Mexican Cooking, or how to make tortillas look like continents without even trying

Making tortillas is one of the few things I cook using measuring cups. To start, I take about 4 cups of flour, cut in 3/4 cups of shortening, add a tablespoon of baking powder and salt and finally mix in 1 1/4 cups of warm water. Mash it into a ball with your hands.

That’s the easy part. Now it’s time to make them into flat, round tortillas that are presentable in making tacos and quesadillas.   Good luck with that.  Take a rolling pin, a well floured flat surface and pull off a golf ball size chunk of the dough. I’ve found the trick is to first take the ball and flatten in with your palms, sprinkle the top with flour and then begin rolling it with the pin. The idea is to make it flat and round, but I dare you to make a perfect circle. In reality they tend to look like continents such as Australia…

Or Africa…

Or even a ghost…

I like to use a cast iron pan to fry them and it takes about 30 seconds per side of tortilla on medium-high heat. Bubbles will pop up on a few spots per tortilla that I typically pop with the spatula. This will often produce black spots under the bubble to create the eyes of the ghost, if that’s the shape you’re going for. A hidden benefit of this is that your house will now smell like a Mexican restaurant for up to 3 hours! Keep all your windows closed for that extra smoky effect.

No one wants to eat a taco or quesadilla shaped like continents or Halloween characters (maybe a very cultural World Cup party?) so the key is to make enchiladas. The tortillas are rolled up, covered in cheese and sauce and lined up in a pan. No one needs to know they were never even close to circles in the first place.

For meat I like to use either chicken or pork. If it’s chicken I just slowly boil a few chicken breasts to keep it lower in fat. If it’s pork I place 2 tenderloins in the crook pot for a few hours on low. Let them cook for about 3 hours and then pull it all apart with your hands and finally pan fry with onions. Finally remove the pan from the heat and pour in a container or sour cream of yogurt and mix.

For sauce I either use canned red enchilada sauce (which is way more expensive then it should be) or tomatillo sauce, which is generally the preferred option. Take about a dozen raw tomatillos and simmer them in an inch of water for about a half hour. Pour the liquid out and place the cooked tomatillos in the blender with a few cans of green chillies and some onion, garlic and cilantro.

The tortillas are dunked in the sauce to cover both sides before I place a handful (literally) of meat in the center and roll. Place it seem-side down in a casserole pan, add the extra sauce and some cheese to the top and bake until it bubbles.

The Tijuana store owners made sure we knew the joke was on us

Now you have lunch for a week and no one needs to know the shape of your tortillas, unless you blog about it I suppose. Europe or Asia would be very impressive.

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