You Can Take the Girl Outta Texas…

Sometimes living where you’re at means bringing home to you.  I’m all for local culture and cuisine, but there are some things that this family of Texans can’t live without.  Namely, Tex-Mex.  And what is the staple of all Tex-Mex meals?  Tortillas.  You can buy tortillas at the grocery stores here, but they are one step below Mission tortillas.  And as we all know, Mission tortillas are only used in dire emergencies; like it’s 5:00pm on Cinco de Mayo in South Texas and HEB is out of fresh tortillas, or every single Mexican restaurant in the state is on strike.  If you usually use pre-made, long-life tortillas, please excuse my strong opinions about your choice in starchy food.  I don’t mean to judge.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m totally judging you.  Unless you’re using it in King Ranch Chicken Casserole, there is really no excuse if you live in Texas and don’t partake in this Manna from Heaven, made of flour and lard.  True, they are only good for about 3 days, tops.   Inconvenient?  Sure.  But, maybe we should step back and consider what is in those pre-made tortillas that keep them from getting moldy for weeks.  Just sayin’.  But I digress.  *stepping off my soap box now*

Let me continue by saying that I am NOT a foodie or a food blogger.  I idolize The Pioneer Woman, but I am very clearly not her.  I am really not sure how to do food photography either, especially while I am burning cooking tortillas on the stove in my kitchen with terrible light (not to mention already late to the lunch that I was bringing said tortillas to).  So, as much as I might like to think that I will one day have a blog post that will be repinned a gazillion times on Pinterest, I am certain this post is not going to be it.  But, and it’s a big butt (hee hee), that doesn’t change the fact that I can make amazing homemade tortillas and I am about to show you how to do it too.  For my friends that live in other countries, like England, Poland and Washington, D.C., you will appreciate this, as you probably can’t get the real deal where you live.  For my Texas folks… enjoy the pictures and my charming wit, but save yourself the time and get some fresh tortillas at your nearest taqueria!

Before I begin with the *ahem* tutorial, I must give you the back story on how I came about this recipe.  When we first moved to Mumbai, India back in 2005, I realized VERY quickly that I was not going to get the food I was used to there.  Ordering groceries online was a fairly new concept, and we had only a small commissary (and commissary is a very generous word for it), the size of the smallest 7-11 on earth, stocked with ONLY expired food.  So, my options were limited.  And as I mentioned above, Brady and I can live without a lot of things, but tortillas ain’t one of them!  My sweet friend Jen and her family were serving as missionaries in Spain at the same time we were in India.  Somehow, through email I divulged the hollowness in my life, not to mention my pregnant tummy, with not having tortillas at an arms length.  Jen came to my rescue and emailed me her recipe for tortillas.  I was thrilled to make them the first time, ready to finally calm the desire in my belly.  But, alas, I learned something that day.  Tortillas are a pain in the rear to make!  Actually, that’s not true.  The making is easy.  The rolling is another story all together.  But in India, they love to eat chapatis with almost every meal.  So, when you have a maid/cook living in your apartment with you, it would behoove you to let her do the rolling and cooking if you want perfect, restaurant style tortillas.  It truly wasn’t until moving to Bosnia that I made my first completely solo and successful batch of tortillas!  On to the recipe…

Here’s what you need…

Please don't judge me.  My kitchen counter is smaller than your bathroom counter.  This is definitely not a gourmet kitchen!

Please don’t judge me. My kitchen counter is smaller than your bathroom counter. So there.

Now pay close attention, because this is a SUPER complicated recipe.  First take 2 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt and stir it together in a large bowl.  Stay with me.  Then, cut up 1/4 cup of shortening (Crisco) into the bowl.  Am I losing you yet?  In Jen’s recipe, she said you can use butter, but I say, why use butter when you can use lard?  It’s a no-brainer.  Keep in mind, we are still essentially living out of suitcases, and I don’t have my full kitchen yet, so I do everything the old fashioned way right now.  If I had my kitchen, I would use my pastry blender to then cut the shortening into the flour and salt mixture.  Since I don’t, I just use a fork.  I have found that cutting the shortening in before you add the warm water makes for a more even mixture all together, when, as I said earlier, you are low-tech and have no mixer to do the work for you!

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Next, add 3/4 cup of warm water to your mixture.  If you have a mixer, you could use it now.  I don’t, so it’s me and my trusty spatula, and then my hands.  Mix it all up until it is well blended.  It will be a little sticky, but you should be able to pick up small amounts to roll into balls.

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Keep in mind that I tripled the batch for the party, so you won’t have nearly the amount of dough as this if you stick to the recipe.

  At this point, you want to roll up little balls, about an inch or so in size.  Once you’ve gotten them all rolled, cover the plate with Saran Wrap and let it “rise.”  Really, I think it just helps to keep the Crisco warm so it is pliable and mixes well while you are setting up the next step.

Here comes the part with the steep learning curve.  It’s time to roll out the balls of dough.  I know it sounds easy, and maybe I am just challenged in this department, but I had a very hard time making my tortillas resemble tortillas the first few times I made them.  I set up a little bowl with flour in it so I can flour my counter each time I roll them out.  First, take a ball and smoosh it (that’s the technical term).  Then use your rolling pin to roll it out into a circle.  It needs to be rolled really thin.  Thinner than you think.  Make them so thin that you can almost see through them.  I didn’t get any pictures of this stage in my cooking, presumably because I was elbow deep in flour and didn’t want to introduce my camera to the mess.

Once you have it rolled out, you’ll want to put it on your stove set a little shy of medium.  I put it directly on the stove, but you could probably use a griddle or a skillet.  Keep it there until bubbles start to form, usually about 30 seconds or so.  Then flip it over and cook for another 5-10 seconds.

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When it looks like this, flip it over.

Timing is everything in this process.  If you, hypothetically speaking, were trying to do this while taking pictures and keeping two brothers from destroying the house and each other, all while trying to figure out when you were going to shower for the party you are supposed to be at in 30 minutes, your tortilla might end up looking like this:

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So, that’s it!  You’ve now learned the secrets of The Tortilla.  It might seem like a silly, simple thing to be so excited about.  But part of living in another country is trying to find a way to exist in this vastly different culture, without completely losing touch of your own.  And this four ingredient wonder does that for me.

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Flour Tortillas

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup warm water

1. Mix it all together.

2. Make into balls.

3. Roll out balls.

4. Cook on the stove

* Makes 8-14 

In case you’re wondering, we had a great time getting together with our friends for a fajita lunch!  Here is our most recent, and most fitting, family picture taken at the party.

This is us.  This is as real as it gets.

This is us. This is as real as it gets.