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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

Stuffed Sopaipillas
[print recipe]

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.)
shredded lettuce
diced tomatoes
chopped onions
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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24 nibbles at “warmth”

  1. Dani H says:

    I’m fortunate that in Arizona we can get both sopaipillas and Indian fry bread. I must admit that that is the only Native American food that I am familiar with {shame on me!} As for Mexican fare, I don’t know if what we eat is truly Mexican, Mexican-American, Mexican-Arizonan or a mixture of all three.

    I’m definitely going to have to try homemade sopaipillas!

  2. Kristin says:

    Love the Kaweah …not essay…more of a meditation.

  3. spicytofu says:

    Love the pictures of the dog and the sandwiches are mouthwatering!

  4. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    It looks like you had a fantastic day. Good food. Good company.

  5. Kathya says:

    Please give Kaweah a snuggle for me! Miss you!! xo

  6. megan says:

    kaweah!! she is so cute :) when i see pictures of her, i think of our black lab, beau, who my mom had to put down a few years ago because he was in lots of pain from old-age complications :( he made us so happy.
    she looks like a lucky dog, to be able to explore the outdoors with you so much!!! my dog was a suburbia dog who got 2 walks a day, but no where the amount of activity that kaweah gets. i love the 1st and 2nd pictures of her- she looks regal in the most feminine way possible! what a gorgeous and happy dog.

    i totally want to try these sopaipillas, too….

  7. Anna says:

    Dogs are the best. <3

  8. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    she is such a sweet old girl….

    great shots of her lovely old face, there is nothing like a lab

    I will try the sopapillas – they look wonderfu!

  9. Holly says:

    Kaweah is gorgeous, and whenever you post pictures of her, I’m always amazed at how much her face still looks like a puppy face at 14! Hardly any gray hair – it must be all of that special love, attention, and CO mountain fresh air and exercize she’s getting. I have a 7 year old yellow lab, and I sure hope he’s as happy as Kaweah looks when he’s 14 (-: The sopaipillas looks wonderful!

  10. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    I had sopaipillas for the first time last year. So delicious!!

    The doggeh photos are killing me!! Adorable!

  11. Susanne says:

    Kaweah must be the happiest doggie in the world. Thanks for sharing her with us…

  12. John says:

    The mental image of Kaweah rolling her head in your hands… Heaven!

  13. Kate says:

    Kaweah is beautiful.

  14. L. says:

    I live in Vermont and it’s …. difficult to get good Mexican or even Tex-Mex here. Even in Boston the options are relatively slim. Locally we’ve slowly acquired a few decent taco places, but I’ve never had a sopaipilla. Your photos are making me salivate even though I’m already stuffed from tonight’s dinner.

    I really admire how you’re so mindful to take more time and care with Kaweah as she ages. It’s easy to talk about appreciating the moments we have together, but in practice it’s easy to get distracted or let denial (about the way that we never have all the time that we wish) get in the way.

  15. Kurt Jacobson says:

    Old dogs have a style and grace all their own, and they are priceless.

  16. Kristi says:

    I live in Albuquerque and yes, Stufy’s is an institution! I’ve never thought of making my own until now. Thank you for a beautiful post.

  17. Bridget says:

    Oh, I did NOT like Stufy’s as a kid. It always seemed mushy and blah, probably because I was ordering sopaipillas stuffed with ground beef – and the ubiquitous lettuce that would immediately wilt. Gross.

    Now we go occasionally for lunch when we visit Albuquerque, and I get the carne adovado stuffed sopaipilla. It’s a whole different ball game, just lots of meat, red chile sauce, and super crispy potatoes. Yum. (But not as good as Twister’s carne adovada breakfast burrito, which is one of my favorite meals in Albuquerque!)

  18. susan wing says:

    Agree with Bridget..Stufy’s not a favorite, but making them fresh at home with homemade mole or carne adovada…mmm on a cold wintery day.

  19. Ed G nm expat says:

    Every time I see pictures of your girl I marvel at how good she looks. Shiny coat, clear eyes. She has the look of a dog who is at one with her world, healthy, happy and loved. You and she and Jeremy are all fortunate to have each other!

  20. Coffee and Crumpets says:

    These look SO good!! Meat and bread…yum! Hope you are enjoying our winter storm today, perfect day for baking :)


  21. K says:

    What a sweetheart!

  22. jess says:

    I was in Boulder in January so I finally got to try Picas! It was delicious but it was hard to pass up Snarfs, which was another place you’ve recommended on more than one occasion. I had the tacos al pastor and they were superb.

  23. hungry dog says:

    Old dogs are the sweetest creatures on the planet. Period. Enjoy every day with Kaweah, she is a beauty!

  24. jenyu says:

    Dani – no matter what they are (authentic or not) they are fantastic to eat! :)

    Kristin – I think we learn a lot from our furry companions.

    spicytofu – thank you.

    Abbe – :)

    Kathya – she sends her dopey wags your way!

    megan – we’re pretty dedicated to making her last days as happy as possible. Of course, she could live a few more years – we don’t know! She seems to be enjoying retirement ;)

    Anna – word!

    Rocky Mountain Woman – thanks!

    Holly – she really does look like a puppy. I think my MIL picked the best pup for us (Kaweah was an anniversary gift) and she’s thankfully been free of any major medical issues too. Kaweah is a good dog in many ways (she’s also a bad dog in other ways, but age seems to reduce the ability to be really bad) :)

    Brandon – I know! Right!? Love sopaipillas. Thanks :)

    Susanne – xo

    John – dogs have a way of knowing how to enjoy life, no? :)

    Kate – thank you!

    L – you’re so kind. Thank you xo

    Kurt – they sure are! xo

    Kristi – mmm, Albuquerque :)

    Bridget – I don’t think Jeremy ever ate there, but apparently everyone in ABQ knows about it. And yeah, carne adovada is like the best thing EVAR!

    susan – I guess I may have to avoid Stufy’s?

    Ed – that is so sweet of you, thank you xo

    Coffee and Crumpets – ha ha, perfect day for skiing!!

    K – :)

    Jess – I think you’ll just have to come back and visit for longer!

    hungry dog – xxoo

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