Desperately Seeking Mexican: How to Make Corn Tortillas

by Elissa

One of the things I miss most about living in California (besides my family and the weather, of course) is good Mexican food. Most of the Mexican food in DC just can't compare. I had read about making corn tortillas from scratch, and last weekend I decided that we were going to attempt the project. The only ingredients are masa harina (a special kind of corn flour) and water. A tortilla press isn't strictly necessary, but after doing some reading I decided that we'd have a much better final product if I acquired a press.  I found the masa harina at Whole Foods and the tortilla press at Sur la Table, and we were ready to get started.

Note that the tortilla press was "hecho en Mexico"--we took that as a good sign

Note that the tortilla press was "hecho en Mexico"--we took that as a good sign

I combined the masa harina with hot water according to the directions on the package and let the dough sit for an hour. Then it was time to get our tortilla assembly line going--fortunately Lane agreed to be my helper. We rolled the dough into plum-sized balls, pressed them in the tortilla press, and cooked them quickly on the griddle. Lane also worked on the guacamole--thank goodness for child labor!

The raw tortillas were very fragile--it was easy to tear the edges when extracting them from the press.  I used Kenji Lopez-Alt's trick of lining the press with a cut open Ziploc bag, which worked pretty well. I was amazed at how quickly they cooked--just a minute or two per side, which made it hard to multi-task while making them. But the tortillas stayed warm wrapped in a dish towel for a little while.  I decided to use our tortilla masterpieces in this fish taco recipe from Sam Sifton of the New York times--even though it was freezing last weekend I was determined to enjoy a dinner that reminded me of sunshine and the beach. 

Fish tacos with guacamole, lime crema, tapatio  hot sauce, and red cabbage slaw

Fish tacos with guacamole, lime crema, tapatio  hot sauce, and red cabbage slaw

The kids refused to eat any fish or cabbage, but they were enthusiastic about the fresh tortillas with guacamole and shredded cheese. While these weren't the best tortillas I've ever eaten, they were a huge step up from store-bought corn tortillas. And Josh and I thought that the fish tacos were terrific. Now we just need to plan a family vacation to Baja to compare our handiwork to the real thing!