Friday, April 17, 2009

corn tortillas

If I skip past the store bought hard tacos I'm sure we all had as kids, I don't remember eating anything but flour tortillas as a kid. Corn tortillas didn't seem to be available in that many grocery stories so I suppose it wasn't really an option. I didn't come to appreciate corn tortillas in all their glory until I spent time in Guatemala. With a diet consisting of mainly beans and corn tortillas, I'm sure you will understand why. Plus when you aren't used to dining on an such a basic diet, the frijoles sometimes fight back. So on days when I couldn't jam any more beans in my mouth, I would simply make a meal out of 5-10 corn tortillas and hopefully some cebolla (onion).

The eldest daughter in my host family was the tortilla captain. She would haul a basket of corn kernels across the field to get milled down every morning (this was a loud and seemingly dangerous machine, but was operated by very small children). This big batch of masa would then become the fresh tortillas she would whip up 3 times a day. I mentioned before that I would bake and cook with my mother whenever I could, so as I started to love corn tortillas, I found myself stepping out back to watch the process. It didn't take long for the men to notice my absence and either mock me or drop some gender bias comments when I was trying to learn; but as long as I wasn't stepping on anyone's toes, I was happy to be out there on the homemade comal (an old oil barrel) pressing those golden discs of goodness!

Enough of the back story; this is about making corn tortillas right. So when I finally came back up North, I was the lucky recipient of a tortilla press. And yes, while it is an art to make them by hand, I can't thank the world enough for presses. The tortillas themselves come together quicker than their flour counterpart, making them a perfect snack or meal accompaniment.

Besides the water from your taps, all you will need is a bag of masa. You should be able to find this at the bigger grocery stores and latin tiendas. Directions, more a less just a ratio of masa to water, are listed on every package I've ever bought so it's not like you even need to research a recipe. It makes me laugh to see such simple 'directions' as I like to think it would be like your box of cereal saying 'add milk'...some of these things are just common sense. Do it enough and you'll eventually be able to gauge the moisture without measuring.

* I do recommend cooking them in a cast iron pan and having a towel lined open weave basket handy to keep them in. The tortillas can be eaten straight away, but they tend to be stiff from the heat, so let them relax for a few mintues in the basket to get that foldable quality that is so perfect for tacos, fajitas, enchiladas..or my favorite as a fork replacement.


Sarah said...

These are beautiful! Where did you get your press, I totally need one. Mine are always hand rolled and "unique". Haha, delicious though.

Chris said...

Thanks. The press was brought back from Mexico on one of the many trips, and needless to say, it suffered from being too heavy at check in.

Maki said...

I remember looking for masa once years ago and couldn't find any... glad that there is some now. That tortilla must be soooo good fresh :)

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