If you want an easy recipe that makes a big impression - this is a great one!
A traditional dish of New Mexico and throughout South America, Sopaipillas translates as "little fritters". A form of fried dough, it is a variation on a theme popular throughout the world. You can buy sopaipilla mix at most supermarkets now, I used the brand Valencia- a bag I bought when I was in New Mexico living with some family friends for a while.(What a wonderful time - so much delicious food and culture!)
The special thing about this fried dough is that, if done right, the fritters should take on the shape of their nickname - "little pillows"!
To make sopaipillas:
The mix is kneaded with water to make a smooth dough and left to rise for 30 minutes. It won't double in size the way a yeast bread will, but you should notice an increase in the springiness of the dough.
Lightly flour your work surface. Cut the dough ball into fourths for ease of working, and roll out to 1/8th inch thickness. Cut the rolled dough into the size of the pillows you want - I cut them into 4, so 2 cups of mix yielded 16 pieces.
Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a pan (more if you want, or you can use a deep fryer, but it's not necessary). When the oil begins to smoke (make sure you have a vent fan on over the stove!) - gently lay each piece of dough into the hot oil. They puffed the best for me when I didn't disturb them - just lay them in, and watch the magic happen! They puff completely in less than 30 seconds. Let them stay on that side until browned, then flip over and brown the other sides. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to flip them - tongs may flatten them. Lay them on a few layers of paper towels to drain off the extra oil and start a new batch!
The whole process, after the 30 minute rise/rest period, only takes 6-10 minutes.
While the dough was resting....I made the filling. Sopaipillas are so popular and ingrained in New Mexico cuisine because the oiled dough helps to cut the heat of the traditional chile dishes. To further capitalize on this quality, they are typically served with a jar of honey as well since sugar also helps to cut heat and make dishes more palatable.
To make the filling:
You may use chicken or pork for this.
In a pot with a little oil (I use olive oil for everything) and the burner on medium high, put in corn and chopped bell peppers in equal ratio with the amount of meat you are using - chop the meat into chunks before adding. Add a packet of taco seasoning, green or red chile powder, and a dried poblano pepper. Cover with water and bring to a quick boil. Turn the heat down until its rolling along at a nice simmer and let it cook for at least 30 minutes. The longer you cook it, the easier it is to shred the meat which makes the filling much more delicious and easy to stuff into the sopaipillas. The chiles, corn, and peppers make this a wonderful, aromatic, colorful dish!
I heated up some refried beans as well.
Serve up your sopaipillas hot out of the pan, piled high in a basket for impressive presentation- and encourage your guests to open the fritters and stuff them with pollo y frijoles (chicken and beans)! Don't forget the honey - it makes a great dessert when drizzled into leftover sopaipillas without the meat filling.
(Note - if you are planning on serving more than two people you'll need to make more dough. It's easy to eat a lot of these! Plan on about 1 cup of mix per person.)