August 28, 2008

Rick's Easy Corn Tortillas

I heart Rick Bayless! James Beard Award winner, TV host on PBS, successful restaurateur, husband and father, extensive traveler....I could go on and on about his accomplishments. Most impressive is this guy from the Midwest can cook some serious, authentic, Mexican food.

These are the easiest tortillas I have ever found...literally just masa harina and water for the quick version. Now, these are not your Nana's homemade, super-special tortillas from the old country..but they are a really good facsimile. This recipe/method is great in a pinch and you get the homey, warm tortilla feeling without all the labor intensive work.

Rick's Easy Corn Tortillas

1 3/4 cups Masa Harina(Mexican corn "flour" for making tortillas-Maseca brand is widely available in well-stocked groceries and Mexican markets)
1 pound fresh smooth-ground corn masa for tortillas (available almost exclusively from tortilla factories—make sure they're grinding it from whole corn rather than reconstituting the powdered, which you can do yourself).

If using powdered Masa Harina: Measure it into a bowl and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Knead with your hand until thoroughly combined. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

If using fresh Masa: Scoop it into bowl. Break up and knead a few times until smooth.

Set a large griddle (one that stretches over 2 burners) or 2 skillets on your stovetop. Heat one end of the griddle (or one skillet) to medium, the other end (or other skillet) to medium-high.
Gently squeeze dough. If it is stiff (it probably will be), knead in water 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time until the dough feels like soft cookie dough—not stiff, but not sticky. Divide into 15 pieces, rolling each into a ball. Cover with plastic.

Cut 2 squares of plastic bag 1 inch larger than your tortilla press. Open the press and lay in one piece of plastic. Lay a dough ball in the center, and gently mash it. Top with the second piece of plastic and close press. Using the press's lever, gently flatten the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick disk. Peel off the top piece of plastic.

Flip the tortilla onto your right hand (if right-handed)—the top of the tortilla should line up with the side of your index finger. Now, gently roll it onto the side of the griddle (or skillet) heated to medium: Let the bottom of the tortilla touch the griddle, then lower your hand slightly and move it away from you—the tortilla will stick to the hot surface so you can roll your hand out from under it as it rolls down flat.

After about 30 seconds, the edges of the tortilla will dry slightly and the tortilla will release from the griddle—before this moment, the tortilla will be stuck. With a metal spatula (or calloused fingers), flip the tortilla onto the hotter side of the griddle (or hotter skillet).

After about 30 seconds, the tortilla should be lightly browned underneath. Flip it over. Cook 30 seconds more—the tortilla should puff in places (or all over—a gentle press with metal spatula or fingers encourages puffing). Transfer to a basket lined with a napkin or towel.

Press and bake the remaining tortillas. Stack each newly baked tortilla on the previously baked ones. Keep the tortillas well wrapped to keep warm.

Reheating Corn Tortillas: With a microwave oven Dribble 3 tablespoons water over a clean kitchen towel, then use it to wrap your cold tortillas. Slide the package into a microwaveable plastic bag and fold it over—don't seal. Microwave at 50% power for 4 minutes to create a steamy environment around tortillas. Let stand for 2 or 3 minutes before serving.

Jen's Notes:
If you live in an extremely dry climate like I do, you may need a couple of extra teaspoons of water in your masa harina dough.

I use this little device to press out my tortillas. I found this cast iron tortilla press pretty cheap, and it is one of my favorite kitchen tools.

Here is the final result. Don't they look yummy??? They are!!! I heart fresh corn tortillas!!!

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