When I say “chuletas” you may think of lamb chops or pork chops and their distinctive shape, but Carlos asked me to make Salvadoran Chuletas which are something entirely different.
At first I thought Carlos was playing a trick on me because the food he described sounded really strange. He said Salvadoran Chuletas look like a meatball wrapped around a strip of tortilla. I questioned him further. “Are you sure this isn’t something your mother invented? Is this really a Salvadoran dish that other people will recognize?” – He assured me this is a real Salvadoran dish. I asked if the meatball part goes on the end of the tortilla strip so that at least it’ll look more like a lamb chop, but he insisted it goes in the middle.
With Carlos’s descriptions and encouragement, I gave it a try, and he says I hit the jackpot – so I present to you Salvadoran Chuletas, (or “Chuletas de Carne Molida.”) I have no idea how this dish came to exist in El Salvador but I imagine a hungry husband telling his wife that he wants chuletas for dinner. The wife goes to the kitchen, knowing full well that they don’t have such an expensive cut of meat, and she creates these fake “chuletas” out of day old tortillas and carne molida in the hopes of tricking her husband.
If you know the real story or anything else about Salvadoran Chuletas de Carne Molida, be sure to leave a comment! For now, here is my recipe.
2 lbs. ground meat (beef, turkey or chicken)
1 handful fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
1/2 a medium onion, chopped fine
1/2 a medium green pepper, chopped fine
1 cup bread crumbs
1 heaping tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
canola oil (for frying)
5 thick corn tortillas
1. Fry the cooked tortillas in a little oil until slightly crunchy. Remove and cool. Cut into thick strips. Set aside. (Leftover handmade tortillas work best for this.)
2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the tortilla strips and oil. Mix by hand.
3. Take a small handful of the meat mixture, (a little larger than a golf ball), and a strip of tortilla. (Choose the longest strips of tortilla. The short strips can be discarded or reserved for a different recipe.)
4. Mold the meat mixture around the strip of tortilla so that you have tortilla poking out at each end with a meatball-like shape in the middle. Make sure you don’t make the meatball too rounded or big or they won’t cook through when frying.
5. Fry in oil over medium heat, turning to brown on each side. Do this in batches, removing to drain on paper towels when finished.
6. Serve with rice and fresh salsa. Makes approx. 15 to 20 chuletas.