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Homemade Taco Extravaganza

November 16, 2009

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One of the best things about living in the U.S. is the grocery stores.  I can go to one store and find everything I need to make just about anything.    

But to get to the grocery store, I have to put on normal clothes (which means changing out of pajamas), remember where I parked my car, drive to the store and navigate a crazy parking lot.  Then once I’m at the store there are hordes of people, unattended shopping carts left in the middle of many-an-aisle, and if you can’t find something, well, that’s just too bad because you won’t be able to track down a store employee to point you in the right direction.

Which is to say, sometimes I don’t like to go to the grocery store, modern marvel that it may be.  On Saturday Nate and I decided we wanted to make tacos for dinner and I really just couldn’t be bothered to go to the store, even though we had no tortillas. 

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So, I just made the tortillas myself.  I’d rather spend my afternoon toodling away in the kitchen then at the grocery store, and homemade food almost always tastes better than what you’d buy anyways.  Homemade tortillas are actually really easy to make and they are so good.  All you need is flour, shortening or butter, water and salt.  Previously I’d made tortillas with butter, but this time I used shortening and they were more tender and flaky than the butter tortillas. 

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Perfectly circular tortillas are way over-rated. It took a couple tries to get the pan temperature right, and you want to cook them on medium-high heat so they don’t get crunchy because then they break when you roll them into tacos.

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In addition to not having any tortillas, we also didn’t have any of those handy little taco spice packets.  I made a spice blend for the meat (venison, in this case) using salt, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, chili flakes and cayenne.

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Mmmm.  If you have an extra 45 minutes and you’re making tacos, or if you live somewhere where you can’t buy tortillas (hi, Kirst!), I would highly recommend giving homemade tortillas a try.  They taste the great whether they’re circular or not, and it’s a less stressful alternative than trying to get to the grocery store!

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Flour Tortillas

(Adapted from The Food Network)

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used closer to 3 cups)
  • Scant 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water

In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, place the flour, shortening and salt. Beat with the paddle until crumbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add the warm water and continue mixing until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Roll each into a ball and place on a baking tray or board. Cover with a towel and let rest at room temperature at least 15 minutes or up to one hour. Divide each ball into three more balls (there should be 9 total).  Cut out eight 12 inch squares of waxed or parchment paper for stacking the tortillas. On a lightly floured board, roll each ball into a 10 inch circle, and transfer to a paper square. Stack on a baking tray or platter and refrigerate until cooking time. Uncooked tortillas can be kept in the refrigerator, well wrapped with paper squares between the layers, up to 2 days. To cook, heat a dry griddle or 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Carefully peel off the paper and cook the tortillas, one at a time, until puffy and slightly brown, about 30 to 45 seconds per side. Set aside to cool slightly on a towel lined platter. Bring to the table wrapped in a towel for warmth, or wrap well and refrigerate or freeze for quesadilla or other dishes.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Cindy permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:42 pm

    Sounds delich! Maybe you could hook me up with some dough balls and I’ll cook the tortillas myself? 😉 Or maybe you can just come do us some real wonderful Mexican food in our house! When would you guys like to come visit?!?!

    • November 16, 2009 4:05 pm

      I would love to come and visit! I am super-busy through December, so maybe sometime in January?? Just tell me what you want me to make, and I’ll give it my best shot! 🙂

  2. Kirsten permalink
    November 20, 2009 9:32 pm

    reminds me of new year’s eve! I LOVE homemade tortillas and your mexican dinner looks beyond wonderful…

  3. Bob Evans permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:43 am

    Kathryn, just as you found out that shortening makes a softer taco than butter, I learned, from a cook in Moldova some years ago, that lard makes even better tacos. I rolled them out between sheets of a cut up plastic shopping bag and used a large, empty coffee can as my circle cutter. Worked well. The real treat was when I wanted to make corn tortillas. You could buy the already made corn taco shells in the supermarket there ($9.50 for 8 shells, no meat or spice mix), but since Moldova was a corn-growing country, I thought I could make them from scratch. Eventually I did, and they were the best corn tortillas (and tacos and tostitos) I have ever tasted. It was indeed a lot of work, but on a winter Sunday with 3 feet of snow on the ground and nowhere special to go, it was a lot of fun.

    • April 27, 2010 10:26 am

      Isn’t it amazing the things you’ll make just because the urge strikes you and you have nothing better to do? Once I visited another PCV in my centru raional and I brought in a pumpkin from the village so we could make pumpkin cookies. It would have taken about an hour in the U.S. with canned pumpkin and shelled walnuts, but it took us all afternoon. Unfortunately the cookies were kind of gross, but we had nothing else to do and it was a lot of fun!

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