Up until a few weeks ago, I was buying my tortillas from the grocery store. Brent surprised me with a tortilla press last Christmas, and at first, I was excited at the thought of being super hardcore and making my own, from scratch. I imagined myself in the kitchen, apron fastened tightly, hair pinned in a bun, flour flying everywhere while I press those tortillas, Manu Chao playing in the background, and a margarita on the rocks in my other hand. I stopped daydreaming, and came to the conclusion that this all seemed like a lot of work, and that it was easier to walk to the store and buy some tortillas than make my own. The tortilla press went in the back of the cupboard, beside the cotton candy machine, and life went on in an ordinary fashion.
I don't know what sparked my interest, but a couple of weeks back I decided to dust off the old press. I found a recipe for simple flour tortillas, somewhere on the internet. My inability to remember probably stems from the fact that they were horrible. I couldn't get my tortillas thin enough, which should not have been a problem considering I was using a piece of equipment that in its very nature, should at least press them flat. Although I can't blame the press entirely, I think the gluten got overworked and the dough just sprung back too much. I made a batch, and my dinner guests, unfortunately, had to eat them and discover with me, that they were indeed not that good.
I saw this failure as a challenge. It was about time that I try to perfect the tortilla, just out of pure spite. Through my trials, I learned that corn flour works best. You need to add enough water to create a smooth dough, similar to Play-Doh - probably not the best analogy, but it's what I've got. You need to press out the tortillas as thin as possible without them smearing into a paste. I prefer to use a large zip-lock bag cut in half, as opposed to wax paper. I find that I can get the tortilla thinner that way.
If you don't have a tortilla press, I've heard that using a rolling pin or bowl to press them out, works well. Get the griddle or pan really hot before frying them and always eat them hot of the grill is best. Once you've purchased cornflour, it's actually a lot easier to make your own tortillas than get in the car and drive to the store. Homemade tortillas are way better than store-bought ones. It's a game changer.
I considered writing up a recipe for some sort of fabulous fish taco, smothered in a cilantro lime sauce, and topped with crunchy lettuce, but during the last minute, while on a quick run to the store, I saw this beautiful butternut squash and I knew what had to be done. I took it home, and almost cut off my left hand trying to peel it. And then for a short moment I kind of regretted my decision, but after frying it up in some salty chili flakes that I brought back from Istanbul last summer, I was confident with my decision.
I experimented with a few sauces, and settled on a sour cream and adobo sauce, with lime. The mango pineapple salsa was a nice touch as well, and the cabbage is a necessary ingredient for any taco. All in all, a total success. I learned how to make tortillas, I still have my left hand intact, and I have enough taco ingredients to last me the weekend. Hurrah.
CHILI-FRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH TACOS WITH MANGO PINEAPPLE SALSA RECIPE
makes 8 tacos
notes: tacos are basically the best food ever.
PINEAPPLE SALSA INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup chopped pineapple
1/2 cup chopped mango
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp diced shallot
1/2 lime, squeezed
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Place in the fridge until ready to use.
CHIPOTLE SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 - 1 lime, squeezed
8 squirts of hot sauce,
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients with a wire whisk. Start with the juice from 1/2 of a lime, and then if you prefer the sauce thinner, add the other half. You may need to balance out the sour with a bit more sugar though. If you prefer the sauce a bit more spicy, either add more adobo sauce, hot sauce, or dice one of the chipotle peppers form the adobo sauce tin. Adobo sauce, is the sauce or marinade that surrounds chipotle peppers. You can find it in a can, in the Hispanic section of the grocery store, usually sold as chipotle peppers. Once combined, cover and place in the fridge until ready to use.
1/2 butternut squash, cubed
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp chili flakes
Peel the squash with a potato peeler and try not to cut off your hand in the process. Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut the squash into small pieces. In a frying pan on medium heat add the oil, squash, and chili flakes. Fry the butternut squash until golden brown and crispy. Place onto a paper towel to soak up any extra grease.
1 cup maza harina,
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cups of warm water
While the squash is frying, heat a cast iron pan on med-high. Do not add any oil or butter to the pan. In a medium size bowl, add the corn flour. In a measuring cup, measure 2/3 cup of warm water. Dissolve the salt into the water.
Slowly add the water to the corn flour, combining with your hand. Once all of the flour has been added, continue to knead for 2 minutes. If the dough appears to be a bit dry, add more water, a tsp at a time. If it appears to wet, add more flour. You want the dough to be soft and smooth. Not sticky or crumbly. It should have the consistency of play-doh, pardon my analogy.
Once the dough is kneaded, divide into eight equal size balls. Cover with a damp cloth so they wont dry out. Place one piece of dough between two pieces of parchment or saran wrap. You could even cut a large zip lock bag into two. This is to ensure that the dough does not stick to the counter or press. Press the dough with either a tortilla press, or a roll pin into a flat round circle, as thin as possible. Place the dough onto the hot skillet and fry for 50 seconds on each side. Remove the tortilla form the skillet and place into a tortilla warmer or a warm towel. Homemade tortillas are best eaten shortly after they are made.
1 - 2 limes, cut into wedges
1/2 cabbage, sliced thinly
Tapatio hot sauce
To assemble the tacos, lay them flat on the table. Add shredded cabbage, butternut squash, salsa, and then top with the chipotle sauce. Season with lime juice, hot sauce, and/or cilantro.