Taco night is something J and I both loved as children. J says he loved how interactive the meal was, that everyone was reaching around, having fun together and adding things to their tacos. I remember my sister and I chorusing “Tacos!” whenever my mom asked us what we wanted for dinner. I also liked any excuse to add shredded cheese to just about anything. We had friends over for taco night last night, and I thought I’d complicate the proceedings by making my own corn tortillas.
I’ve recently started reading Gluten-free Girl and the Chef. I’m always on the look out for new blogs to read, and I found this gem while looking for some gluten-free recipes for my sister. I adore Shauna’s writing, and the joy that she takes in food, in cooking and eating, in preparing dishes for herself and her family. Her photography is beautiful, and each dish she posts makes me want to reach through the screen to taste it. Earlier this week Shauna posted a big pot of beans. She talked about the simplicity and the comfort found in a pot of beans on the stove in the colder winter months. While I completely agree with the sentiment, and adore all sorts of bean combinations during the winter, especially black beans with goat cheese or cannellini beans with rosemary, what struck me most was how Shauna made her own corn tortillas (and quickly it seemed!) to accompany the beans she was making.
With this inspiration fresh in my mind, I headed over to Berkeley Bowl, knowing I’d find masa harina (the corn flour you use to make corn tortillas) in the bulk bins there. After googling around, I was shocked by how simple it seemed to be to make corn tortillas. I mixed together 2 cups of masa and 1 1/2 cups of water, which formed a very thick dough. I formed small balls of dough and smashed them out flat on my cutting board.
This is where things got a little dicey. Making corn tortilla dough is not hard, but the actual making of corn tortillas involves quite a lot of technique. From here you just find a way to transfer the very thin circle of dough from the cutting board to a hot, dry skillet and cook the tortilla for about a minute on each side.
I can tell this is a technique that gets easier with practice. Luckily I can also vouch for the fact that slightly thicker corn cakes also taste fantastic, just cook them a little longer on each side. I got the same sense of accomplishment from these as I did from pickling my own peppers and canning my own tomatoes. I can see myself dedicating some serious time to mastering the corn tortilla technique. Really, these were so simple, and so much tastier than store bought corn tortillas, I have to imagine that most people don’t know just how easy it is to make your own. We had backup corn tortillas for taco night with our friends, but I really loved the messy, mishapen corn tortillas I made myself.
We topped the tacos with all sorts of options, grilled corn with onion and garlic, cumin-spiced black beans, oven roasted tomato salsa (which somehow escaped a picture), plus guacamole, cotija cheese, and the radish, cucumber and apple slaw I wrote about yesterday. We talked and laughed and reached over each other for extra fillings and toppings, and just generally had a wonderful night.
Do you have a taco night tradition?