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.

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