Making Gorditas

Every time I watch someone making gorditas–thick corn patties with filling in the middle–(also called tlacoyos in Morelos) I want to know how to do it. It’s mesmerizing to watch people put a filling into corn masa, pat it flat, and make a steamy meal. I especially like Tlacoyos with mashed aba (large lima beans) filling.

I got my chance to learn today when my mother-in-law taught me. We made our filling out of garbanzos (which have lots of calcium and don’t cause gas). First we soaked then cooked the garbanzos with salt, onion, and garlic in the cooking water. Then we liquefied them in the blender with as little water as possible. Finally, we simmered them until they were almost dried. We set them aside in a bowl and as they cooled they formed a thick paste.

For the first step of the masa we purchased about 3/4 of a kilo masa at the local tortillería.  My mother-in-law knows how to doctor it up so that it works well for gorditas. She added a splash of cooking oil and a dash of salt. The oil is to make the masa malleable so that it can be worked without cracking on the edges or sticking to your fingers. It also helps the gordita to get a nice crunchy exterior when it is cooked. It really takes very little oil. You don’t even notice it in there when you are working the masa. The salt is to give the masa flavor. Since the gorditas are quite thick, they taste better if very lightly salted. You don’t want them to be salty, just not plain tasting.

Luckily, my mother-in-law knows how to make gorditas, but isn’t an expert. The experts put the filling into the masa so deftly that they do it in about 2 pats and I can’t imitate them. My mother-in-law was able to show me some steps that were achievable for a beginner like me. To form the gordita you grab a mandarin orange sized amount of masa and roll it into a smooth ball. You pat it alternating your hands–you probably have to see–and hear–this to know how to do it–pat, pat, pat–until you have a disk about 1/2 cm thick. (The trick to keeping it from sticking to your hands is to keep it moving from one hand to other. If you stop to help your toddler son, for example, to keep his masa from gluing to the chair he is standing on, your masa will stick right to your palm.)

To add the filling you grab a tablespoon sized glob of paste (it can be garbanzos, refried beans, abas, or ricotta-like cheese) and flatten it into the center area of the masa. Leave about 1 cm or more around the edges untouched. Fold the edges of the masa up toward the center, covering the glob of filling. Nudge it together to try to cover the filling completely. If a small amount shows through, don’t worry. It will stay in there. Pat the whole thing out until it is about 1 cm thick all across.

Heat on a comal or hot metal pan with a minimal amount of oil. You can do with without oil, but the gorditas won’t have the same nice crunchy exterior. Turn the gorditas once or twice to keep them from burning, but allowing them to get hot all of the way through. You don’t have to worry about the masa and filling being moist in the center because they have both been pre-cooked. You actually want the gordita to be moist in the middle. They are done when they sound hollow when you tap on them.

Eat with salsa, sour cream, and shredded salty cheese on the top. You can also put finly chopped lettuce on it if you want. In Tepoztlan they are served with strips of boiled nopales on top. Mmmmmmmm.

From Refrigerator to Cabin

Now that I live in Mexico my house doesn’t have any heat. During the winter months our house is actually quite cold. It gets into the 60s and even though that doesn’t sound cold to people who live up north, if you think about it, it is cold. If you sit outside in the shade on a day that is 65 you eventually start to shiver, right? Now imagine that you are acclimated to 80 to 90 degree weather. Well that’s what happens in my house! To top it off I am sitting on the cold tile floor with my little son to play and read books. The cold soaks right through our clothes and I have a worse time keeping him warm than myself.  We have to wear lots of sweaters and warm socks.

I had started to think of my house as a lonely refrigerator. Now my mother-in-law has come to stay with us for a couple of weeks and we are moving around more and chatting a lot. Now the cold house reminds me of a cabin. When I was little my parents used to take us to the mountains to ski and a couple of times we got to rent a cabin. Wearing the sweaters and socks and hats inside reminds me of those fun times. The memories connected to this makes me feel more like the holidays are coming up and it’s fun.

Potholes Filled for Tips

We took a quick trip to Michoacan this weekend. On the way there we traveled through some high mountain villages and we noticed that the road is getting quite worn out in many of these. Because the road is a narrow two-laner with no shoulder, it is kind of like doing a moving puzzle to guide your vehicle around the potholes without going outside of your allotted area of blacktop. There is a lot of breaking, swerving, and gear shifting involved in it and travel becomes exhausting.

Just moments after my husband exclaimed about how the government had to get up there and fix the road, we passed some men with shovels standing in the middle of the road. They had filled the potholes with soil from near the road and were collecting tips from drivers for the service.

This is quite illustrative of Mexico and how things often work. When something needs to be done the people who should do it often don’t, so some people who want to do it do it but it doesn’t turn out quite as well as if the people who should have done it had done it.