Monday, July 26, 2010

Some Things are Best Left to the Professionals

This past Saturday I watched the lovely ladies at El Pulgarcita - 1210 Kennedy Road, Scarborough - make dozens of gorgeous El Salvadoran papusas. They made it look easy, shaping, filling and patting the dough into perfect disks that covered the griddle, while they chatted away in Spanish and danced to the music on the radio.

As I drove home with my take-out container full of papusas (bean & cheese, shredded pork and classic cheese and lorroco) along with the standard accompaniments - simple tomato puree and vinegary cabbage slaw, for which I paid less than $8, I arrogantly said to myself, "I bet I could make papusas."

Well let me tell all of you something, it ain't as easy as it looks!

Today my morning started off with a trip to the supermarket to buy what I needed for my papusa adventure - a bag of Maseca (masa flour), some pork shoulder and a piece of Monterey Jack cheese.

Things started well. When I got everything home I immediately began to braise the pork. A few hours later, gorgeous shredded pork - no problem. I coarsely grated some cheese and mixed some of the masa flour with warm water until I had a dough that resembled the one I had seen the ladies of El Pulgarcita using. I heated and greased my griddle pan and was ready to go.

Then everything started to go wrong. My dough wasn't right. The edges kept fraying and breaking. The filling wouldn't seal. I couldn't pat them nice and flat the way they did. Where had I gone wrong? What wasn't I getting? I don't know, but after making 5 papusas (2 disasters & 3 meh) I gave up.

I'm posting a photo of my 3 mediocre papusas (fixings courtesy of leftovers from my weekend take-out). They don't look half-bad, but trust me, they have nothing on the ones from El Pulgarcita. So from now on I'm going to leave papusa making to the experts.

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