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Gorditas with Shredded Beef (Gorditas con Carne Deshebrada)

gordita2

Have I told you before that I love Mexican food? Well, in case you didn’t hear…I love Mexican food. I could eat it every day. Around here, of course, the most abundant “Mexican” food is Tex-Mex. Gooey, cheesy enchiladas, crunchy tacos, chile con queso and lots of flour tortillas. Not that there’s anything wrong with that cuisine, but sometimes I want real Mexican food. When this craving hits, I often turn to my Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayless cookbooks.

This recipe was the result of one such craving. Didn’t know what I wanted, but I started thumbing through Rick Bayless’s Mexico One Plate At A Time, and stopped at this gorditas recipe. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to experience true gorditas (once or twice at a hole-in-the-wall place – of which I cannot remember the name - in Oak Cliff), but I knew I just had to make these. Crispy corn masa pockets, stuffed with a saucy shredded beef? What could be more wonderful than that?

Of course, this is not a quick recipe. Not for the weeknights when you want something on the table in a flash. (You could, however, make the beef ahead of time, and even go so far as pan-bake the gorditas and refrigerate until you were ready to fry up the gorditas.) However, if you have the time, I highly recommend making these…they are so worth it. The meat is saucy, with just a hint of heat, very savory. I substituted Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix for the flour, and the gorditas came out with a great, slightly chewy and crisp texture. As for the filling, feel free to experiment a bit. If you have leftover shredded pork or chicken, use that. (with a tomatillo salsa, perhaps?) I contemplated a grilled shrimp and cheese concoction, I might have to make that soon. Or you could go vegetarian, with some mushrooms, or a mix of sauteed poblanos and cheese…the possibilities are endless. If you do come up with a good idea (or two), tell me! I’d love to hear about it.

(Adapted From Rick Bayless’s Mexico: One Plate At A Time)

For the beef:

1 1/2 lbs boneless beef chuck steak, cut into 4 pieces

3 small white onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 T vegetable oil, plus oil to a depth of 1/2 inch for frying

1 28-0z can of good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped (I pureed them)

3 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

1 t chipotle chili powder

Salt to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the meat with 2 quarts salted water, about 1/3 of the onions and 1/2 the garlic. Simmer until meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain, reserving the broth for another use. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into coarse strands with your fingers or two forks.

Wash and dry the saucepan, set over medium heat, and add the 1 tablespoon oil. When hot, add 1/2 of the remaining onions and cook until golden, about 6 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, chiles, and chipotle powder and cook until most of the juice has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the meat and simmer for a few more minutes. Taste and season with salt as needed. Keep warm.

For the gorditas:

1 3/4 c powdered masa harina mixed with 1 c plus 2 T warm water

1/3 c Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 c grated Mexican queso anejo (can substitute grated Romano or Parmesan)

1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a heavy cast-iron or other heavy nonstick griddle over medium. Knead the masa to make it pliable, adding a little water if necessary to achieve a soft-cookie-dough consistency. Knead in the Pamela’s baking mix, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Divide the dough into 10 portions and roll into balls; cover with plastic to keep from drying out.

Line a tortilla press with two pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (a food storage bag works well for this). Gently press a ball of dough between the sheets of plastic to about 4 inches in diameter (about 1/4 inch thick). Peel off the top sheet of plastic, flip the gordita, uncovered side down, onto the fingers of one hand and gently peel off the second piece of plastic. In one flowing movement, roll the gordita off your hand and onto the heated skillet. Bake for 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and bake for 1 1/2 minutes on the other side. The gordita will be lightly browned and crusty on the top and bottom, but still a little uncooked on the sides. Remove and set on a plate. Repeat this process with the remaining gorditas.

In the cast-iron or other deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil over medium to medium-high until the oil is at about 350 degrees. One by one, fry the gorditas, turning them over after they have been in the oil about 15 seconds, and cooking them for a total of about 45 second, or until crisp but not hard. Most will have puffed up a little. Drain on paper towels.

Once the are all fried, use a knife to cut a slit in the thin edge of each one about halfway around its circumference, opening a pocket. Fill each gordita with about 1/4 cup shredded meat, a little onion, grated cheese, and cilantro.

Serves 10 as a snack, or 4-5 as a meal.