This is where it starts. Making your own tortillas is a gateway of sorts, because it gets you hooked on cooking, on making food from scratch.
Another reason it's a gateway is that it's so easy — it's literally water and flour. And yet, once you've done it, there's no undoing it. Quickly you realize you need to raise your taco game across the board. So instead of ground beef with the seasoning packet, now you're braising beef chuck or pork shoulder, with a bay leaf and everything.
The same goes for the beans. No canned bean will ever be good enough for these tortillas. So you're braising the meat, simmering the beans, you're making the tortillas, and before you know it — wham! you're an accomplished home cook.
And it all starts with these simple corn tortillas.
Not that you'll never buy tortillas again. That's not the case at all. Nor is any of this to say that your homemade tortillas are objectively or even likely to be quote-unquote "better" than store-bought ones. It's more about the fact that you made them yourself. You have options now.
Speaking of options, once you make the dough, you can roll it out with a rolling pin, or use a cast-iron tortilla press, which is much easier and fun to do. Stick with cast iron, though. The cast-aluminum versions are cheaper but they start to warp and your tortillas end up weirdly misshapen.
Finally, a quick word on masa harina. It's a flour made from ordinary field corn (aka maize) that's simmered in an alkaline solution, then dried and ground. Depending on where you are, you'll either find it at the supermarket, or you'll have to hit up the mercado. It might also be labeled masa harina de maiz, or corn masa mix.
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 1/2 cups water (hot)
- Combine the flour and water in a large bowl and mix to form a dough. Knead for a minute until smooth and then cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough into small balls between the palms of your hands and press firmly in a tortilla press. It helps to line the press with plastic wrap so the dough doesn't stick. You'll likely adjust the size of the balls as you get the hang of it.
- Heat a griddle to medium-high. Once each tortilla is pressed you can warm it on the griddle for about a minute on each side, or maybe a bit longer depending on how light or dark you want them.
- At this point they're ready to serve or use for making tacos or whatever. If you have leftovers, you can store them in the fridge for a few days, or fry them to make tostadas or tortilla chips.