Kitchen Staples: Blue Corn Tortillas

November 2009 006

Like any New Mexican, I adore corn tortillas. Until now, though, my adoration for blue corn tortillas has been purely theoretical. Yes, they have more fiber and a lot more antioxidants than regular tortillas de masa, but most of the ones I’ve been able to buy were also tough and a bit on the cardboardy side.  At my last trip to the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, I found a bag of organic blue cornmeal from Talon de Gato farm, and decided to try making my own. After a little experimenting, I came up with a result that I really like.
November 2009 008

I especially like them as the main ingredient in stacked enchiladas, but they’re good with just a little butter, hot off the griddle. Click here for the recipe.

Start with a cup of good organic blue cornmeal. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil, pour at least a cup over the cornmeal, and work wel with a fork, changing to working the dough with your fingers as it cools a little and adding a little more water if you need it. Keep the dough on the dry side, because it will soften as it sits. When it’s well amalgamated and cool, wrap the ball in plastic wrap and stick it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. 48 hours is even better.
After reading Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Bread, I became interested in the science of why flours make better-tasting products if moistened at least 24 hours before coooking. The difference is especially pronounced with whole-grain flours. If the technical details interest you, check out his book, which is excellent. Or just try it on faith, and I think that you’ll like the results.
After its resting period, take the dough out of the refrigerator and break it into chunks that you can roll in your hands to about the size of golf balls. Heat a comal or heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat until good and hot; a common cause for tortillas that are doughy in the middle is not letting the comal get hot enough. . Cut a gallon-size ziplock bag along the seams to make two pieces about 10 inches square, and use them to line the two plates of your tortilla press. Press out each ball to a tortilla of the thickness that you like. I like mine on the thick side, a little over 1/8 inch. Handling them carefully, Lay one at a time on the hot comal, and don’t move it for at least a minute. This allows the crust to form so that it doesn’t stick to the comal. The question of whether or not to use oil on the comal will arise. Many Mexican cooks say absolutely not. Personally, I keep a small bowl of oil beside the stove and wipe the comal lightly with a paper towel dipped in oil before I put each tortilla on to cook. Turn after about a minute, and cook the other side. Remove to a towel-lined plate, covering with another clean towel so that they stay warm but don’t steam. Check the first one for doneness, and adjust your cooking time as needed.
When they are all cooked, eat them. I don’t advise making tortillas ahead of time unless you plan on additional cooking, as in enchiladas or similar. If you arew going to wrap them around pieces of grilled spiced meat at the table, eat them hot off the comal.
If you have leftover tortillas, slather them with your favorite red chile, put some good cheese between layers, pop the stack in a hot oven for 15 minutes or so, and top with a fried egg (or two.) Even better, make black bean refritos, or if you’re in a hurry just drain, lightly mash, and season some black beans and put them between the layers to heat up with the rest. If you always have good red chile in the freezer and good eggs in the refrigerator, you’re never far from a warming healthy meal.

2 responses to this post.

  1. This reminded me of my Grandmother she always cooked with blue corn
    from hot cereal to torts. even blue corn on the cob…


  2. Posted by wooddogs3 on February 11, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    I’ve never heard of people eating it as corn on the cob. What did it taste like?


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