it was time to tackle tortillas…

I love Mexican food and I love tacos, who doesn’t?  Most people I know grew up with the Old El Paso taco kit and in our house it still gets a run from time to time.  And despite you now having a plethora of standard, stand and stuff, jumbo and even those cup things sometimes you want something a little different-  a soft taco shell… tortillas!

I generally don’t make my own tortillas because you can get some really decent ready made corn tortillas from the shops which pretty much just contain corn (nothing else!). and to keep it nice and simple- pick your filling, heat the tortillas up (i do mine in the sandwich press) and away you go.  What’s even better is that the majority of them are gluten free so if you are cooking for someone that has a food intolerance/allergy it’s a very easy go to!

However from time to time when the mood strikes me I want to make my own.  A couple of years ago I looked into it and was really surprised at how easy it was (theoretically) to make your own corn tortillas.  All you needed was one magic ingredient- Masa Harina.  Masa Harina is a milled, dried corn treated with lime- don’t attempt to sub in polenta (which is also corn) because it hasn’t been treated in the same way and won’t soften to make a pliable dough.

To make your own corn tortillas you mix the Masa Harina with hot water, knead, roll into a ball, rest, portion out, roll out into a circle and cook on the stove- easy!  Well so I originally thought when I first made them. They were always edible but could have been better, thinner, more crispy but also pliable etc… Each time that I’ve made them I’ve seen where I can make little improvements here and there.

So firstly the dough- as mentioned you really just mix the Masa Harina with hot water (most packets of Masa Harina have a recipe on the back or a simple google search will help you out) and knead it until it feels like soft play dough- a few recipes I read online said that you should be able to press your finger in and the dough should not crack so this is what mine looked like…

Then let the dough rest for about an hour. However I’m fairly certain that after I took this photo I added slightly more water and kneaded it through- the dough didn’t crack when pressed but I felt it could be a little more ‘play dough like’ in texture.

Next it’s time to pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll out into thin circles.  The first time I made tortillas I rolled out the balls of dough between baking paper.   I wasn’t happy with the shape- wasn’t really circular in shape so  for my next attempt I decided I needed a tortilla press (any excuse to purchase new kitchen gadget!) so I purchased one from a deli not too far away from work- it really looked the business…

Despite how professional it looked you still needed to cover the top and bottom plates.  When uncovered the dough stuck and you had to peel it off and never quite successfully and not surprisingly quite a few words were said in the process.  BUT once covered and pressed they were beautifully circular so it’s into the cooking process. The only annoying thing about this process was that the gladwrap kept falling off and you had to keep attaching it to the press which made for quite an arduous process…

Cooking..

Find a pan that’s nice and heavy heat to a nice heat and pop a tortilla on for a minute or two on each side and hopefully you have some nice charry bits on each side- store in a tortilla warmer or in tea towels- you must keep it in a steamy environment because then they start to soften and become nice and pliable.

Testing the first one my second time making them (but with the super professional press this time) they were simply still too thick- circular, but thick! So I rolled the remaining ones after the initial press between baking paper with a rolling pin. Then continued to cook the rest but it still felt that the cooking time was far too long…

Which brings me to my latest attempt with one additional  kitchen accessory, a few more tweaks needed but much more success.

So now I had the dough sorted, the right press method (for the most part) but cooking method could be improved.  Before Christmas I was in a heavenly home wares store and I found a comal.

comal

This is a nice and heavy flat pan that can be used to cook tortillas amongst other things.  If you have a cast iron pan (which I don’t) this is the same equivalent in my mind.  Was a decent price so I purchased it and knew that I had to give it a go soon.

Which brings me to the other week- dragged the pan out and seasoned it and got ready to roll in making tortillas.  Got the pork on early for the filling (sooooo good and see previous post for this)  Made the dough as described above.

Then dragged out the press- but with one slight change.  I read on a post that someone had used zip lock sandwich bags on their press.  Pulling a couple out of the cupboard I stretched one over each plate and got ready to pinch out the doll and press out the circles.  MUCH easier method with the sandwich bags rather than the glad-wrap- however still needed to further roll out to make them a little thinner.

When the dough was rolled out it was time to get cooking on the comal. Bumped up the heat, pre warmed it and got going- and I was pretty happy…

tortilla

They puffed up and charred really nicely- and after sitting in the tortilla warmer softened up beautifully.

So it may have taken a few attempts to figure out dough consistency, proper rolling and pressing  and getting the right pan to conduct at the right temperature, I finally got there!  For this latest attempt we had cheese, sour cream mixed with lime juice, fresh tomato salsa and carnitas (slow cooked delicious pork, see previous post)

taco

Cooking takes mistakes, patience and just keep trying some things again and again (where you think its worth it of course!)

These were really really good if I do say so myself.  I did read that you could reheat the next day but…. nah weren’t that flash so that won’t be a go in the future but making them this way certainly will.

It’s not something that would be a regular thing but next time I think I’ve almost got it down pat…

Now after typing this all out I’m quite hungry for a taco(s)! How about you?

little meats

Last week I decided to finally give my new tortilla pan (a comal) a crack – I was convinced it was the missing link in being able to finally make a decent tortilla that I was happy with.  Corn tortillas are great friends with juicy slow cooked pork so I thought given I was still on leave I’d have plenty of time to slowly cook away a lovely shoulder.

My plan was that I’d give trying to perfect tortillas a crack and then share it with you- which I will but first I just have to share this pork with you, I now have a go to recipe, it’s the best slow cooked pork I’ve ever made that was bound for tacos…

Generally in the past when searching for a recipe I’d just search for pulled pork recipes- and they were generally pretty good but they were cooked with a whole heap of extra ingredients such as rubs, sauces, spices etc and didn’t really seem like an authentic Mexican counterpart to a taco.

So I changed the search criteria and asked Mr Google to look for Carnitas. It basically means ‘little meats’ and is pork cooked very slowly in liquid or lard very slowly and adding some minimal seasoning and cooked down until the liquid evaporates, the pork breaks down and goes nice and golden and crispy and is served with things like coriander, guacamole, tortillas, onion, refried beans etc.

I narrowed it down to a couple of recipes but settled on this one from Epicurious (if you haven’t been to their site you should- lots of great recipes).  A couple of things drew me to it- firstly the inclusion of cooking the pork in milk (had never cooked meat in milk) but then also the addition of half an orange and really not much else ingredient wise.

Recipe decided I purchased a pork shoulder roast (I don’t recommend a leg- you need something with a decent amount of fat), unbound it and removed the skin- cut it into about 8 large chunks, seasoned it and seared it on the stove- pop into the heaviest casserole dish you have (if it’s one you can’t use on a stove top), top with milk, half an orange squeezed over and dump the orange rind in there too.  I also added in a dash of cumin  (quite a few comments with the recipe recommended this) and a liberal dosing of pepper and top with water until almost covered popped on the lid and cooked it for two hours.

Which brings us to this point…

porkhalfway

This is where the recipe then advises you to remove the orange and break up the chunks into slightly smaller pieces (which I did) and cook for a further 20 minutes (which I did not).  A lot of the feedback said that they had to cook it for much longer than 20 minutes to completely reduce the liquid and crisp up the pork so I kept going past the 20 minute mark… and kept going…. at about the hour mark I flipped over the pork because I was worried that the pork above the liquid line would dry out. About 15 minutes later I considered removing some of the liquid but decided not to and kept going.

Patience pays off…. 20 minutes was actually 2 hours. However it smelt amazing, and took no effort at all to break up the pork- and the top was just beautifully crispy and caramelized.

finishedpork

Yes this takes 4 hours to make but when it’s in the oven you don’t really have to tend to it at all.  This was just incredibly simple and it sounds silly but just so… porky. They went so well with the tortillas and had them again for lunch again the next day (love love love Mexican food).

Sunday morning I still had some left over in the fridge and rather than freeze the leftovers I thought I would have it join one of my most favourite breakfasts ever- Migas.

migas

Migas are corn tortillas cut up into 8 wedges, fried until crispy (I didn’t add chopped onions this time) crack a couple of eggs over, wait until cooked for a little bit, season, and start to mix it around the pan with some chopped coriander and some cheese if you like.  Then plate it up.  I topped mine this time with chipotle salsa, more coriander, cheese, sour cream and a side of caranitas.  I loved Migas before I’d tried it with carnitas but this took it to another level… would have been even better if I had remembered the pickled jalapeños!

So- this one is forever filed away as my go to pork recipe for Mexican food… set some time aside and give it a go, let me know if you do- I don’t think you’ll have any regrets!