Recipe: stuffed sopaipillas
It’s a brilliant sun that has been shining down on Colorado this week, each day warmer than the one before. Whenever Jeremy is on travel, I use the alone time to get as much work done as possible so that we might ski or just spend time together when he gets back. If I were truly alone, I might work from sunrise to the wee hours of the night with nary a pause, but I am not alone. Kaweah requires more attention in her old age. Not that she demands it, just that we want to be sure she is happy and comfortable. One of us will check on her frequently throughout the day and sometimes lie on the floor next to her, rub her belly, or just nuzzle her face. Anything to hear the thump of that wagging tail.
she likes the sun on her coat and her feet in the snow
Kaweah’s walks take more time and cover less distance. I have to stop myself when I start to feel impatient. Lately, I have been setting aside extra time for Kaweah. It’s not a walk anymore, but Kaweah-time. Time for sniffing every tree trunk, every dead leaf, every invisible thing in the snow. Time to walk slowly through powdery drifts, sometimes requiring a quick rescue. Her back paws knuckle under as she grows tired, but her nose is in the air drinking in all the news the wind can deliver. Old age is slowing her down. So far it hasn’t stopped her.
checking out the lake
happy to be outside
The other day we went to a little lake where the snow lingered and the sun shone bright. Instead of menacing winds, there was a gentle breeze and birds chirped in the woods. I unleashed Kaweah (because she’s too slow to outrun me now!) and watched as she went about sniffing what was what, her meandering tracks having absolutely no agenda other than to be a happy black dog on a lovely bluebird day. I knelt down and called her to me. I had to call again, loudly because she’s deaf – or she was ignoring me… or both. It doesn’t matter. She strolled lazily toward my outstretched hands and rolled her head into them like she always does, her tail doing big circular wags. I gently wrapped my arms around her neck and shoulders and placed my cheek against her warm, black fur. My little girl. Circular wag, circular wag.
time to go home
A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with my friend Trent, who runs Pica’s in Boulder. I’m always telling Trent what I think he should carry on the menu. “How about a GIANT salsa bar? A GIANT SALSA BAR!!” This time I didn’t mention the salsa bar, but I did sing the praises for sopaipillas. I’ve had bad ones (here in Colorado) and I’ve had amazing ones (in all of New Mexico), but the best are the ones that come straight from your own kitchen. He had never had one before. WHUT?! The next evening, Trent was running a pop-up in my neighborhood, so I made fresh sopaipillas and brought them to his family. Thumbs up all around. They ate them with honey, but another fabulous way to enjoy the sopaipilla is to stuff it with heavenly goodness.
beef, cumin, chile powder, lime, oil, salt, pepper
dice the beef
mix the seasonings
Some fraction of the readership was thinking: ice cream, chocolate, strawberries, whipped cream… Maybe that’s heavenly goodness for you, but it’s not the heavenly goodness I had in mind. I’m not sure if there is any category of food better than “bready thing stuffed with meaty or vegetable savory filling”. A stuffed sopaipilla falls into that most distinguished designation. I’ve never had a stuffed sopaipilla before I made them myself, but apparently entire businesses have been built around stuffed sopaipillas in neighboring New Mexico (Jeremy keeps telling me Stufy’s is known for their stuffed sopaipillas). It just screams “YES” to me.
toss the beef with the spices
mix to coat evenly
Put whatever you like in a sopaipilla. Think of it as a fried dough pocket. Hmmm, what goes well with fried dough? Beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, beans, vegetables, anything. Don’t forget the cheese and you must have avocados. I made a beef filling for the sopaipillas, but also defrosted a batch of carne adovada per Jeremy’s request. That’s his favorite.
brown the beef
add lime juice
simmer it down
It’s a good idea to keep the number of fillings to a minimum as space is limited. Even restricting it to beef, cheese, tomatoes, and avocados made for a cozy sopaipilla. If you can eat the sopaipillas while they are fresh and hot, that is obviously going to be the best. I don’t fry on demand, so there are usually a few sopaipillas in the freezer that I will fill and heat in the oven (to crisp the outside). It’s not the same as piping hot fresh fried, but it’s pretty damn good.
sopaipillas, beef, cotija cheese, tomatoes, avocado
prepped and ready for serving
slice an opening along a straight edge
open the pocket
Sopaipillas are shaped like pie slices. There are two straight edges and one arc. Cutting one of the straight edges creates a lovely pocket for stuffing with all manner of goodies. Should you require more room than the interior allows, you can cut both straight edges and turn it into a sort of taco. It won’t matter because in mere minutes, you will have devoured it and no one would be the wiser. Crunchy outside, soft and pillowy inside – filled with your favorite taco or burrito fixings. How can this be wrong?
spoon in the beef filling
stuffed sopaipilla #1
sopaipillas, carne adovada, guacamole, cheddar
stuffed sopaipilla #2 – but the possibilities are endless
16 large sopaipillas (make a double batch)
filling of your choice: beef (see below), carne adovada, chicken, beans)
shredded or crumbled cheese (cheddar, cotija, jack, etc.)
diced avocado or guacamole
seasoned cube steak
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp red chile powder
2 tsps salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1.5 lbs. flank steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 limes, juice of
Combine the cumin, chile powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, toss the steak cubes with the spices. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or frying pan. Add the garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle, stir it around and let it brown slightly before adding the beef. Brown the beef. When the beef is nearly cooked, add the lime juice and let the liquid simmer down to a gravy. Remove from heat.
Stuff the sopaipillas: Slice a hot sopaipilla along one of the straight edges (or both if you really want to stuff it). Carefully pry the sopaipilla open wide enough to accommodate the fillings. Spoon in the meat or beans, cheese, and any vegetables you like (tomatoes, lettuce, onions, avocado). Top with guacamole (if using) and/or salsa. Serve hot. Makes 16.
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