October 14, 2022
This is Evelyn.
Evelyn is a chef. No, she doesn’t have a namesake restaurant. She’s 9. But Evelyn is a chef.
I’m not 100% sure what I was doing when I was 9. But it’s a pretty safe bet that cheffing was not one of the activities that I was involved in. The REAL cooking part of my life wouldn’t come until much later. Evelyn’s getting a head start.
When she’s not whipping up recipes in the kitchen, Evelyn is pretty much like any other 9-year-old. She’s doing 9-year-old things like going to school, playing with her friends, and overall enjoying her “tween” years. Evelyn is also a published author, so she is going to be the PERFECT person to help me with this project.
If you’ve been reading Sarasota Bites for even a short time, you know that I love my Make it at Home adventures. I think my kitchen skills are pretty serviceable. But this particular undertaking needed a person of Evelyn’s un-advanced age.
I’ll admit I love being able to get a preview peek at new cookbooks. But this particular one created a tiny problem for me. I wanted to cook something out of it (and write about it, of course). But at the same time, I didn’t want to endure the criticism that would probably follow. I’m sure you can imagine the comments. “Any kid could make that!!” “Aren’t you good enough to make an adult recipe?” and the like. (Yes, the internet can be a cruel place). 😔
Every problem has a solution. My problem would be solved by 9-year-old Chef Evelyn. Even though she lives over 1,200 miles north of Sarasota in SW Michigan, I was determined to have Evelyn be my Make it at Home stand-in for this recipe rundown.
With the assistance of the USPS, I got Chef Melian’s cookbook into Evelyn’s hands. She took some time to page through it and thoughtfully consider the recipe possibilities. It sounds like a lot to ask of an 9-year-old, but she’s pretty advanced.
After a short Zoom Q & A (she can Zoom like a pro! I guess kids these days can do that), she decided to make pupusas for her dish. For the uninitiated, a pupusa is a griddle-cooked corn cake usually filled with beans, cheese, or both. We’re certainly not timid, so we’re going for both.
📝 A little pupusa trivia (that’s a niche trivia topic!) – These tasty little corn cakes are the National Dish of El Salvador! We are not messing around with any old recipe here. We’re going straight for a National Dish!! 🌟🌟
A Sarasota Bites recipe article just wouldn’t be the same without a little video. Of course, we would never want to let you down…https://dinesarasota.bulletin.com/common/referer_frame.php
Let’s get to it! First, we need to start with the recipe…
· 2 cups (8oz.) masa harina
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1 ⅓ cups room-temperature water, plus extra if needed
· ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (3oz. )
· ¾ cup canned red kidney beans, rinsed
· 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, measured separately
· 1. Use scissors to cut along the side seams of a large zipper-lock plastic bag, leaving the bottom seam intact. (Your bag will open like a book!)
· 2. Put the masa harina and salt in a medium bowl and mix well with your hands. Slowly add the room-temperature water to the bowl and mix with your hands until you have a moist, soft dough.
· 3. Make a golf ball–size ball of dough and gently press it flat. If many large cracks form around the edges, the dough is too dry. Stir in more room-temperature water into the bowl of dough, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough no longer cracks when you press it.
· 4. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions, roll each one into a ball, and place on a plate. Cover with a clean dish towel.
· 5. In a small bowl, combine the mozzarella and beans.
· 6. Shape and fill 1 pupusa following photos 2–4 on the right. Repeat shaping and filling with the remaining dough and cheese and bean mixture to make 5 more pupusas (there should be 6 total).
· 7. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat for about 1 minute (the oil should be hot but not smoking). Swirl the skillet so that the oil covers the bottom evenly. Add 3 pupusas and cook until they are browned on the first side, 3 to 4 minutes.
· 8. Use a spatula to flip the pupusas. Cook until they are browned on the second side and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.
· 9. Transfer the pupusas to a serving platter. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and repeat cooking with the remaining 3 pupusas. Turn off the heat. Serve the pupusas warm.
OK, yes!! At first glance, these instructions seem intimidating. Remember, they are written for people Evelyn’s age (Or maybe adults that have never been near a kitchen before). So yes, they are super detailed.
📝RECIPE NOTES – (AS PROVIDED BY CHEF EVELYN)
“Definitely use your hands to mix the Masa, salt, and water. A whisk or a spoon wouldn’t work. Squeezing the dough with your hands works wonders and feels amazing on your hands!” 😃
“The dough will be a little dry. Be prepared to mix in extra water, a little at a time. We had to add quite a bit.”
MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: the dough will be bigger than golf balls
“When shaping the dough into a ball after filling it, act like your hands are a mold. Molds don’t press. They shape. Be gentle as you form the ball.”
“While cooking the pupusas, be careful flipping them. The hot oil can splash.”
OK, it’s time to take a look at how Evelyn did with her pupusas…
WOW! She can really cook! I think the people of El Salvador would be absolutely delighted with her attempt.
Usually, this is the place in these articles where we talk a little bit about plating (a work in progress for me) and of course, tasting. As you can see, Evelyn is a far better plater at her young age than I am at my more “mature” age.
And as for the tasting part, I’ll just leave you with this. You should be able to get the idea of how these taste without a single word being written.
📝 A special thanks to my recipe tester and guest chef, Evelyn Sutherland. A BIG thanks to her mom Erin for coordinating all of this. And, for the fantastic photography and sous-cheffing. I needed a person with Evelyn’s exact skillset to attempt this recipe. Thanks!! Excellent work, Chef! 👩🍳
Here’s a link if you’d like a copy of Gaby’s Latin American Kitchen: 70 Kid-Tested and Kid-Approved Recipes for Young Chefs.
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