Blend all sauce ingredients in a blender. Transfer sauce to a small pan. Cook on medium until color darkens from pink to darker red.
5. Assemble pupusas. (Check out this video to see how it’s done). Once beans are cool enough to touch, get a side dish of 1-2 Tbsp oil ready next to the stovetop, along with your bowl of dough and your refried beans. Heat a griddle or a skillet on medium heat. Take a lime-sized chunk of dough, roll it into a ball between your hands and pat it into a 1/4-inch-thick disc. Put a heaping tablespoon of the beans in the middle. Close the dough around the beans so that the beans are sealed inside a dough-ball. Pat the dough-ball between your hands into a 1/2-inch-thick disc. If the dough is sticking to our hands, wipe the dough with oil on both sides with your fingers before patting it into a disc.
6. Cook pupusas. Put the pupusa on the hot griddle, preferably cast iron or nonstick. (If you're using a stainless steel pan, you'll need to oil the pupusas or pan to prevent sticking.) After you put one pupusa on the pan, while it’s cooking form another another one and put it on the pan. Continue forming pupusas until your pan or griddle is full. Cook each pupusa about 2 minutes per side on medium heat until masa dough turns from raw to cake-y and has some golden toasty parts. You can stack pupusas in a tower as they become done - they keep each other warm while the others cook.
7. Serve. Put one or two pupusas on each plate as you wish. Top with cabbage slaw and then sauce. Eat with your hands.