Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tortillas de Harina (Flour Tortillas)

In case you don't know about "flour tortillas" (I assume almost everyone knows but just in case), they are thin, flat, round, flexible type of bread, it is used in Mexican Cuisine to make "Burritos", and also to eat with food the same way you eat "Corn Tortillas" (which is made from corn "masa" treated with a lime solution to release the corns nutrients)

The homemade flour tortillas hot from the griddle (comal) are delicious when spread with butter, dusted with sugar, rolled and enjoyed with hot coffee or milk or even a hot chocolate for a late night snack or breakfast.

I am not a fan of buying flour tortillas from the store because they use "shortening" and other hydrogenated fake oils sometimes "margarine" which I dislike :) so I rather have them only when homemade with either lard or butter as the fat. My mother uses butter because she loves the buttery taste, and say's it makes the tortilla more flexible.

I never really knew exactly how to make them until today, I knew what went into making them but not the proportions.

-5 cups all-purpose flour (La Piña brand is the one we use)
-1 tablespoon baking powder
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 stick butter about 1/2 cup (preferably unsalted but if you have salted it's okay to)
-2 cups hot water (more or less we used 2 but until it get's right consistency)
(1)Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil while waiting do the rest (fill it with plenty of water more than you need better to be safe than sorry than having boiled water then you find you need more later so boil atleast 4-6 cups even though I just ended using 2) turn off heat it should be at a bare boil like hot but not bubbling when you add it to flour.

(2)Add flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, mix with hand by swooshing around.

(3)With your hands add pieces of butter you rip off by hand and place into the flour, then with your hands rub and crumble together with flour until you get a crumbly texture but be sure to not have any big lumps of flour. Rub the flour well with butter.

(4)With a wooden spoon mix flour as you add water little by little and stirring until the dough becomes like a ball but is still sticky it will stick somewhat to hands and that is normal.

(5)Move to a flat surface with flour (in my case the kitchen counter) and work the dough dusting with flour occasionally until it doesn't stick to your hands (it was floured like 4 times and worked for about 5-10) until the dough is soft. Let dough rest atleast 10 minutes, it is optional to let the dough rest my mother usually doesn't but it makes it better. Also a trick my mom uses to know if she worked the dough enough is she cuts a big opening with the knife and if there's like a slight circle bubble thing on the dough that looks like a dip dot or something like that then it's ready the baking powder has activated also (or whatever I don't know the science of this stuff.)
(6)Divide dough into medium round balls, flatten out and round with a rolling pin or cup on a very lightly floured surface.

(7)Have a hot griddle ready that has been heating for about 5 minutes of medium high heat to high heat, add tortilla flat on to the hot griddle until it bubbles a bit or poofs then flip, it just has to slightly change color on one side. Then set into a container or in my case a "Tortillera" ( a type of container made of yarn and wood with a cloth and styraphoam inside to keep them warm and sealed.)

(1)Be careful not to add to much flour when working the dough or you will get dry tortillas, and also don't add to much water either it has to be just right.

(2)Be sure the griddle is hot enough it the griddles heat is to low you will end up "toasting" the tortillas and they will not be flexible.

(3)These tortillas can last up to 1 week sealed well in the fridge, the prepared dough can last up to 2 day's wrapped in plastic in the fridge.

(4)I didn't cook these I was simply observing my mother and told her to please measure so I can learn ha ha. Because she makes these but it's always eye balled so I never really learn or wouldn't be able to share.

(5)A good tortilla will puff then disinflate if it doesn't then it isn't that good.

(6)Things like making breads and stuff is more about texture, etc. so if something doesn't feel right follow your instincts and if you mess up it will be your fault ha ha just kidding, well the measurements used worked fine for use as well as the technique.

(7)You can make them as big or small as you want and as thin or fat as you want.

(8)Most importantly USE COMMON SENSE this is really important when working with bread, if it seems to sticky slowly add more flour to get the right consistency, if it looks to dry then add a little more water, feel the dough in your hands to see if it feels right.

Sardinas Lambriadas (Fluffy Egg Battered Sardines)

In Mexican cooking there is a very commonly used egg batter used for many many things, it is fluffy yet has body. It is most well known as a coating for "Chile Rellenos" (Mexican stuffed Pasilla Chiles), and can be used for Cauliflower like in my recipe "Cauliflor Envuelta en Huevo" and also for "Calabasitas Rellenas de Queso" (cheese stuffed squash) it is used for other dishes to, that I will post in the future.

Today I am gonna show you how to use it to prepare Sardines, it is very delicious and simple, it is my favorite way to prepare fresh sardines (aside from the canned one's packed in tomato sauce I love them to make "Sardinas en Salsa Criolla" (Cuban Creole sauce)

In this recipe sardines are butterflied, salted and peppered then coated in batter and fried. If you love sardines I really suggest you try the recipe after all the ingredients used in it are stuff that can be found in ALMOST ANYBODY'S PANTRY and FRIDGE.

Main Ingredients:
-1 1/2 lbs. fresh sardines
-a little bit of salt (just enough to very lightly season the fish)
-a little bit of pepper (just enough to very lightly season the fish)
-flour to dust fish

Batter Ingredients:
-3 egg whites
-3 egg yolks
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
-1 tsp. garlic powder (you may use fresh garlic but the powder is better for this)

(1)Get the sardines, clean them by removing the gills, cutting belly open and removing guts, and scraping any black stuff out. Now remove head (optional to remove head but it looks prettier), butterfly, get your knife and slice spine bone on both sides, then from the top to the bottom run your knife down to remove, when you get near the tail snip of the spine with scissors.

It is fine to have spines left, sardines have very tender spines when cooked they can be consumed.

(2)Now get each fish it should look like the picture, opened up and flat, now LIGHTLY salt and pepper each fish by sprinkling LIGHTLY (I emphasize this because the batter already has salt and is seasoned)

(3)Now get a plate, put some flour on it and set aside

(4)To make batter, separate egg whites from yolks, in a large bowl beat egg whites until stiff and fluffy like meringue, beat in egg yolks, add salt, pepper, garlic powder and beat in. Now your done set aside.

(5)Make your assembly line starting with a plate of seasoned fish, a plate of flour, the batter, and then then a pan with oil enough to pan-fry heated on medium high heat, and finally a plate with paper towels to drain fried fish.

(6)In this order start, get the lightly seasoned fish, dust it with flour, pass it through egg batter holding it from the tail, and then add to the hot oil and when browned on one side flip it when browned on the other until browned on both sides, remove from oil and drain in paper towel, do this in several batches.

(7)Enjoy, serve with lime wedges, or by itself as an appetizer, it can also be eaten as a main dish, just be sure to have at least 2 sardines per person.

(1)These are addicting
(2)Any leftover batter just pour into the hot oil and fry like a pan-cake, it is very tasty.
(3)The batter if it sits to long the egg whites start to separate, so when they do just beat it again and continue.