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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Homemade Flour Tortillas

I love to make things that most people would never think of making at home, because they are so readily available, like Tortillas. Sure, you can find good quality Tortillas just about anywhere, especially in the Detroit area, which has a large Mexican population, but I enjoy learning how things are made. Now that I know how to make a Tortilla, I can change the ingredients around a bit and do something creative with it, like sweeten it and make a Mexican dessert. Maybe Cinnamon Ice Cream wrapped with Banana Tortillas; there are a lot of possibilities.
I used lard in my Tortillas, sue me, I like lard for certain things. As my Mom always says, Lard makes the absolute best pie crust! Do you know how often I eat a piece of pie? Maybe twice a year, why not make it with the good stuff! It's all about moderation. By the way did you know that lard has half of the cholesterol of butter? You can just as easily use vegetable shortening in this recipe, if the four letter word LARD freaks you out.
This recipe is changed just a little from the one in the book The Southwest: Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking which I heard about from Cookie Jill's site, Cookies in Heaven. The Tortillas came out picture perfect, and tasted even better. The Recipe:

Homemade Flour Tortilla Recipe

2 1/2 Cups A.P. Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
5 Tbsp Lard (or Vegetable Shortening)
3/4 - 1 Cup Warm Water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the solid lard until it is in pea sized pieces. Add the water a little at a time, working it in until the mixture comes together in a cohesive mass. Knead the dough for about a minute, if the dough is sticky, add a little more flour. Form into a ball and wrap with plastic, let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
When the dough has rested, cut the ball in half, then cut each half into 6 equal pieces, roll them into balls. With a rolling pin, roll the balls into rounds of about 1/8" thickness (I like them a little oddly shaped, it makes everyone sure that they're homemade).
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add 1-2 tortillas at a time if they'll fit. When they start to bubble, check the underside, if there are brown spots, flip them over. The second side doesn't take quite as long, cook them just until the bubbles turn light brown. Serve immediately or cool and stack them, place them in a plastic bag and refrigerate. I say if you're going to all the trouble, make them to order in front of your guests, they cook very quickly, and are wonderful when right off of the skillet!

Makes 12 Tortillas

Friday, May 20, 2005

Grilled Pizzas

Originally uploaded by Danno1.
Here is a pic of the Grilled Pizzas I made last week, God I just love them! Here is the recipe if you missed it.

Also check out the pics at New Orleans Cuisine of the Homemade Beignets from this week.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Tacos and My Shrimp Taco Recipe

There are a lot of ways to make Tacos, and the ingredients and fillings are endless. I've learned a lot about Tacos from all of my Mexican friends that I've worked with over the years. They've made me Pork Tacos, Fish Tacos, Chicken Tacos, Shrimp Tacos, and even Beef Tongue Tacos! The latter is one of the famous, lets Freak Out the Gringo recipes, my good friend Chepe is famous for this. Not that it wasn't a good Taco, and not that it isn't commonly eaten, just out of the ordinary for Gringos. They were good, but Chepe hooked me up with the fatty undercurrent of the tongue, for maximum effect! I would expect nothing less, Chepe has a great sense of humor, as well as a great sense for good food! My Mexican friends are always happy to make lunch for everyone in the kitchen, and proud as hell of the bounty they've produced!
"Here you are My Man!", with a big smile, offering up a plate of Chiliquiles, Ceviche (The Power, according to Chepe), or Tacos; Whatever the Mexican flavor of the day happens to be, always delicious! I've learned SO much from the Mexican cooks I've worked with, I can't even tell you how much!
The Tacos my Amigos have made for me involve warm raw corn Tortillas, usually cooked Pork, and these wonderful little sauces that they make! Ahh, they take next to nothing and make a perfect sauce, my favorite kind of cooking; the true mark of a good cook, Something from Nothing! Their sauces are basically this, not to over simplify their perfection and balance of flavor:

Tomatillas or Roma Tomatoes
Chunks of Onion
Garlic Cloves
A few herbs
Dried Chilis, usually Bird's Eye
Salt & Pepper To Taste

Cover these ingredients with water, boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender. After the sauces is blended add a little, very finely diced onion, and cilantro.

Another great Taco that I've eaten was the Tropical Taco on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Fresh fish, sour cream, lots of Avocado, the works.

Here is how I made my Shrimp Tacos the other day:

Shrimp Taco Recipe

For the Shrimp:

2 tsps Creole Seasoning, mixed with:
1/4 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Cumin

1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp Garlic
1/2 1b Medium Shrimp
Lime Wedge
1 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro
If you like heat add 1-2 Diced Chipotle Peppers (Canned, Smoked Jalapenos) Optional

Toss the Shrimp in the seasoning mix. Melt the butter over Medium-High Heat, add the Garlic and Chipotles (if using), saute for 1 minute. Add the shrimp, saute until just barely cooked through, spritz with fresh Lime juice and toss in the Cilantro. Serve immediately.

For the Tacos:

All items on the table for self assembly

4 Taco Shells (I fried my own using a need little gadget made specifically for this. 3 inches of 360 degree lard or vegetable oil, Fry until lightly Golden Brown, maybe 2 minutes. Drain.)
or use Warmed Flour Tortillas
1/2 Avocado, sliced or diced just before serving
1 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese or Queso Blanco
2 Cups Thinly Sliced Leaf Lettuce
Sour Cream
3/4 Cup Diced Tomatoes
Chipotle Hot Sauce
The Shrimp

I assemble mine: Shrimp, Cheese, Lettuce , Tomatoes, Avocados, Sour Cream, Hot Sauce.
Serve with Refritos and Mexican Style Rice, with a cold Mexican Beer, such as Dos Equis or Pacifico.

Serves 2

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Tortilla Soup Recipe

After my Cinco de Mayo Fiesta I ended up with some left over Homemade Tortilla Chips, what to do, what to do. It was either Chiliquiles or Tortilla Soup, I chose the latter. Chiliquiles are left over Tortilla chips that are cooked in a sauce. I am always amazed at the wonderful sauces my Mexican friends in the restaurants can whip up out of practically nothing. In the future I will post a great Chiliquile recipe. Tortilla Soup is an uncomplicated soup that is just bursting with flavor! I puree my Tortilla Soup then garnish with the texture (as well as flavor and color) components. You want to make homemade Tortilla Chips for this, no Tostitos please! Besides, once you make your own Tortilla Chips and find out how much better they are, you'll never buy them again! We'll start with the Chips:

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips

2 1/2 Cups Vegetable Oil or Lard
Corn Tortillas
Kosher Salt
A Baking Sheet covered with a double layer of Paper Towel

Heat the fat to 360 degrees F in a 2 quart saucepan. Cut the amount of Tortillas desired into quarters. If just making them for this recipe I used Chips from 4 Corn Tortillas (plus some strips for garnish). When the oil is to temperature, drop in about 5 or 6 pieces at a time, frying until just about golden brown. A good way to gauge if they're done is when the heavy bubbling in the oil subsides; they won't take long. Remove them to the baking sheet to drain with a slotted metal utensil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until you have your desired amount of chips.

**Note - Whenever I fry Tortilla Chips I always make some strips to use for a garnish. Simply Cut about 3-4 Tortillas into thin 1/8 - 1/4" thin strips, then fry as for the Chips, though they won't take as long.

The Tortilla Soup Recipe

2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil or Lard
1 Cup Chopped Spanish Onion
1 Tbsp Chopped Garlic
2 Tbsp Chopped Jalapeno
1 Cup Chopped Fresh Tomato
16 Corn Tortilla Chips (as described above)
1 Bay Leaf
4 Cups Rich Chicken Stock (you could use canned in a pinch)
2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Oregano
1 Cup Raw Chicken cut into bite sized pieces
(Toss the Chicken with 1 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro and the Juice of 1/2 Lime)
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste


Tortilla Strips
1/2 Large Avocado or one whole small (Diced just before serving)
3 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro
4 Tbsp Finely Diced Fresh Tomato
A Lime Wedge

Heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the Onion and saute until wilted. Add the Garlic and Jalapeno and cook for 1 minute, add the tomato and cook for 1 minute more. Crush the Tortilla Chips over the mixture and stir in, cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Bay Leaf, Chicken Stock and Fresh Oregano; Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the Bay Leaf and Puree with an immersion Blender or in a regular (heat proof) blender, taste for seasonings, add salt and pepper to taste. Return the soup to low heat and add the Chicken, the soup is finished when the Chicken is cooked through.

To Serve:

I serve this soup in a wide shallow Soup Bowln garnished with the Tomato, Avocado and Cilantro. Stand up a large Pile of Tortilla Strips in the middle of the bowl, and spritz each serving with Fresh Lime Juice. Ice Cold, Dos Equis Special Lager with a lime wedge stuffed into the bottle is a perfect accompaniment.

Serves 2