27 January 2009

Tortillas for Two

It's the second day of the Chinese lunar year, which of course means constant fireworks. Today Chinese families visit their relatives bearing gifts. This time of year you can buy all sorts of things in festive red gift boxes--eggs, beer, oranges, dried meat, chickens--to bring to your nearest and dearest.

After overindulging in hot pot last night, I was not in the mood to cook or eat anything particularly heavy. We were out of most fresh ingredients, save eggs and fruit, so did not have a whole lot to work with. By the time evening rolled around, Turner decided to make to
rtillas. Fresh tortillas are ten times better than any of those stale, tough circles you buy in grocery stores and are very easy to make. Also, since we couldn't buy packaged tortillas even if we wanted to in China, making them from scratch has become second nature.

The recipe is simple: 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and one cup warm water. Mix the ingredients together by hand until a smooth, sticky dough forms and let it rest for about twenty minutes. This recipe makes 12-16 tortillas depending on the diameter you would like. After the dough has rested, cut it into equal balls. This is where two people come in handy. One person rolls the balls out on a lightly floured surface while the other mans the frying pan. Roll out each ball and add it to a frying pan over medium-high heat. It will cook for about a minute on each side (flip it when you start to see brown spots). If you have two people, the cooking time matches the time
it takes to roll out each dough ball, so the process is fairly quick.

I usually eat the first tortilla, because like the first pancake, it's usually the sacrificial lamb before the pan is hot enough. The warm stack of tortillas can be used for any manner of Mexican or other cuisine. We use them for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and Mexican pizzas (one fried tortilla topped with beans, cheese, salsa, and a fried egg). But on a day like today, with little food in the house, we made bean and cheese roll-ups, which entails exactly what you would imagine from the name.

I also know a great recipe, courtesy of Mom, for leftover or almost-stale tortillas. Spread butter over the tops, sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar, and slide them under the broiler until they are golden and crispy. They're like little slices of tortilla heaven!

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