Tortillas: Or How I Climbed My Culinary Everest

Things have been getting a bit to serious in these here blog parts. If you are looking for a serious 1500 word treatise on Social Injustice and Systems of Oppression and What God and Jesus Say… You’re going to have to go some place else.

Today, I want to talk about tortillas. I love them. As a person from the Western half of the US, I grew up eating them in a variety of dishes.

I strongly dislike corn tortillas. I have the feeling part of it is a textural thing: I hate how they tend to dissolve in enchiladas and how grainy they are. It also might be a culinary flexibility thing (This is something I highly prize in my ingredients, and is why I don’t buy cucumbers.): who (besides people with gluten intolerance) have corn tortilla burritos and quesadillas?!

But I also suspect my dislike is due to never having a fresh one straight off the conveyor belt. In my family, we get the prepackaged ones straight out of the plastic bag from my local big chain grocery store. Not ideal, I know. I reserve the right to change my opinion of these things after I go to Mexico and eat some fresh warm corn tortillas flavored with a healthy dollop of ambience and lard.

(The above paragraphs are underlined with the statement that tacos are the exception to this rule. In my family, a taco is basically a tostada folded in half. The corn tortillas are deep-fried with in an inch of their life and sprinkled with salt and some sort of cheese. Isn’t everything in life better deep-fried and sprinkled with salt and cheese?)

Food pr0n. I have a serious problem with it...

Food pr0n. I have a serious problem with it…

In my opinion flour tortillas are better than corn tortillas but they have one problem: they are not available in Brazil. Answer me this: how can you find tortillas AND tortilla chips in Israel? A country that is not even in the same region as Mexico let alone a nearby continent… And you can’t find them in Brazil. A country that is almost the same continent and seems much closer than Israel?

Le sigh.

This is the true injustice of the world. [dramatic swoon]

But, alas, I am a modern American girl who is willing to face her problems head on. I carpe all the diems and don’t take no for answer (unless we are talking about cliffs or burning buildings… then I’ll take no for an answer.)

One day I craved tortillas and so I set to looking for a recipe. It can’t be that hard to make flour tortillas, right?

Wrong.

One ill-fated and magical summer I had an awful job (at Subway) and an awful apartment in the middle of Boston (Allston, Linden St.). I spent the summer working 6 days a week at a job whose only real perk was the free ‘food’ and free Starbucks. Half the money I made that summer went to rent. The other half went to cheap wine, savings, oatmeal, and delicious impulse buys at Trader Joe’s.

I think the fateful day was a rainy day and it was probably way past my lunch time. I only had whole wheat flour, butter, water, and baking soda. All of the recipes I looked at involved lard or corn or baking powder. My not-fully functioning pre-frontal cortex made the decision that I could just substitute lard with butter and baking powder with baking soda. And while we’re at it, my pre-frontal cortex whispered to me, why even use a recipe? You work in the restaurant business! You are practically Anthony Bourdain! Recipes are trying to keep you down. They are the man. Screw the man!

(I was living with a bunch of Anarchists. I blame the second-hand smoke, cigarette and otherwise.)

Needless to say, the resulting unpalatable mess turned me off of making my own tortillas for many years afterward. It became a culinary Everest of sorts. A challenge I was not willing to take on ever again, or rather, not willing until the craving struck in a place where it was impossible for me to get pre-made flour tortillas.

As you can hopefully tell from the above anecdote, this is not a recipe I did not make this recipe up. I would not subject myself to that trauma again! This particular recipe has entered a heavy rotation in my house. It is extremely forgiving (if your measurements aren’t exact… no worries), keeps well in the fridge and is freaking DELICIOUS.

Homemade Flour Tortillas (via Foodess.com)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (Soy oil, Canola oil are ok substitutions. Don’t substitute olive oil.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup warm water

1. Combine oil and water. Add to medium-ish bowl with flour and salt. Stir to combine.

2. Knead dough until smooth. (Original recipe says to knead for 3 minutes… My attention span is not long enough for this and I generally have other pots on the stove.)

3. Divide dough into 8-10 equal pieces, rolling each piece into a ball. Put in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a plate. Refrigerate for 30 mins.

4. After your dough has rested it is time to cook your tortillas. Roll out eat ball to about 6-8 inches in diameter. Cook in skillet or large flat-bottomed stock pot. (Don’t grease your pot/pan. Unless you really messed something up your dough will not stick… I promise.) Cook your tortilla over medium-high heat until preferred doness is achieved. About 30-60 seconds on each side.

5. Wrap finished warm tortillas in clean dish towel to keep warm. Eat immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.

6. Enjoy not making my mistakes.

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