Sunday, May 8, 2011

It Was Cinco de Mayo: Gorditas Zacatecanas!

I know it's a few days past the Fifth of May, but hey, I got a lot of catching up to do! Remember how I once said that I subscribe to a magazine called Saveur? It's a foodie magazine and it is decidely NOT vegan, but I love to veganize recipes. Especially authentic ones. Well, this month's issue featured a spread on authentic Mexican food in honor of Cinco de Mayo, and lucky for me, almost every single one of the recipes was either accidently vegan or super easy to veganize. I had a hard time deciding which recipe to make first (I'm going to make them all!), but since I decided I had an undeniable craving for masa, the Gorditas Zacatencanas (Zacatecas-style Baked Masa Cakes) got made first.

First things first though, I had to make a stop at one of the grocery stores in the area that has a large selection of Hispanic foods. In order to make these, you need a specific kind of corn flour called masa harina. It's real fine, finer than cornmeal. I don't think it's actually that hard to find. Almost every store around here sells it.

Once I had my masa harina, I was ready to make some gorditas! I had made a pot of pinto beans the night before, so all I had to do was pull them out of the fridge. I started with dry beans because they're a million times cheaper! Of course, you can always skip this step, use canned, and go straight to gordita making!

Big Pot o' Pintos:
1 1/2 c. dried pinto beans
2 bay leaves
2 Tb. chopped garlic
2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tb. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. kosher salt (this is an estimate, it is to taste)

1. To begin, I always do a "quick soak". Rinse the pinto beans a couple times and pick through them to find any bad ones or stones. Add enough water to cover them completely, plus an additional one inch of water on top of them. Cover, bring them to a boil, and boil them for three minutes. Turn off the heat, and let them sit, covered, for at least one hour. Sometimes I let it sit all morning.

2. Once beans have soaked, drain off the soak water and fill with fresh water to cover, plus about one-half to one inch above the bean line. Add the bay leaves, garlic, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour or until beans are done.

3. Once beans are done, you can drain off some off the excess water, then add the lime juice and the salt to taste. ADD THE ACID AND SALT AT THE END!! Otherwise, your beans will never soften. The beans are now ready to use or to put in the fridge.

Now, let's get to gordita making! These were really tasty, and surprisingly simple and quick to make! However, you may need to add slightly more water to the masa dough. I didn't because I had already rolled them into balls and was lazy, so they crumbled a little on me when I was filling them. However, when they baked the crumbles stayed in place, lol. Next time I make these, I will just roll the dough flat, top one side with bean filling and then fold the other half of the dough on top of it. I'm not gonna worry about pinching them together or rolling them up because they bean filling doesn't ooze out of them. I also used only 1/3 c. of shortening, and I don't recommend that. They need the full 1/2 c. to get them all flakey and delicious.

Gorditas Zacatecanas:
For the bean filling:
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic
1/3 c. yellow onion, finely chopped
2 c. cooked pinto beans, drained of excess liquid
1/2 c. water
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

For the gorditas:
2 c. masa harina
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. unhydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 1/4 (ish) c. water

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Make the bean filling: In a skillet sprayed with some nonstick over medium heat, saute the onions for about three minutes or until softened. Add the cumin, chili powder, and garlic and saute until fragrant, another 1-2 minutes. Add the water and pinto beans. Mash with a fork and cook until thickened, but not dry, about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and set aside.

3. Make the gorditas: In a large bowl, whisk together masa harina and salt; add shortening and 1 1/4 cups water, and stir until dough forms. Divide into eight 2″ balls and flatten each into a 1/4″-thick disk, and place 1 heaping tbsp. bean filling in center. Wrap disk around filling, pinching edges together to seal, then transfer, seam side down, to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
To serve these babies, I topped them with some green salsa, avocado cubes, tomato chunks, and chopped yellow onion.

These were everything I expected them to be, and more! They're kind of like a lazy tamale, so if you are looking to fix a tamale hankering (and you don't want to pay $5 for a certain brand's delicious frozen ones...), I highly recommend this recipe! I will be experimenting with this recipe more in the future. I'm also going to try and figure out how to make mine look like the ones at Saveur's website... Oh, and the salsa I recommend is Herdez's canned green salsa (they also make red if you aren't a fan of green). It's made in Mexico and is fairly cheap. It has like, five ingredients: tomatillos, salt, cilantro, serrano peppers, onions; with no preservatives and no artificial colors or flavors. It is authentically tasty! I don't know how easy it is to find elsewhere, but this too is all over the place here.

Mmmm. Canned salsa.

Now, don't forget! There is still a couple more days before my first Friday Cookbook Giveaway ends! The contest ends Wednesday at midnight!  

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