Making Gorditas

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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.

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