Saturday, June 16, 2012

Taco night with fresh flour tortillas

There's no real need to make your own tortillas these days, but we've been attempting to cut down on the amount of processed foods we eat. Prepackaged tortillas are often full of preservatives and stabilizers, so I thought I'd see how difficult it would be to make our own. It's somewhat time-consuming but the degree of difficulty isn't hard, and I like the taste of them better because they're never gummy or tough.

As a bonus, I'm sharing my recipe for taco meat to complete a taco-night menu (with last week's Mexican coleslaw). Until recently I'd always just cooked up ground beef with some taco seasoning when making tacos, but the end result made a lot of little balls of beef that would roll out of the tacos with the slightest tip. I decided to approximate the more smooth mixture you find in restaurants by using an immersion blender to get the pieces small.

The tortillas (makes 8):

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 tsp coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1 tsp honey
1/4 cup + 2 tsp whole milk

1) In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add oil and honey and stir mixture until all wet ingredients are little flour-covered bits. (Traditionally tortillas are made with lard, which I don't usually have on hand, so I went with coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature and melts when warm, like lard, and it worked very well.)

2) With your hands, knead the flour mixture to further incorporate the wet ingredients until no little bits remain. It will stick together when you squeeze it in your palm, and then break apart like a sandcastle.

3) Add the whole milk. This bit is tricky, as you might need to add a 1 tsp more, depending on the accuracy of your other measuring. Stir in the milk with a spoon until mostly incorporated, then use your hands again to further knead until it has the consistency of soft dough. Add more milk if it's too dry and cracking.

4) Divide the dough in half, then again, and again, so that you have 8 not-quite-golf-ball sized pieces. (The pictures are of a half-batch.) Cover the bowl and let the balls sit for 30 minutes.

5) Prepare an area for rolling out the tortillas by dusting it (and a rolling pin) with flour. Slowly roll out one dough ball at a time, flipping it between rolls, until it is eight inches or so in diameter and very very thin.

6) Place each tortilla as it is completed on a cast iron skillet heated to medium-low. Cook 1 to 2 minutes on the first side and 30 seconds to a minute on the second side, until both sides have little brown specks on them. Set them aside in a stack as they finish.

Taco meat (serves 8):

3/4 pound ground beef (I usually use 3 frozen 1/4-lb hamburger patties)
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp taco seasoning
1 tbsp chipotle Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained

1) Place beef, water, tomato paste, taco seasoning and Tabasco sauce in a large skillet covered with a lid. Cook over medium-high heat until the beef is starting to turn brown. (If using frozen patties, flip them once so both sides get a little brown.)

2) Use an immersion blender to pulverize the beef. Add onions and beans.

3) Continue to cook, uncovered, until beef is thoroughly done and the mixture is moist but not drippy.

4) Taco construction: On a plate, layer one tortilla, a little sour cream, the meat mixture, shredded cheese (optional), and Mexican coleslaw. Fold in half. Repeat for as many tacos as you'd like and dig in!

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