Monday, June 14, 2010
Sopes with Porter-Glazed Black Beans, Guacamole, and Pineapple Salsa
Corn masa flour is one of the cornerstones of Mexican cooking, and appears in an endless variety of shapes and sizes, from tamales to tortillas to empanadas. Sopes are another member of the family, essentially thick corn tortillas with a raised lip around the perimeter, which acts as a container for any filling you like.
I found a brand of sopes (pronounced so-pays) with no preservatives at a market in Chico, so knew I had to give them a try. It was also an excuse to make beer-glazed black beans with Sierra Nevada Porter, inspired by a Mark Bittman recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I live just a few blocks from the Sierra Nevada brewery, and wanted to try their porter, but drinking dark beer in 90 F weather doesn’t have much appeal. To me, porters and stouts are for fall and winter. Consuming said beer as a saucy glaze for black beans, though, sounds like a pretty good idea.
You could use canned black beans for this, but whenever I’m making something specially flavored I strongly prefer cooking my own dry beans. In my cast iron frying pan, I sautéed a half cup of diced white onion, with a few cloves of crushed garlic, in corn oil. When the onion begins to brown, add 2 or 3 cups of cooked and drained beans, along with a 12 oz. bottle of porter, 1 tbsp. molasses, and 1 tbsp. ancho chili powder, along with salt and pepper. Use whatever chili powder you like - or none at all - depending on your heat preference.
Bring the bean and beer mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to a light simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the beer has almost completely evaporated, leaving the beans in a thick sauce. I found the flavor almost a little too bitter at first, thanks to the porter, but that seemed to go away as the beans sat for a while after cooking. After the flavors mingled for a while, the result was a rich dark sauce - beer gravy, if you like - slightly sweet from the molasses, with just a hint of chili heat from the ancho powder.
While the beans are resting, fry the sopes in a little corn oil if you want a crunchy exterior, or simply warm in a dry frying pan. If my toaster had come along on the move, that’s what I would have used to make these - I think toasting would be perfect, since they are firm enough to survive a toaster, and would nicely brown on either side.
From here, use any fillings you like in tacos or any other Mexican food - salsa, guacamole, vegan cheese or sour cream, seasoned greens or mushrooms, roasted veggies, olives, baked tofu, etc. I made simple guacamole with cilantro and fresh lime juice, and another simple salsa, with tomatoes, lime, green onions, and pineapple chunks. The bright, sweet taste of pineapple or other citrus fruit is a welcome contrast to the porter sauce.
Like any customizable foods - sandwiches, pizza, tacos - these would be great for a party or cooking with friends. Just get a bunch of good fillings together on the table, fry or toast a few sopes, and let everyone make their own to their liking.
Here’s a simple sope with beans, to give an impression of the saucy porter glaze. A light Mexican beer like Corona would be perfect with these, especially in summer. Salud!
P.S.! I recommend everyone head over to The Crafty Kook right away for a beautiful video (with perfect musical background) from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. For those not keeping score at home, that's where I'm from, and TRNP is one of the treasures of the state. Very cool, River - thanks for the memories!