In my ideal world I'd be going out to eat a few times a week and writing about it for you here. But there are several obstacles to that the biggest one being I'm poor, super poor (getting laid off will do that to you). Another problem with that is that I can't be bothered to take pictures of what I'm eating while I'm eating it. Finally, I don't know about you guys but I'm not crazy about reading about a restaurant there is never any chance of me eating at. So I have a new strategy: when I go out to eat if there is something I really enjoy I'll try to reproduce it at home and document the results here. That way you can try it at home even if you are a thousand miles away from the restaurant I found it at.
First up: pupusas! Yeah I didn't know what they were either when I saw them on the menu. My friend Michelle (who seems to know all the interesting places to eat in Providence) took me to La Hacienda in Olneyville Square (apparently this is the second restaurant of the same name by the same people) recently to try to the pupusas. A note on Olneyville: we don't really have "scary" parts of Rhode Island but if we did this would be it. But surprisingly (actually not that surprisingly) Olneyville has a lot of fabulous places to eat. This is of course if your definition of fabulous is unusual, delicious, inexpensive food. Maybe not so much if you'd rather not see passed out homeless dudes in the middle of the day on your way into the restaurant.
Back to pupusas: although I'd never had them before they were quite familiar. They are made with basically the same dough as tamales (masa flour) but instead of being wrapped in corn husks and steamed these are stuffed with a filling, squished flat and fried, then served with a sort of coleslaw and salsa. (This place also served everything with an ungodly amount of cilantro, which can be forgiven, but I think I'll leave that out.) Although I believe the restaurant is Mexican these are technically Salvadorian.
So here's how we made ours: we started with the filling. My research showed that there are a ton of different options but we went with pork. We started by sauteing cubes:
We then added green peppers, onions and sofrito (a tomato based sauce):
When it was all cooked we shredded it, and by shredded I mean we tried that for awhile and then ended up chopping it:
To mix up the dough I just combined masa flour and water until it felt like the right consistency. How did I know what that was? I experimented to make sure it wasn't so dry that it would crack when shaped but not so wet that it fell apart.
Although some of the instructions said that traditionally you make a ball of dough, stuff it with meat and then squish it into a patty, I knew I couldn't handle that. Other advice suggested that we make two tortillas and then put the stuffing in between them. This was much easier especially since we own...a tortilla press!
Basically you line it with seran wrap, put a ball of dough in between the two metal pieces and use the handle to squish it into a nice flat tortilla. This worked fine but we hit one final snag. If I made the tortillas and then stuffed them and sealed the edges they came out with a huge lump the in the middle and didn't cook evenly at all. My brilliant revelation: squish them in the tortilla press again after they've been filled! It worked brilliantly and these were very close to what I had at the restaurant:
These are the finished pupusas. You can see that the top one is before I came up with my brilliant technique and it didn't cook quite as evenly.
Here is the final product with the salsa, coleslaw type thingy (cabbage, green pepper, and some seasoning which I've since forgotten) and some extra filling on the side because we made way more then I had patience to stuff into pupusas.
Do me a favor and search pictures of pupusas on google. Don't mine look just like the pictures?!
And yes that is a glass of OJ on the side. I'm classy like that.
These were fabulous but just as big a pain in the ass as tamales...which we make once every decade or so.
So the conclusion? Find a place near you that sells pupusas for like 2 or 3 bucks and just get those. This is one of those foods that if you can get it so well done and so cheap at a restaurant...why would you bother at home?
(Not a very auspicious start to my restaurant recipe theft series is it?)