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Crispy Potato Sopes (Masa Boats) with Salsa, Goat Cheese and Herb Salad

Crispy Potato Sopes (Masa Boats) with Salsa, Goat Cheese and Herb Salad
A favorite Mexican snack, sopes ("little boats") are traditionally made from corn masa and are the purview of street cooks, who deftly pat the dough and form it into little rounds that are baked on a griddle. In this contemporary version, the sopes are made from a blend of corn masa and potatoes, producing an invitingly soft texture. The sope bases can be cooked on the griddle several hours ahead; cover them and let stand at room temperature. Finish the frying just before you want to fill and serve these crisped delicacies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 russet potatoes, about 8 oz. total,
      peeled and cut into large pieces
  • Salt, to taste, plus 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup fresh smooth-ground corn masa for
      tortillas, or 1 cup powdered masa harina
      mixed with 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, plus more as
      needed (optional)
  • 3/4 cup fresh salsa, such as red chili-tomatillo
      salsa
  • 2 generous cups loosely packed torn herb
      leaves, such as watercress, arugula, mizuna
      and/or basil
  • About 1 cup crumbled goat cheese (chèvre),
      ricotta salata or Mexican queso añejo
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the potatoes with water to cover by 2 inches and season with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and let cool for 15 minutes. Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill into a mixing bowl. Discard all but 1 cup of the potatoes and return the 1 cup to the bowl. Knead in the masa and the 3/4 tsp. salt to form a soft dough, similar to a soft cookie dough.

Heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat. Divide the dough into 18 pieces, roll into balls and transfer to a plate. Cover with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.

One at a time, shape the balls into disks about 1/4 inch thick and 2 1/2 inches wide. Using your thumb and index finger, pinch up the edge of the dough to create an upstanding border, about 1/2 inch high, all the way around the disk, forming the sope ("little boat"). Transfer the sope, flat side down, to the heated griddle and cook just to set the bottom, about 1 minute. Meanwhile, continue shaping and then cooking the remaining portions of dough. As you remove each one from the griddle, prick the bottom without penetrating the sope and transfer to a plate. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Preheat an oven to 175°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set in the oven. Stir the balsamic vinegar into the salsa and set out the herbs and goat cheese.

In a deep-fry pan or heavy fry pan over medium heat, pour in oil to a depth of 1/2 inch and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. (If you don't have a thermometer, dip the side of a sope into the oil—if it sizzles vigorously, the oil is ready.) Fry the sopes a few at a time until they are a rich golden brown, about 1 minute. Drain them upside down on the paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.

When all the sopes are done, arrange them on a serving platter. Spoon about 1/2 Tbs. of the salsa into each one, top with a tuft of the herbs and sprinkle generously with the cheese. Serve immediately.
Makes 18 sopes; serves 8 or 9 as an appetizer.
Adapted from Mexico: One Plate At A Time, by Rick Bayless (Scribner, 2000).