When you read that we’re making huaraches, you’d be forgiven if you thought we’re talking footwear – This version, however, is fantastic Mexican street food, so trust me when I tell you they taste a bunch better than shoe leather – Huaraches are drop dead delicious and really fun to make.
Huaraches are a thin corn cake stuffed with refried beans and topped with whatever you like. They reportedly originated at a Mexico City street stand in the 1930s, invented by Mrs. Carmen Gomez Medina. Legend has it that she initially offered tlacoyos, which are in essence identical to huaraches, just shaped more like an American football than a Mexican sandal. Either way, it’s hard to miss with that equation, right?
Huaraches are still plenty popular in Mexico City, as well as the rest of Mexico. For that matter, in any US city with a decent Mexican-American population, somebody is offering them from a cart, truck, or hole in the wall eatery – Just as it should be. The name probably derives from the Nahuatl word for sandals – kwarachi.
This is another perfect dish for dealing with leftovers. Anything from pico de gallo to potatoes, fresh or pickled veggies, leftover proteins, or just a dusting of good cheese will do the trick. If you’re planning for them, you can go wild and chase down fresh choriso, queso añejo, and nopales to add to the mix. Huaraches are plenty hardy as a main dish, or can be cut up for appetizers, as you please.
The originals were stuffed with black beans, but any bean you have on hand will most definitely do. If you’re dealing with really high quality legumes, (like Rancho Gordo), nothing other than mashed or puréed beans and a pinch of salt is required to make them special. If inspiration strikes when what you have readily available are canned beans, that’s OK – As long as you give them some love, they’ll work just fine. I’ve included a recipe for doctored beans that will do the trick.
Forming huaraches is easiest with a tortilla press. If you love tacos and eat them a lot, you deserve fresh corn tortillas and a decent press – a good one can be had for under twenty bucks. They’re fun to form by hand too, so fear not if a rolling pin is what you’ve got to work with.
I’ve included a recipe for our killer salsa verde, which goes particularly well with huaraches. Again, this is a dish that’s perfect for leftovers, so just pull out what you’ve got, wing it, and enjoy.
1 Cup cooked Beans
3/4 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 clove fresh minced Garlic
2 Tablespoons fine diced fresh Onion
1-2 Tablespoons fine diced Jalapeño Chile
2-3 sprigs minced Cilantro
2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
if using canned beans, pour them into a single mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold running water until all traces of the liquid they’re packed in are gone.
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, heat the oil through.
Add the onion and chile. Sauté, stirring, until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté until the raw smell dissipates.
Add beans, chicken stock, cilantro, and salt, stir to incorporate.
When the beans start to boil, reduce temp to a bare simmer.
Simmer beans for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the liquid is almost gone – then remove from heat.
Beans can be mashed with a fork or spud masher and left rustic. If you prefer things really smooth, they can be puréed in a blender. If you go the latter road, add a little more stock as needed to help everything blend properly. You want them thick but spreadable, so whichever version you make, use more stock to thin things out if needed when you’re ready to fill huaraches.
Roasted Salsa Verde
1 1/2 Pounds fresh, ripe Tomatillos, (about 8-10 good sized ones).
1/2 large yellow Onion
1-3 fresh Jalapeño or Serrano Chiles
1-2 large cloves fresh Garlic
1/2 Cup fresh Cilantro
1 small fresh Lime
NOTE: ‘Field stripping’ chiles means to stem, seed, and devein. If you really like heat, then you can disregard the deseed and devein steps.
Pull off the papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse them thoroughly. Cut them in half.
If you want milder chiles, cut them in half and field strip them – if not, just stem and cut in half.
Cut onion and half and peel, (the other half can go in the fridge).
Peel and trim garlic, but leave cloves whole.
Cut lime in half, put half back in the fridge.
Place all that onto a baking sheet, cut side down under a broiler, with the rack set on an upper, (but not the highest), slot.
Let everything broil until the skins of the tomatillos, tomato, and chiles have blistered, then flip them all and let things work on the back side – Total cooking time will be about 12-15 minutes.
When the tomatillos are bubbling nicely, and the insides are soft when pressed with a fork, pull the baking sheet out and let everything cool for a few minutes.
Rough chop cilantro.
Toss tomatillos, tomato, chiles, onion, garlic, cilantro, and a pinch of salt into a blender vessel. Squeeze the lime juice in with everything else.
Purée in the blender until you have a nice, even consistency. Taste and adjust lime and salt as desired.
Pour into a non-reactive jar or bowl, cover and chill until ready for use. This recipe makes about a quart of finished salsa. Tightly covered in clean glass, it’ll last for about a week refrigerated.
Huaraches de UrbanMonique
2 Cups Masa Harina
1 Cup mashed or puréed Beans
1/2 Cup Avocado Oil
1 Cup + 2-3 Tablespoons Hot Water
1 teaspoon Salt
In a large mixing bowl, add masa, salt, and 1 cup of hot water. Knead by hand until the dough is fully incorporated – It should not stick to your hands, but should feel moist – It will feel almost like play dough when it’s right – Add that extra tablespoon or two of water as needed to get there. When all is well, cover with a clean damp cloth and let the dough rest for 15 minutes – This allows the masa to fully absorb the water, and keeps your final product from drying out.
Set up your mis en place – Masa, press or rolling pin, beans, and skillet.
Check your dough – If it feels like it’s dried out some, (which it probably will), add a tablespoon of water and knead that in – You want a feel like a soft cookie dough, but not sticky.
Pinch off some dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a large egg.
Put a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, add 1/4 cup avocado oil, and allow it to heat through, (if it starts to smoke, turn it down a bit).
Preheat your oven to warm, and set a rack in the middle position with a baking sheet lined with parchment.
If you’re using a press, cut waxed paper or parchment to more or less fit the plates – If you’re rolling, just a couple chunks about 8” long will do nicely, (if you still use plastic in your kitchen, what you really want it the sides of a gallon ziplock bag cut into big circles – That’s the most forgiving and easy release option.)
Alright, here comes the fun part. Grab a dough ball and squeeze it into an egg shape.
Use your thumb to press deeply into the middle of the egg, forming an egg-long, wide trough – The egg lengthens a bit as you do this, so it kinda looks like a little canoe now.
Add about a tablespoon of beans to fill the trough, then gently pinch up the edges of the canoe to surround and seal in the beans. You’ll get a bit of filling slopping over, so just wipe that off and proceed.
Once it’s sealed, use your palms to roll that canoe into a log about 5” long.
Now you’re ready to either press or roll – These will end up as oblongs, vaguely sandal shaped beasties about 6” long and 4” or so wide – It’s not an exact thing, so don’t fret, (and as you can see, mine weren’t picture perfect!) Just have fun with it, and know that the more you do, the better you get – They’re going to be delicious, and that’s what counts.
You want to fry these as soon as they’re pressed or rolled. Handle them carefully. Peel the top parchment off, and flip the thing so the huarache is on your hand. Now carefully peel the other parchment off and slip the goods into the hot pan.
Fry for about a minute or so, then flip it and do the other side for a minute and a half to two minutes – You want a nice golden brown to that second side.
Transfer the cooked huarache to the baking sheet in the oven and move on to the next one.
Toppings are whatever you desire and have on hand. A quick pickled mix of radish and sweet onion, fresh chiles, onion, or cilantro. Thinly sliced cabbage, crumbly Mexican cheese, fresh tomato, avocado, more lime wedges, the salsa verde of course. Leftover chicken, beef, or pork is dandy, and again, fresh chorizo is a delight.
These go great with cold Mexican beer, great friends, and lively conversation!