Papusas are a scrumptious Latin breakfast common in El Salvador and Honduras.
They are super easy to make and can be varied wildly to individual flavor preferences.
Since a friend was interested in the recipe as I was taught it, here it is in its simplest form. I am giving the laziest possible way of doing it, those of you with more time and inventiveness can easily modify from here and knock your socks off if you want to hand pick your organic beans straight from the field and crush them at home with your mortar and pestle.
- 2 cups Masa
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 can refried black beans
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- Enough corn oil to create a thin layer on the bottom of the frying pan of your choice.
- Bowl to mix in
- Spatula to mix with
- Pancake turner to place/extract the papusas
- A second turner or spatula to stabilize helps.
- A decent flat surface to work on, preferably with wax paper down.
- Mix the masa and water together gently with the spatula. This should not be an aggressive process, it should all merge fairly easily into a play-dough consistency.
- Dump the mixed contents onto your wax paper surface and shape into a ball by hand.
- Begin splitting into half, keeping it ball shaped as you go from one ball, to two balls, to four balls, to eight balls.
- Flatten your first ball to a disc that is about a quarter inch thick. Keep working the edges back inwards as they start to crack and split to keep them cohesive and maintain a circular shape. Lift the wax paper gently to separate the disc from it and flip it over, so the shiny smooth side is up. If it breaks apart during this step re-ball it and try again. You may need to dampen it a little more if you can't get it to stay together.
- Now create your second disc similarly so you have two that match each other approximately side by side.
- Spoon your refried beans gently onto one of the discs, flattening and smoothing it like sauce on a pizza, being sure to leave the edges open.
- Next sprinkle your cheese onto the refried beans and layer it to your heart's content.
- Now take the matching disc and set it on top, pinch down the edges like you would a pie crust until it's sealed, then lift it up again gently and press the whole papusa gently to flatten it, resealing any edges that start to open. You may need to gently moisten your edges to fully seal them if they keep coming undone. Pinch closed any fissures that open in the shell itself as best you can, but it won't ruin anything to have a few vents.
- Continue this process for the remaining three sets of dough balls, until you have four papusas ready to fry.
- Create a layer of corn oil in your chosen frying pan, preferably one with minimal curve, decently high edges and a fairly flat bottom, and bring it a shimmer on medium heat.
- Carefully move your papusas into the hot oil using the pancake turner and another spatula to stabilize.
- Cook for about 4 minutes uncovered, the oil should be a nice gentle bubbling through this part of the process.
- Now flip the papusas and let them cook another 4 minutes on that side.
- If the previously cooked side doesn't look completely done because you jumped the gun on the oil being ready you can flip them again for another minute or two until they reach a similar doneness to the second side.
- Finished papusas should be removed from the pan and set on a plate with a paper towel until you're ready to serve. If you don't have a very large frying pan you can do them in batches of the same oil, but you may need to add a little more oil to the pan between batches to keep it covered.
Notes on the ingredients;
You can pre-heat your beans before you insert them. You can also add seasonings or even more cheese to the beans when you heat them. I've been known to mix mine with jalapeño cream cheese to give it a creamy kick.
Some people like to add a layer of shredded beef, chicken or pork between the beans and cheese, this can be quite nice if you have some already cooked leftovers lying around and ready to go.
The traditional cheese for this is a nice white queso blanco or queso fresco but any shredded cheese you have lying around can work in a pinch. Mozzarella is quite nice and in the example pictures here I am using an easily-obtained-if-insultingly-named "Mexican 4 cheese blend".
Some common choices of toppings to drizzle on top of the fried papusa; Sour cream, jalapeno cream cheese sauce (we use that on a lot of things, yes, although we don't usually put it inside and on top since that's overkill), siracha, salsa or picante sauce.
Traditional papusas are also served with curtido, something like a cabbage slaw, but my family is more likely to have some scrambled eggs to accompany them.