For the rest of my life this dish will hold a special place in my heart. A year ago I sat in my New York living room watching the beginning of a 3rd season of MasterChef. A very special person in my life looked at me and for the 3rd year in a row he said “You need to go on MasterChef.” I stared at the hopefuls presenting their signature dishes to the judges and giggled. “I should” I responded, yet I didn’t mean it. The idea was too grandiose to comprehend. Then he asked “What would you cook for the judges?” I thought for about 30 seconds and said “I think my Sopa de Nopales. It would be different, no one has presented that,and it’s delicious.”
Months later, after many reminders of how I needed to audition, I gathered myself together and thought “I have nothing to lose.” I knew I wanted to transition my career into a culinary one and that my passion was truly with food. Many more months later, after countless rounds of auditions, I found myself in front of three amazing people in the culinary world presenting my Sopa de Nopales.
An idea that started out of a giggle but my heart knew what it was saying. It knew what I needed to stand out. It knew that I needed to use the ingredients that represented me and where I came from.
I hope this dish brings you as much joy as it has to me in my life.
8 Prickly Pear Cactus Pads
16 Guajillo Chilies
4 Pulla Chillies
3 large white onions
6 cloves of garlic
4 tsp. of cumin powder
2 tsp. black Pepper
5 sprigs of cilantro
4 cups of water (2 for sauce, 2 for soup)
Husks of 4 tomatillos
½ cup of Mexican dried Shrimp or 1 sheet of nori
1 tsp. of Panko crumbs
7 tbsp. corn oil
6 tsp. salt
• Dice all four pads of prickly pear cactus.
• Roughly chop one of the onions.
• Boil the diced cactus and the onions with 4 large cloves of garlic, the tomatillo husks, and 1 teaspoon of salt; until tender (About 30 minutes).
• Devein and remove all seeds from the guajillo and pulla chillies. Then place in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
• In the meantime, dice the second onion and place aside for the soup.
• Puree chilies, along with 2 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of cumin powder, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 2 cups of water and about 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor.
• In a pot, add 2 tablespoons of corn oil and sauté the diced onion until soft.
• Strain the chili paste through a colander to remove any skins.
• Add the chili paste to the sautéed onions and sauté for about 1 minute.
• Drain the cactus from boiling water and remove tomatillo husks, onions, and garlic cloves. Then add the drained cactus into the sautéed chili paste and sauté for about 2 minutes.
• Add the cilantro into the pot and sauté for about 30 seconds.
• Immediately add the one and a half cups of water to the pot and simmer on low heat for at least 15 minutes. I try to leave it for about 40 minutes. For less thick of a constancy add 2 cups instead.
• Meanwhile, place the dried shrimp (removing the heads) and panko crumbs into a food processor and pulverize. Or substitute by using the nori.
• Separate the egg white from the yolk, and whisk until it forms soft peaks, then add egg yolks and whisk briefly until blended smoothly.
• Immediately add the dried shrimp powder to the eggs, and fold softly until completely blended.
• In a deep skillet add 4 tablespoons of corn oil and heat under medium to high heat. Once the oil is heated, drop in small balls of egg and shrimp mixture with a spoon. Fry on both sides until golden. Place on paper napkins to remove any excess oil.
• Your soup will be done by now. All you have left to do is cut your dried shrimp patties into cubes.
• Serve your soup and garnish with the dried shrimp croutons and fresh cilantro.
This is completely vegan if you omit the dried shrimp croutons.
Feel free to post your comments or questions.
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