Part five of Street Tacos.
I know what you’re saying.
Why on earth would you ever make your own corn tortillas? The ones in the store are not expensive! And the ingredients label is usually fine too.
Because you can. And because the freshness and comfort of them is startling.
If you’ve never tried it, you should. At least once.
I know, you’ve had them hundreds of times in restaurants and they’re always just fine.
Many years ago, I cooked for a large Mexican restaurant. I ran a line. Sit down expensive place too, not fast food. And our corn tortillas came by the thousands every day in plastic bags.
But… not… all restaurants do it that way.
A while back, after a day of playing music for a very worthy cause, our friend Anne took us to a special little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. And walking in I spot a lady behind the counter making tortillas by hand, boom-boom-boom, knocking them out one after the other just as well-practiced as I imagine you can get. Way cool, I thought.
And then we got our food.
With those tortillas of course. And…. I didn’t know they could be that good. I’m embarrassed to say that. But I was so used to perfectly fine and good until then. There’s just something about the freshness, the warmth from the pan, the softness of a handmade tortilla.
The good news? It’s so easy. Really. Two ingredients: masa (corn flour) and water. I make them often enough that I just keep a tub of it in the pantry with the regular flour, sugars, etc.
My first few times, I just used a heavy flat-bottomed skillet on a cutting board instead of an actual press. It was doable. But it’s way easier with an inexpensive heavy press if you’ll do it now and then.
I use Maseca instant corn masa flour from the local grocery store. And, naturally, the recipe and instructions are right on the bag.
Mix 1½ cups of water with 2 cups of corn flour in a bowl. “Mix thoroughly for two minutes until you form a soft dough. If dough feels dry, add teaspoons of water (one by one).”
This has always worked. (The two minutes part is important.) The first time you do it, you’ll wonder if it’s right or not. It probably is. And if not, it’s easy enough to fix.
The tricky part is maybe size. I laughed when I read “divide dough into 19 equal balls” because that won’t happen. But, “approximately 1 ounce each” I can definitely work with. I have my trusty scale. So about ping pong ball size and weigh. A little more, a little less, and bingo. Gotcha.
Roll these little guys like you would meatballs. The rounder the better because then we’ll flatten them in the press and the rounder the ball, the rounder the tortilla.
20. Not 19.
Now, the easiest way I’ve found to keep everything non-stick and working well is to cut the two side seams on a freezer bag. One of the heavier plastic ones. Works like a champ and I’ve always got one on-hand in the cupboard.
So, here we go:
Plastic bag on the open press.
Ball of dough on the plastic.
Fold the plastic over to close.
You’ll get a rythym going.
Until you forget to close it once.
Just peel it off, wipe everything with a dishtowel, and re-roll it. No worries. Happens to everyone. (I assume.) (Doesn’t it?) (Is it just me?)
Unfold the plastic. Peel it off slowly and gently into your hand.
Into a preheated dry non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
According to the package instructions, 30 seconds on a side, flip, 30 seconds, flip, and 30 seconds more.
Into the tortilla warmer and onto the next one. (Is it really a warmer? I know that’s what it’s officially called. Maybe a keep-warm-er?)
By the way, I toss a paper towel in the bottom first to absorb any condensation.
Now try one with just a little bit of butter. Heaven.
(I said one!)
And serve. Hopefully while they’re still a bit warm.
This is the end of the Street Taco series.