Friday, November 23, 2012

El Salvador

El Salvador - Pacific Coastline
Photo courtesy of user Rick's Pic (Montreal) on Flickr
Background: Independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839
Location: Central America, Pacific Ocean side, between Guatemala and Honduras
Area: Over 21,000 sq km; 153rd largest in the world
         Slightly smaller than Massachusetts
Natural Hazards: Known as the "Land of Volcanoes"
Geography: Smallest Central American country, the only one that doesn't border the Caribbean Sea
Noun: Salvadoran
Population: Over 6 millions; 107th largest in the world
Capital: San Salvador
Economy: Third largest economy in the region

Source: CIA Factbook

As I have mentioned before, when I start my search, I always look for a national dish first.  This usually brings up some interesting results, as people don't have concensus for most countries.  The exception was El Salvador.  Every place I looked brought up one dish: Pupusas.  And since these are homemade tortillas stuffed with yumminess, I was more than happy to take their advice.

After settling on the website linked above and the cheese flavor, the rest of the ingredients weren't hard to find.  Even the Maseca was just at the regular grocery store.  Apparently making your own corn tortillas is more popular than I thought.
The recipe said to just mix the water and flour, adding more flour if needed, to make a "beautiful" dough.  I actually had to keep adding water.  It otherwise was not sticking together at all.  I noticed that the recipe on the back of the flour actually called for more ingredients, but I kept on with just the water and flour.  Plus water.  And some more water...
Six cups is a lot of flour...
The mix was not too hard to make.  A ridiculous amount of cheese plus some green peppers.  Cheese is probably the greatest food ever created, so I wasn't complaining.

I don't think that I cut the green peppers small enough, because they kinda stood out.

One day, I would very much like to get a tortilla press, but for now I don't have one.  I also don't have flat plates that I could use to press out a tortilla.  So I improvised.  Cutting boards are flat, right?
Now we have a method, we just need the raw material.  In working with the dough to make "plum-sized" pieces, I noticed it still seemed a bit dry.  I was wary to add more water though, since I had already gone well over the recipe's suggested amount.  I just went with it and formed my bowls.
The edges were cracking a lot...
It was also difficult to get two tablespoons of cheese mixture in the middle and still be able to close it.  The large green pepper pieces didn't help.
I was rather surprised at how it looked after being "pressed."  I had a very different concept in my mind.  I guess I expected it to retain more of a pocket-like structure with the cheese in the middle, but it actually got incorporated more than that.  It was also quite a lot of work to get it below .5 cm.  They look thicker in the pictures on the website...

When I read instructions and see "cook for four minutes on each side" I think "Hey, that won't take long!"  I never factor in that it is actually eight minutes for one tortilla.  One!  I think I only ended up making six or eight total.  With two pans.  It was quite tedious.

The also tended to...fall apart.  Some more than others.
Best one I made by far.
About average...
Kevin and Brendan didn't have much to participate in for this one, so they just hung out.
Dinner is served!
My homemade pupusas?  Not so good.  The dough part was grainy and too chewy.  The cheese part was, shockingly, really bland.  There was just really nothing redeeming about these.  The one I mentioned above as being the best-looking was also the closest to how pupusas should be, I think.  The cheese mixture created a bit of a pocket, and the tortilla itself was actually coherent.  But still not really edible.

Well then, didn't see that coming.  Definitely should have made the recipe a lot smaller.  Waste of so much cheese!  Here's to hoping the next one goes better!

Next time: Equatorial Guinea

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