Monday, February 1, 2010

You will never eat a better taco in your lifetime

or enchilada, or quesadilla for that matter, than one made with a fresh corn tortilla.

I promise you this, taco connoisseurs: you have not lived until you’ve eaten a fresh-off-the-griddle and still steaming, soft and delicious corn tortilla.

As many of you may already know, my mom lives in Mexico. And her house is right up the street from a family who makes corn tortillas all day, every day, and sells them for something like 50 cents a dozen. Walking past that house and catching scents of toasty corn and masa harina dough will make your mouth water.

That could be your house, you guys.

You know what you could even do? You could let some carnitas braise on the stove while you make some corn tortillas. Yeeeeaaah. (Can you picture me nodding, eyebrows raised?) Or you could make some enchiladas. I’ll even tell you how I make mine.



My enchiladas could win you a girlfriend. They could win you a husband. They won me a husband.


Yeah, that guy. The one pouring Tapatio all over that freshly made tortilla with re-fried beans.

But Andrea—don’t I have to be a Mexican mom with a tortilla press to make corn tortillas?

No.

All you need are your lovely young hands, some plastic wrap, masa harina, a rolling pin or a wine bottle (both can get the job done), a dinner plate, and a frying pan (preferably a cast iron one if you have it).

Handmade Corn Tortillas
Makes 12-14
Of course, having a tortilla press would expedite this entire process. If you have one, roll dough into balls per my instructions and press between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper in tortilla press before tossing onto a hot pan.

• 2 cups masa harina
• 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups warm water
• Pinch of salt

Mix masa harina and 1 ½ cups of water with hands. Dough should come together easily and not feel too crumbly or too sticky. If needed, add a little more water at a time until the dough becomes soft and malleable. (Think playdough consistency.) Knead for 2 minutes.

Cover dough with damp paper towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Roll dough into balls slightly larger than golf balls. You should get somewhere close to 12 balls of dough. Cover dough balls with a damp paper cloth while you roll out your tortillas. (Dough dries out quickly.) Preheat pan over high heat.


Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and place one dough ball on plastic wrap. Place a new sheet of plastic wrap over the dough and press down with a plate until dough is flattened into a disk. Note: if the bottom of your plate is not rimmed you may even be able to flatten the tortilla enough to not need to roll it out any more.


Finish off tortilla by rolling dough out to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Each tortilla should be about 6 inches in diameter.


Place tortilla on hot pan. Cook tortillas for 20-30 seconds on each side.


Speed racers: While first side of tortilla is cooking, quickly flatten the next ball of dough with the plate. Flip the tortilla that’s in the pan. Go back to the tortilla you flattened with a plate and roll out quickly. Remove tortilla that’s in pan and place on a plate. Place newly rolled tortilla in pan and repeat process.

Huh?...: Roll tortillas out as directed and place between dampened paper towels until ready to cook.

Reheating instructions: Place tortillas between slightly dampened paper towels on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Nuke for 30 seconds.

Cheesy Chicken or Vegetarian Enchiladas
Makes 12
My madre and I always found it a little too time consuming to make the enchilada sauce from scratch, especially if you're already using homemade tortillas. (We’ll get to some homemade salsas another day, you and I.) The addition of cream cheese to the filling of these enchiladas make them a semi-American spin-off of my mom's.

• 12 fresh corn tortillas
• 1 large can red enchilada salsa preparada (La Victoria, or Frontera Grill brand)
• 1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
OR 1 1/2 cups worth of frozen corn and/or beans
OR a combo of all of the above
• 1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained of liquids
• about 1.5 cups of shredded Manchego cheese, or Oaxacan cheese, or Monterey Jack cheese
• 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
• 3 tablespoons sour cream
• 1 onion, chopped
• Oil for sauteeing onion
• Salt and pepper
• Tapatio salsa
• fresh cilantro or green onions for garnish

Note: if you decide to use store-bought tortillas for this recipe, they will crack easily. Prevent this by frying each tortilla in hot oil about 3 seconds per side, and draining on paper towels before using.

Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a small pan and sautee the chopped onion until soft and translucent. You can use butter for this if you want. (I think it tastes better.) Spread on a paper towel to cool and drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the chicken filling. Mix together the cream cheese and sour cream with a wooden spoon. Stir in a few dashes of Tapatio sauce and 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese. Mix in the shredded chicken, or vegetables, the spinach and the sauteed onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Do taste it--if you think it needs more of anything, add it before you move on to the next step.

Assemble the enchiladas. In the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish (or whatever you've got that can hold 12 enchiladas and some gooey cheese and sauce) spread about half a cup of the enchilada sauce. Then take one tortilla, place it in the baking dish with the sauce, and put two big heaped spoonfuls of your chicken mixture in the tortilla.

Now, gently roll the tortilla up as tightly as you can and place it seam side down in the dish. Repeat for the other 11 enchiladas. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the prepared enchiladas. Sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese.

Bake the enchiladas for about 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro or green onions.

3 comments:

hanner said...

i just got the chills reading this. I'M SO HUNGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andrea said...

haha! sorry Hanner! Want to stop by and pick up some leftovers?

chelleness said...

i remember, "i know, cream cheese doesn't sound authentic, but it tastes SO GOOD." <3 they're totally delicious!

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