Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Masa Magnifico!

For months I was deprived of good tortillas – each time I made the journey into the big city I managed to forget to stock up at the Latin American mercado. Perhaps in the back of my mind I knew I already had the makings and the proper tools right there in my very own kitchen cupboard and the front of my mind just wasn't catching on. So I reminisced about Huevos Rancheros, Chicken Mole and other favourite dishes that I just couldn't make and enjoy without the requisite pile of corn tortillas on the side.

Hello? Is anyone home? That bag of masa sitting dormant in the cupboard? That gets mixed up with some water to make the dough... and remember that cool little dough-ball squisher otherwise known as the tortilla press? You asked for, and received this little Hecho en Mexico gizmo several Mother's Days ago... HELLO? LOOK IN THE CUPBOARD!

For goodness' sake; sometimes I am so out of it!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I finally clued in that I had the power to make my own tortillas and once I set to work, I wondered at the miracle of it all: Masa + Water= Tortilla Dough. Roll into golf-ball sized spheres, place centred on the press with plastic wrap between it and press' surface, close the press and squish that ball flat with all your might. Of course the consistency is important, but you figure that out real fast. Too dry and the edges will crack, too wet and, well, I haven't had that problem...

The thin discs then need only a minute each side on a hot griddle. So while you are rolling and pressing you can be cooking as you go. I use a flat cast iron pan with a very low lip around the edge that I picked up at a flea market years ago. I believe the traditional comal (griddle) has no sides, but I wouldn't worry as long as you have a nice dry and hot surface.

I was so possessed by the excitement of making the tortillas, that the dish they accompanied was actually somewhat of an afterthought. I scrambled some eggs with some fresh local sweet corn, cilantro and scallions, and I had some left over canned Herdez Tomatillo sauce in the fridge. Once I got the cappuccinos going we were ready to chow down. I timed the whole thing– while the realization process took about 2 years, the actual time to mix the dough and turn out 12 delicious, fresh, soft tortillas was less than 20 minutes. Scrambling the eggs? 5min. The difference between these and store-bought: priceless!

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