It was not too long ago when one of my readers had commented on my Indian fry bread recipe informing me that it reminded her of Salbutes. That alone intrigued me to find out more information about what the heck a salbute was. After some quick research, I learned that a salbute is a lightly fried masa tortilla, and topped with lettuce, beans, and shredded meat. When I first read that, I could see the connection to the fry bread taco, as well as one of my favorites, the sope. As I continued to read a bit more about Yucatan cooking, I came across a panucho. Fun new words in my opinion, and the panucho is one to really explore.
The panucho is similar to a salbute, and it is made with masa, cooked on a dry, hot cast iron skillet until slightly puffy, then a slit is made in the tortilla and it is stuffed with refried beans, sealed, then lightly fried.
So on one Sunday morning, I made my fresh tortillas, homemade black beans, and got to work. The result. Well, the result was something amazing. Everything that you would expect from a fresh tortilla but with the hidden surprise of the black beans really made the Yucatan dish worth making.
Ingredients: (serves 6 or more)
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 1/4 cup of cold water, plus 1 tbsp
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 15 oz can of black beans
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 cup of chicken stock
- 1 cup of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of shredded chicken, cooked, per panucho
- Your favorite salsa
- Mexican Pickled Onions
- Shredded lettuce
- Tomato, thinly sliced
- Fresh cilantro, optional
- Fresh Avocado slices, optional
I will go out on a limb and say that fresh tortillas beat store bought tortillas any day of the week. Not only that but they are super easy to make, especially corn tortillas. You can buy masa harina from pretty much any grocery store nowadays, and if you want to do it right, you get a tortilla press. Tortilla presses are under ten dollars, but heck, you can use a couple of dinner plates as well. The goal is to flatten the masa into a 4 inch tortilla.
To make the masa, add the masa harina, water, and salt to a mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until smooth. You want the dough to be just a little bit sticky and when formed into a golf ball shape and flattened the edges do not easily crack. If they do, add about a tablespoon more of water to get the perfect consistency.
Form the dough into about 12 balls. Line your tortilla press, or plates with plastic wrap. Lightly press down to form the balls into about a 1/4 inch thick, and about 4 inches in shape.
To make the beans, add the can of beans to a pot. Toss in the garlic, onion, and stock. Cook for about 10 minutes. Toss in a blender to get them into a nice creamy consistency. Set aside to cool.
Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium to high heat. Add one or two tortillas and cook for a few minutes. Flip and cook another minute or so. They should begin to puff just ever so slightly. Remove to a plate. Continue with the remaining tortillas.
Now is the fun part. Take a sharp knife and ever so slightly cut into the tortilla, making a pocket. Think of it like a pita. You are getting your knife into the tortilla, being careful not to go through the other side, and make a big enough, as well as long enough slit so that you can form your beans into the pocket. The knife should be able to insert into the pocket, with about a two inch slit at the top. See my picture below on the cut.
Add the oil to the preheated skillet.
With a small enough spoon begin adding the cooled beans inside of the tortilla pocket. Gently press on the tortilla to move the beans around inside the pocket. You should be able to fill a thin layer of beans on about sixty percent of the interior of the tortilla.
Press to seal at the top of the slit. The beans act like a glue, so that should be easy. Add to the heated oil and shallow fry until they are a light golden brown. These should only take a couple of minutes to cook. Remove and place on plate lined with paper towel, or a wire rack to let any excess oil drain. Keep the tortillas warm either by placing them in a tortilla warmer, or an oven at very low heat, around 200 degrees. Repeat.
To make these panuchos, take a tortilla, top it with shredded chicken, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, and pickled onions. Add salsa or avocado if you desire. The fun part is you can top with any of your favorite ingredients.
Not only was it extremely easy to make, but every bite was pure joy. I hope you enjoy.