20 January 2010

slinging hash: corn tortillas

I know, I know; you're never going to do this, but hear me out.

In the early days of our marriage, David would occasionally return from the supermarket with a sack of masa harina, and a plan to roll our own make tortillas.

I must have no trace of Mexican ancestry in my genes, because although I am game to cook many things of different nationalities, tortillas never called to me. And so the sack of masa would sit in our pantry until enough time expired that it was surely stale, at which point, I would toss it.

This cycle went on for many years, until we had children, and were both too busy to entertain thoughts of homemade tortillas.

Until last year, when a fresh sack appeared, and David declared, "I am going to make tortillas." 

"Yes, dear," I replied, accompanied by the bemused look a woman gives her spouse when she is confident that she knows him better than he knows himself.

And then an evening came to pass that I was making something intended to be wrapped in tortillas, only, once preparation was well underway, I discovered I had none. It was close to dinner, the weather was shitty, and I did not feel like dragging my clan to the market. I pulled out the masa harina.

Wouldn't you know, tortillas were fast and extremely easy, and so much better than anything I'd ever purchased in a market. They were thicker and fluffier, tender but still sturdy, with the sweet, fresh flavor of corn, and none of the chemical tang of store-bought tortillas.

I really liked them. And so, I made them again, and again, and again, until I realized that tortillas had become such a regular part of my repertory that it was time to renege on my policy against single-use appliances, and buy a tortilla press.

And now, they are even easier to make.

Corn tortillas

2 cups masa harina
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 - 1-1/2 cups water

Rip off 8-10 sheets of wax or parchment paper about 7 inches long, and cut in half. Preheat a pan or griddle over medium high heat. Preheat oven to 200 degrees farenheit.

Place the masa and salt in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the 1-1/4 cups water, mixing until incorporated into a smooth dough with roughly the consistency of playdough. If the dough seems dry, add a bit more water. Masa harina has an amazing capacity to soak up liquid, and I often find that what starts off seeming like a wet dough winds up requiring additional liquid.

Break off a lump the size of a plump baby's fist, place between two sheets of wax or parchment paper and smash lightly to flatten. Press in a tortilla press, or use a rolling pin, working from the center out, to flatten into a circle about 5 inches in diameter. 

Cook a few minutes on heated pan or griddle, until bottom begins to set, flip and cook one minute longer. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve.

Cooked tortillas keep well in the fridge or freezer in a sealed plastic bag.

19 January 2010

Yes, we can

Last week, Sacha said something that left me in a swoon. It was not “I love you,” or “You are the best mom,” or “You are the most beautiful woman in the world,” although all of the above is uncategorically true.

What he said was,  “Mama, I need to poop.”

And so with great joy, I gave away the last of our diapers to a younger and more deserving customer.

After many, many months of trial, to say nothing of error, I can, at long last say that Sacha is at toilet-trained. CAPS LOCK CANNOT SUFFICIENTLY CONVEY THE MAGNITUDE OF THAT SENTENCE.

While he hasn't needed diapers for several weeks, he was more a well-trained circus monkey than truly trained, able to perform impressive tricks on command in exchange for a treat.

We had a ritual, which involved reading Everyone Poops, followed by a few minutes privacy, and then, great rejoicing. Thanks to this book, our family knows more about defecation habits throughout the animal kingdom than I ever thought possible, or necessary. 

We have spent so much time with this story that not only do we have it memorized, but Sacha is now an emerging reader. Which makes it even more of a relief that he is finally trained, as it would have been extremely embarrassing, to say nothing of disconcerting, had he continued to shit himself while reading Tolstoy. Thank you, Taro Gomi, for so effectively teaching my son that two O's make the “oo” sound. You have replaced Dr. Seuss in the literary pantheon.

While I am relieved to put a period on this developmental milestone, I can not help but entertain ominous thoughts about what lies ahead. Because if toilet training is a gauge,  I am very, very afraid for Sacha's adolescence.

07 January 2010

Sous chef

Sarah and I had some rare time alone in the house together while I was making dinner, and I decided to put her to work. I was making this, and I had her make the corn tortillas. (Yes, I make tortillas, but it is really easy.)

She did a superlative job, and kept her work station neat. This was thrilling to me. I was proud of her skill in the kitchen, but it also signified the dawning of a new phase of child-rearing; the age of indentured servitude.

Punch-drunk with possibilities, I put her on cheese grating duty, which she handled with aplomb.

Tomorrow, I shall have her organize the root cellar, and scrub the scullery.