From Scratch, With Love

A Little Something from my Heritage

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So, you probably don’t know that I’m Latin.  You really can’t tell from looking at me or talking to me and it’s not really something that’s PC to ask.  “Hi, what are you?” is probably one of the most awkward questions ever.  Anyway, my mother immigrated to the US from Guatemala in 1982.  My father is American, but has traveled to Guatemala and has learned and adapted many Guatemalan dishes to his liking.  As a result, growing up, I had a lot of typical or semi-typical Guatemalan or Latin-inspired food.  When I go to Guatemala, which I haven’t done in a long time, I tend to go for the simpler dishes because I’m very picky.  I think on my next visit I will be more adventurous.  Basically when I have gone, I’ve eaten beans, rice, and tortillas.  When I was growing up I also ate lots of beans, rice, and tortillas.  The beans were almost always black beans, the rice was almost always white rice, and the tortillas were always (ALWAYS) corn tortillas.  Depending on the meal they were either store-bought or homemade.  I actually don’t think flour tortillas are part of most cuisines in Latin America, except perhaps in Northern Mexico.  Since a lot of food blogs give most of their attention to flour tortillas, I thought I’d give a little corn tortilla love today.

Corn tortillas are not made with cornmeal.  In order to make corn tortillas, you must use masa harina, which is a corn flour that has been treated in a special way with limewater.  You could make it yourself… if you work in a masa harina factory.  The brand we used growing up is called Maseca, and I believe it is the most commercially available brand, but the one I found in my Whole Foods (my local supermarket didn’t stock it at all) is called “Masa Brosa.”  Basically to make the dough for tortillas, you just mix the masa harina with warm water.  It is very simple, not because it’s a mix but because tortillas are a very simple food.  The tricky part is not making the dough too dry or too wet.  I’ve found the best way to do this is to add the warm water slowly using a measuring up in one hand, and mix the dough with the other hand until the consistency seems right (that’s right, by hand, not with a spoon).

One you’ve got the tortillas down, a whole world opens up.  You can make pupusas, which are filled tortillas that originate from El Salvador.  You can make tamales, which are little packets of meat filling wrapped in corn dough and corn husks and baked.  The possibilities are endless.  I highly recommend it.  In addition, you have bragging rights because it really is authentic and it seems no one in the country does it anymore.  Corn tortillas are best made fresh though, so don’t try to just keep a bunch in the fridge.

Real Corn Tortillas (Makes 8-12 tortillas)

Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat.

Pour 2 cups of masa harina in a bowl.  Slowly add 1 1/4 cups warm water, using your free hand to gently stir the dough so that it absorbs the water.  You might need more or less water. When the dough starts to hold together, stop adding water.  It should not be crumbly, but should also not be too sticky.

Divide the dough into 8-12 even balls and cover with a damp paper towel until ready to use.

I made a half recipe

To roll out the tortillas, you can either use your hands (labor-intensive), a rolling pin, or a tortillas press, which you can find in Latin markets.  It looks like this:

If using a rolling pin or a tortilla press, I recommend putting some plastic wrap on your work surface and on top of the dough to keep it from sticking.

When you’re ready to make the tortillas, lightly brush your hot griddle with canola oil, form the tortillas one at a time, and put them on the griddle.  After a minute or two, or when the edges of the tortillas begin to look dry, flip them.  Wrap the warm tortillas in a kitchen towel to keep warm until it’s time to serve.

I served these tortillas with leftover roast pork and freshly made black beans (gently boiled for  hours with an onion, garlic, and the bone from the roast pork, salted and peppered in the last half hour).  They are also great with eggs in the morning, perhaps with a little Hot Sauce.  A little mexican or mozzarella cheese wouldn’t hurt either.

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Written by poperatzii

September 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

One Response

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  1. Your bro sent me to your site, and I love this entry!! Partly because I secretly wish I were latina and mostly because I love tortillas and beans!!

    Elizabeth

    February 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm


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