I write so many things, have so many conversations with people, I lose track of what I say where and to whom. I think I wrote a post about this here, but who knows, maybe I didn’t. The intro here is this — cooking is very much like writing. Just as there are an endless number of stories to tell (no matter how many times they have been told before), there are countless recipes to make. Countless ethnic foods to try to master. There is just an endless string of foods, dishes, and treats to try to create on my own.
While the oldest was home from college, he mentioned that he had pupusas for the first time while back in Long Beach. A pupusa is a dish native to El Salvador. It is, according to Wikipedia, “made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla … that is usually filled with a blend of … cheese … cooked pork meat … refried beans.” I have had a pupusa once or twice and wasn’t that impressed. To me, it was a whole bunch of tortilla without a lot of filling inside. The next time in Long Beach, I think I want my son to take me wherever it is he had pupusas at — the ones he kept raving about.
While I was on my sojourn around California this past week, I ate at Me and Z’s, a Mexican restaurant in Arroyo Grande. Unlike most such restaurants, they served a complete meal. A bowl of soup was a part of the meal and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, dusted with cinnamon and drizzled with caramel ended the evening. All for the regular price of a dinner. The soup was albondigas — Mexican meatball soup.
So, understand something about me. I am most definitely not a soup person. Keep your chicken noodle away from me. And most other soups as well. But, the right soup at the right time can do wonders. Matzah ball soup on a Jewish holiday — as long as the balls are soft and not like cannonballs. Minestrone, with beans and pasta, served before a quality Italian dinner. There are moments when soup is the right thing. But, rarely, almost never is it something I pick out as a meal for myself.
That’s the think about cooking though. Every once in awhile, you get to push the edge of the envelope. So, tonight, in my castle, dinner was Albondigas soup and pupusas. First came the meatballs.
A combination of ground beef, chorizo, one egg, some grated carrot, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, and cumin. And roll them up. Time to brown them.
The recipe said that the meatballs should be cooked in the soup, but that just seems a little bit too much for me. Maybe cooking meatballs in the broth produces a different effect, but when browning them produces this much grease …
… why would I want that in my soup?
Meatballs done, it was time to put the soup together. Chicken broth, diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, celery, cumin and a few minutes of simmering…
While the pot was warming up, I worked on the pupusas. And this is where my plan failed. Pupusas are supposed to be made with masa — the corn flour used to make corn tortillas. There is a balance between flour and water with masa that I have just not got down yet. But I tried. It was too dry. I was never gonna make pupusas with masa. Fortunately, I’ve been making flour tortillas for years now and know what I’m doing with them. I threw out my attempt at masa-based pupusas and made a quick batch of flour tortilla dough. I let it rest for a few minutes and then started making my pupusas.
I’m calling these Gringo Pupusas — for the white boy who can’t handle masa, make them with flour. Each pupusa has some queso fresco and a crumbled meatball inside.
The soup is simmering — meatballs added in, as well as some zucchini. Pupusas cooking on the griddle.
And the end product…
Oh wait, that’s my son, doing what 16-year-old boys do. Let me try again.
The verdict … there were three leftover pupusas after dinner. My kid wants two of them for lunch tomorrow. I’m taking the third and a tupperware container full of soup for lunch myself. Were they perfect? No. I will keep trying to make them with masa and see if I can make them authentic. But for now, a little gringo pupusa and albondigas soup isn’t a bad way to eat on a Sunday night.