I thought about devoting a whole post to homemade corn tortillas, but realized I'd have to highlight pictures of my hand-rolled, picasso-esque creations, which I knew were imperfect looking. There's nothing wrong with imperfection, but compared to the flat, circular discs produced by tortilla presses, mine looked like a toddler flattened them with a breakfast plate.
But for the sake of all things handmade, which should be lovingly prized, we'll call my hand-rolled tortillas rustic and urban chic. Imperfection is so hip these days. ;)
Instead, I'm combining the recipe with my favorite method for using them: breakfast tacos.
I make tacos probably 6-8 times a month on average. Usually street-style tacos for dinner with lots of cilantro and chopped onion or breakfast tacos in the a.m. with scrambled eggs and leftover meat or sauteed chorizo sausage.
Frankly, I could eat them for every meal. I've honed my tacos skills to the point that my boyfriend mentions "food truck?" nearly every time I fix them. But I'm still on the grail-like quest for replicating the red and green sauces.
If you've ever eaten at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria, you know what I'm talking about. Until I figure out how to make them, I'll continue funneling money into those tiny restaurants for their homemade tacos, sauces and horchatas.
However, I've now one-upped them by learning how to make homemade corn tortillas. Or, more accurately, I've one-upped the grocery stores where I used to buy stacks of them. Gladly, I no longer do that. Cause store-bought tortillas are generally dried out, semi-flavorless and have additives and preservatives to keep them fresh longer. No thank you!
Plus, fresh corn tortillas are a million times more delicious. They're made with masa harina, a finely ground and treated corn flour, which has a distinct fragrance and taste that's a byproduct of soaking the dried corn in limewater before grinding.
What's the difference between masa harina and corn meal, you ask? Well, the dried corn used to make masa harina undergoes a process called nixtamalization. According to the helpful website, WiseGeek, this nixtamalization is defined as:
"...a process which involves soaking a grain in a highly alkaline solution to loosen the outer hull, which is known as the pericarp. When grains are nixtamalized, the solution frees up available nutrients and proteins in the grain, making it accessible to consumers and thereby raising the nutritional value of the grain."
Soaking the corn in an alkaline solution (usually limewater a.k.a. calcium hydroxide or wood ash) transforms the now softened corn into a substance perfect for making dough (unlike regular corn meal). Additionally, the limewater fortifies the corn with calcium and through chemical reaction enables the dietary nutrient, niacin, also known as Vitamin B3, to be absorbed by our bodies when consuming the masa harina.
Here's an image of the process from Wikipedia's entry for Masa:
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