26 October 2011

Food Lab 11: Corn Tortillas

Chef Spouse and I are both passionate about food and drink, but we're also passionate about the NFL. So every year, we have a big Super Bowl party. And Chef Spouse has a dream. His dream is for everything we cook for the Super Bowl party to be made from scratch. We usually do Tex-Mex, not least of which because it's easy to make for a large but indeterminately sized crowd, and while I don't think he's going to try to make tequila in the basement (as far as I know), he did want to learn how to make tortillas.

We were originally planning to make both corn and flour tortillas, but we got side-tracked (beer-tracked? thanks for the awesome homebrew, Mad Kitchen Scientist!) and only got to corn.

Turns out, corn tortillas are REALLY easy to make.

Because corn flour, aka masa, develops no gluten, you can screw around with the dough as much as you need to with no ill effect. And it doesn't need to rise or rest or anything - it takes longer to heat the pan that it does to make the tortillas.

To wit: the first batch of dough I made was, we discovered after pressing a few tortillas, too dry. So I dumped it back into the bowl, added a bit more water, mixed some more, rolled some more dough balls, and Chef Spouse pressed them. And they cooked and tasted just fine.

So what we discovered is that we wanted about equal amounts of masa and water, rather than the 4/3 ratio we had found online.

Traditional corn tortillas are literally just masa and water. We also discovered that a little sprinkle of salt after pressing was nice.

You do definitely want a tortilla press - rolling them with a pin was a pain in the ass, and resulted in very thick tortillas. And then you just cook them in a hot, dry cast iron skillet. Once cooked, we popped them on a cookie sheet covered by a tea towel to retain some heat and moisture, and that was it.

What did we eat on them? Mad Kitchen Scientist had prepared mole pork and refried beans, and Chef Spouse and I made a bunch of salsas - fresh mango and kiwi with fresh chiles, roasted tomatillo and roasted chiles, roasted pineapple and fresh and roasted chiles, and roasted tomato with roasted chiles. I can't really say with 100% certainty what was in any of them, since we just had bowls of ingredients and added everything to taste. But I can say that the bowls contained roasted tomatillos; roasted japalenos, habaneros, and serranos; fresh jalapenos, garlic, shallots, cilantro, and salt & pepper.

Now, I don't know if Chef Spouse is really going to make a zillion fresh corn tortillas and deep fry them all up for the chips for the Super Bowl party, but it's nice to know we could if we wanted to.

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