One of the challenges of living abroad can be the food. We have been lucky to live in cities with good restaurant options and in reality we haven’t been living in countries with dramatically different diets so I can usually find all the basics I need at the store. But what I’ve found is that it’s not uncommon for things to be slightly different than you would expect. For example, pizza in Italy is very different to the pizza you would order in Seattle and the pizza you get when you place an order here in Munich is a whole different experience. So when we first got to England the combination of adjusting to being a one-income family and either not being able to find what what I was craving, or finding it but ending up with some thing much different then expected, led me to start figuring out how to make things myself.
It really started with figuring out how to make those fast easy meals we would have taken for granted back in Seattle. It’s amazing how good Teriyaki chicken can taste when you haven’t eaten it in two years, or a Red Robin Crispy Chicken Tender Salad tastes like a delicacy when you have been thinking about it for weeks and finally just look up their menu online so you can recreate it at home. My experiments have been successful for the most part and kind of amusing when you realize that you are making a salad dressing to try and recreate what Red Robin probably buys in vats. When we do go back and visit Seattle we usually have a list of things we need to be sure and have the chance to eat while we’re home and Mexican food is always at the top of the list.
I feel like I should qualify that, we always crave the style of Mexican food made in Seattle, which is probably more accurately Mexican American food, or maybe Southern California style. This last trip spending time in San Diego I was in heaven with actual fresh tortillas everywhere we went. At home I make tacos or different Mexican dishes but somehow the most successful brand of Mexican products outside of the US is Old El Paso. You go to any grocery store that has an international aisle and the American section is pop tarts and bacon bits and the Mexican/Latino section is the complete range of Old El Paso products. So at home I can spend as much time as I want making shredded chicken in the slow cooker but at mealtime we are eating everything with tortillas packaged months ago. This last trip reminded me how good tortillas can be and what we are missing, so once we got back I was determined to figure out how to make them myself. It turns out they are pretty easy to make and the different is night and day.
I figured I would share the recipe since I can’t be the only one who loves tortillas and we have found that outside of the Americas it is really hard to find good Mexican food. As with most of my recipes that have become standards I take the recipe and then substitute with ingredients I have or can easily get. In this case getting lard and massa just wasn’t going to happen without a city wide search so I make mine with flour and butter. I also find that a flat bottom non-stick pan works just fine for cooking the tortillas so don’t be worried if you don’t have a comal.
I found this recipes through epicurious:
Homemade Flour Tortillas
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup lard
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup warm water
- Stir together flour with salt in a bowl, then cut in lard with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles meal. Drizzle vegetable oil over and stir in warm water with a fork until a dough forms. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes, dusting hands occasionally with flour if dough is sticky.
- Form dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 1 hour. Heat a dry well-seasoned cast-iron comal, regular griddle, or skillet over moderately low heat until hot. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces and form into balls.
- When rolling out 1 ball at a time with dowel, use just enough flour to prevent dough from sticking; you don’t want excess flour coming off on the comal. Keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap. Roll out each ball into a 7-inch round, maintaining an even thinness as you roll. Cook 1 tortilla on comal as you roll the next.
- Tortilla will bubble and puff, and bottom will be browned in spots in 45 seconds. Turn it over and cook second side in same way, moving tortilla around to compensate for any hot spots on comal if necessary. Transfer to a kitchen towel. Stack and cover tortillas as cooked. They can be frozen (cool thoroughly first). Rewarm thawed tortillas on comal before using.