Monday, January 30, 2012

Out of the frying pan

Yesterday I made tortillas. For the first time!

Above is a painting by Diego Rivera called "Tortilla Making 1926." Ha, ha! Howard points out that the painting looks like the mural at the Mexican restaurant we used to go to, which ended up closing down after the gay host was led out in handcuffs. Remember that? Who could forget it??

With that restaurant gone you have no choice but to make your own tortillas.

OK, the real reason I made them was, I forgot to get them when I went to Tops. And I thought: How tough can it be?

I got the recipe out of Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone." You take two cups of pastry flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. vegetable oil and 3/4 cup water or milk. Mix it together and it is supposed to form a smooth dough after you knead it for a minute.

Uh... right.

Immediately I knew I was not quite on the right track. I needed a little more water. Then I needed a little more flour. Finally I got the mixture where I thought I wanted it. You had to rest the dough for 15 minutes -- 30 minutes if you used white all-purpose flour, which I, food snob that I am, did not. Next you divided it into eight pieces, rolled them into balls and finally rolled them out to a circle 1/4 inch thick.

A quarter of an inch thick?

What were they thinking?

Mine were paper thin. I still do not know what was wrong with this recipe. I followed it very carefully! They were thin because they had to be, because they barely rolled out to a tortilla-size circle. Not that you could exactly call it a circle. My shapes were every which way.

Still it was cool, to lift them off the floury board and plop them one at a time into a hot skillet.

You do not grease the skillet when you make tortillas. You get the pan hot and cook them for 40 seconds on one side until they are blistered, and then 40 seconds on the other side. The kitchen began to smell smoky.  I kept waiting for the smoke alarm to go off.

It did not, was one good thing.

The other good thing was that Howard, when he sat down to dinner and saw these tortillas, was really impressed.

"You made these??" he said.

And I said, prettily, "Yes."

I do not get that much respect for writing my whole book on Leonard Pennario!

Who cares if she is the authorized biographer of America's greatest pianist? Can she make tortillas, is what really counts.

We made burritos by rolling the tortillas around chicken, black beans and salsa, and guacamole. Homemade tortillas roll up much better than the store variety. Plus, I have to say this, they are stupid cheap to make. And now that Howard had admired them I saw them as beautiful and glorious in a Martha Stewart way. The kind of way that announces that you made them yourself.

They looked kind of like this.

I am going to make them again.


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