Homemade Tortillas

 

Everyone loves Mexican food. Well, everyone in America. In Europe it hasn’t quite taken off yet but I believe it will with time. Growing up I’ve always had a decent selection of Mexican joints around to whet my appetite, but to be honest even cheap Tex Mex a la Chevy’s has its appeal. The fact that Taco Bell has a cult following 513mEyfJGBL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_and that you can find tomatoes canned with diced chilies in Iowa just speaks to the US’s love of “South of the Border” flavors. Despite all of this I believe that most of us have never really had true Mexican food. I’m talking fresh masa tortillas, cotija, hoja santa leaves, and more. As much as I could go on about these ingredients and this cuisine there is no way I could top Alex Stupak’s passion for this cuisine. (I’ll save my soapboxing for Greek food.) My local library has a used book store and I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy of his new book TacosNow I had staged (culinary term for working a shift) in his West Village restaurant Empellon for a day so I was well aware of the passion. I snatched that tome up so fast you wouldn’t believe. And I’m so glad I did. There is such an emphatic voice for this food contained within that I was immediately moved to run out and buy masa harina, a corn flour, and make my own corn tortillas. I was also lucky enough to have received a tortilla press for Christmas. Not 100% essential as abuelitas have been making them by hand for centuries but it sure makes quick work of the process.

Making tortillas is actually quite easy. It’s a mere two ingredients, three if you add salt like I do. The hardest part of it is getting a rhythm. The dough has to stay moist, the finished tortillas have to stay warm, and they each cook for about 55 seconds. That being said once you’re ready to rock and roll you can knock out a dozen in less than 15 minutes. Well worth it if you ask me. The tortillas we did not use I sliced into strips and fried for tortilla soup, though you could use them as tortilla chips too. They are so hearty that they maintained their crunch all through out the duration of the soup.

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I’m starting a cleanse and these babies are going to be the only “bread” (or as I call them “vehicles”) allowed. Doctor boyfriend whole heartedly supports this line of thinking.

Makes a dozen small corn tortillas:

1 1/2 cups masa harin

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon kosher/sea salt (omitted in Stupak’s recipe but added for my personal preference).

1. Place two skillets on the stove. One on medium heat and one on high. Mix together all the ingredients. It should be soft and supple but never sticky. If you’re too sticky than add another tablespoon of masa until it is no longer sticking. Cover with a moistened tea towel.

2. Prep your tortilla press by covering with the cut sections of a plastic freezer bag. Roll a ball of masa in your hands about the size of a golf ball. Place it down on the bottom of the tortilla press. Push down gently with two fingers to flatten it slightly. If the sides crack your dough is too dry, add another tablespoon of water and remix.

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3. Make sure your plastic pieces are not wrinkled and gently but firmly close the tortilla press. Beware that they have a tendency to flatten one side more than the other. Peak in the side while you press if needed to get a feel for it.

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4. Place the tortilla in the medium heat pan for 10 second. Flip onto the high heat pan for 15 seconds. Flip again and cook for 30 seconds. Stash your disks of golden corny goodness in a warm spot or wrapped in a dish towel or tortilla holding bag. (Yeah, I have one of those.)

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5. Repeat until done.

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*NOTES* To keep the tortillas warm consider purchasing a small tortilla bag. It’s a lined fabric pouch often times super colorful. Ignore the classic plastic tortilla containers. They do nothing to keep the heat in and instead often cause condensation. Mine cost about $8 off Amazon. My tortillas now stay warm for about 1.5 hours. DO NOT REHEAT CORN TORTILLAS. Reheating doesn’t activate some hidden poison or anything but it renders your tortillas brittle and flavorless, which defeats the purpose of making fresh ones at all.

 

 

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Homemade Porcini Flavored Pasta

Porcini Pasta with Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken

Porcini Pasta with Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken

Growing up in Florida I didn’t quite get seasonal eating. Down there we only had two seasons: hurricane and tourist. It was always hot and sometimes wet. As I started to read food magazines waxing rhapsodic about summer berries and fall gourds I began to fetishize the concept of eating with the seasons. Even though it made no sense to do so where I lived. That didn’t matter to me. It was Fall in Florida and I was going to do my damnedest to make it feel that way. Dried porcini mushrooms became an obsession but I was unable to locate them. Living in New York now I can find just about anything on any day of the week.

porcini pasta
Last winter some friends of mine and I headed to Arthur Ave. in the Bronx, the real Little Italy of NYC. I scooped up a bunch of “00” flour and dried porcinis, with no real idea of how to use either. This isn’t a rare thing for me to do. No less than 20% of my pantry is comprised of these “curiosity” items.

Earlier this week I cracked open Aliza Green’s Making Artisan Pasta. In it there is a recipe for dried porcini pasta. Fresh homemade pasta is far superior to the cheap packaged stuff from the supermarket, as long as you have the right ingredients. You’re going to need more than just all-purpose flour. Ideally you have some “00” or Italian style flour, and you will definitely need some semolina and durum. Ok, I’ll be honest I couldn’t get durum on the quick run to the store, so I doubled up on the semolina. The pasta has a nice bite to it and it worked in a pinch.

15g dried porcinis, powdered in a coffee or spice grinder

175g 00 flour

82g semolina

82g durum

3 eggs, at room temperature

3 TBL water, room temperature

1.With the paddle attachment in a stand mixer, or using your hands, mix together all of the ingredients. Once a dough has formed change the attachment to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 5-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and tacky but not sticky.

2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

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3. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Flatten each piece and keep them covered with plastic wrap when not in use. Shape the first piece into a square. Run it through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Fold it over and run it through on the next setting up. The actual numbers will depend on your pasta machine. With mine I run my pasta through the machine first one 1, then 2, then 4, 6, and lastly on 8. I fold and rotate my dough each time I run it through the machine (except for after the last time, the dough is ready then.) After running the dough through the machine on 6 I cut the resulting long sheet of dough in half, to make it more manageable.

4. Once the dough is rolled out to your desired thin-ness put it through the tagaliolini attachment to get broad, flat noodles. Hang the noodles on kitchen cord or lay them out flat on a tea towel lined baking tray to let the noodles dry.

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For bowties: Do not run the pasta through the tagaliolini attachment. Instead cut the long edges off of the dough using a decorative edge roller. Use this same roller to cut the long strip of dough in half length wise. Use a flat roller blade to cut the dough into small rectangles. Pinch each rectangle in the middle to create the bow tie shape. Allow to dry on a tea towel lined baking tray, flipping over once during the drying time.

 

porcinipasta-1-5I like to serve this pasta dressed in a drizzle of garlic infused olive oil, lemon zest, and juice topped with roasted chicken and chopped parsley.

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Whiskey Marshmallows and Cajun Maple Pecans

Whiskey, making marshmallows feel all grown up.

Whiskey, making marshmallows feel all grown up.

Marshmallows are one of my favourite foods. That’s going to turn some people off I realize but I don’t care. I love them plain, toasted, made into ice cream, or especially in some bar treat (think rice krispie) form. But even if you are a marshmallow hater you might find yourself changing your tune after trying this boozy variety. And if you think you hate marshmallows but have never had a homemade one before then my money says its not these sweet little confections you hate but the crap that comes in a bag at the store. I make mine from scratch at least once a year and whenever I’m going camping. My boyfriend never liked marshmallows, finding them to be “pointless” and “too sweet.” He went so far as trying to ban me from making them anymore. That is until I put a healthy bit of bourbon into a batch. They are light as air, sweet, and have all of the depth of flavor of whichever alcohol you use. My go to’s are bourbon, whiskey, or rum. The alcohol cuts the sweetness and now these are “the only marshmallows I ever want to see in this house, ever.” You can guess where that quote comes from.

Maple, smoked chili, salt, and pepper give these pecans a kick.

Maple, smoked chili, salt, and pepper give these pecans a kick.

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If you’re gonna have pie, you gotta have ice cream

Ice cream, yo.

Ice cream, yo.

Did I mention I hate to let anything go to waste? Hate hate HATE it? So when I found out I could steep fresh peach pits in cream and make lightly peach scented ice cream I knew I had to do it. While my own homemade almond extract is not going to be ready until Christmas at the earliest I still have some store bought left over. There is nothing like the menage a trois of peaches, cream, and almond. It’s divine. Assuming you have an ice cream maker making ice cream at home is stupid easy. Its easier than making frozen custard, which is often mistaken for ice cream. Whats the difference you ask? Egg yolks, baby. Sweet, fatty, golden yellow, emulsifying egg yolks.

Seriously, save these guys.

Seriously, save these guys.

Ice cream can technically be made in one day, but I always give frozen custard overnight to chill. I do the same with any infused ice creams, like this one, so plan to make it the day before you want to eat it. It’s really really ridiculously easy to just steep some peach pits from your pie making at the same time you are making said pie. Let it sit overnight with your pie dough and then “spin” (the term used in professional kitchens for churning ice cream) your ice cream while you form your pie. You could spin your ice cream at the same time as your pie is baking but even with as awesome as the Cuisinart and KitchenAid ice cream makers are if the high heat of the oven makes your kitchen warm your ice cream will suffer. Avoid this issue by spinning your ice cream (a lovely hands off 20-30 minutes) while you are rolling pie dough, which also benefits from a cold kitchen.

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2 recipes, 1 post. (Lime curd and homemade lime extract, to be precise)

Limes were on sale last week so naturally I bought twenty of them. At ten for a dollar how could I not? Immediately my boyfriend got suspicious. “Great. Well those are going to go bad,” he dismissed. “Au contraire!” I protested. “Yeah, whats the plan then?” he countered. I proudly whipped out a sixer of Corona Lights (also on sale.) With an incredulous eyebrow raised and a slight shake of his head he dropped the subject but I knew I would have to find something to do with all of these limes.

Something about having curd around makes me feel so British.

Something about having curd around makes me feel so British.

After eyeballing numerous recipes for coconut lime cake, lime shortbread, and some sexy looking end of summer margaritas I decided to go with lime curd. I still had nearly a dozen yolks left over from the angel food cake, and I couldn’t think of a brighter topping to go with the cake and remaining blueberries. But I couldn’t stop there. Lime curd takes only a tablespoon of zest and half a cup of juice and I had mountains of limes spilling out of bowls and rolling off of my table that needed to be wrangled and put to use. Oh, and if you find yourself in a similar situation with say lemons, oranges, mineolas, buddha’s hands, etc instead of limes, go for it! Any citrus is interchangeable in these recipes.

I wish

I really wish “zest” was an onomatopoeia.

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