Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Cooking

From the food editor: A love letter to corn tortillas, in all their forms

Consider this my love letter to corn tortillas.

This week's recipe is a solid go-to dinner option at my house when there is no dinner plan, and it's all because of the pliable, flavorful discs.

The love even extends to the store-bought variety, which serves as the base of this recipe and is the reason it is so satisfying. Unlike their flour counterparts, corn tortillas from the grocery store are relatively clean, typically containing less than five ingredients. They're also super affordable, and help a meal come together fast.

These tortillas become the best version of themselves when heated until crispy. You can do this in a skillet or in the oven under the broiler. Whichever method you choose, drizzle the tortillas with some oil and sprinkle with salt first, then cook until they are crispy and darker in color but not yet brown. (This is also an easy way to make tortilla chips, just cut the tortillas into triangles before cooking.)

When buying corn tortillas from the store, make sure corn flour or masa flour is the first ingredient. Other ingredients typically include water, lime and some preservatives. (Though if the tortillas contain more than a handful of ingredients, look for a different kind.) As far as brands go, I've had good experiences with Maria and Ricardo, La Banderita and Mission, in terms of texture and taste.

Corn tortillas are also easy to make from scratch. The next time you want to get really adventurous on taco night, consider making a fresh batch of tortillas and cooking them just before eating them. Here are some tips.

• Corn tortillas are simple to make because they require minimal ingredients. So make sure you use the right ones. You will need corn flour, also known as masa harina.

• From there, recipes vary slightly. Some call for mixing the corn flour with just water, then forming that mixture into balls that will get flattened into tortillas. Others add oil in with the water and corn flour mixture, which helps prevent the tortillas from drying out.

• After you've mixed the simple dough together, the most important part of tortilla-making is rolling them out. You want to make sure they are thin, so that they cook all the way through. You can use your hands, but you'll likely need a rolling pin. A tortilla press is a good investment if your tortilla love extends as far as mine.

• Here is a corn tortilla recipe to try, adapted from the New York Times: Combine 1 ½ cups masa harina and ¼ teaspoon salt in a bowl; stir in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Slowly stream in 1 cup hot water, while mixing with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a ball. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead it just a minute or two. Wrap in plastic, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Break off pieces of dough until you have about 12 to 16 pieces, and lightly flour them. Roll them out to a diameter of 4 to 6 inches. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, then cook the tortillas, 1 or 2 at a time, until brown spots appear on the bottom, about a minute. Flip; do the same on the other side.

Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

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