I was going to have tacos. Of course, a lack of good corn tortillas in this country was a bit of a limiting factor but I was determined to try making my own at home and I pictured myself wrapping them around tender pork, lots of delicious salsa and definitely some chopped fresh coriander. Oh, just the thought of them has me thinking of making them again this weekend.
However, the process didn’t go entirely smoothly at first. I made the amateur mistake of confusing masa harina and masa arepa. Both are corn meals made of precooked corn but only masa harina is made of corn that’s undergone nixtamalization (it’s cooked in an alkaline solution) and is the correct one for making corn tortillas. Just to confuse things, the side of the package of masa arepa that I purchased first (PAN brand) states that it can be used for tortillas too. I bought my masa harina from the Cool Chile Co. (Maseca is also a famous brand).
On our first go at making corn tortillas, we pressed them using a heavy pot…quite painfully and tediously. The next day, I went straight out and bought a proper cast iron tortilla press (again from the Cool Chile Co.). Oh, how it makes life easier! Fresh corn tortillas are pressed so quickly and without any effort whatsoever! I can’t believe I’d been buying corn tortillas (sometimes taking up precious space in my suitcase when I was travelling back from the other side of the Atlantic) when they’re so easy to make at home!
Take 2 cups of masa harina and mix with a little less than 1.5 cups of warm water. Mix together to a dough – it shouldn’t crumble (too dry – add water) or stick to your hands (too wet – add masa harina). I read somewhere online that it should have the texture of play dough and that’s truly how it felt. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, heat a cast iron or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Take a plastic freezer bag and cut two circles of plastic out of it – they should be big enough to line each side of your tortilla press. Take a small golf ball sized nugget of masa dough and roll it into a ball. Place in between the plastic circles and flatten in the tortilla press (I like mine quite thin – it’ll be about the size of the palm of your hand, I think). Peel off the tortilla and slap into the hot pan. Cook for about 30 seconds on the first side, flip and cook for a minute on the other side, flip again and cook for another 30 seconds. On the final side, the tortilla should start puffing up – pressing down on the tortilla can encourage it. Take out of the pan and cover with a clean dish towel. Repeat with all the masa.
You can eat tortillas with any meal, of course, but it’s most fun to make tacos at home. I slow cooked a lot of pork shoulder the first time I made tortillas, shredded the results and used that as a very simple filling for tacos.
Slow Cooked Pork for Tacos
1.5 kg pork shoulder, cut into chunks
juice from a large orange
2 bay leaves
1 chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
Mix all the ingredients together in a slow cooker and set on high for 4 hours (mine only is set to high – it’s a rice cooker – though I reckon perhaps low on a regular slow cooker for 8 hours is also ok). Take out the meat and shred with two forks or your hands. A lot of liquid would have come out of the meat – I used some of it to moisten the shredded pork. Serve with corn tortillas.
The pork is a bit plain on its own. Better is topping your tacos with some pico de gallo. Or if you’re pressed for time/ingredients, just chopped onions pickled lightly in lime juice.
Pico de Gallo
1/2 a small onion, chopped
1-2 medium sized tomatoes, seeded and chopped
a very small handful of fresh coriander, chopped finely
juice of half a lime
Mix all the ingredients together and then chill until ready to serve (give it an hour, I reckon, for the flavours to meld).
Now you’re almost ready for tacos!
Set out some chopped fresh coriander, a salsa (I’m working on recipes but this was just a good canned salsa verde), perhaps some sliced avocado or guacamole, sliced radishes and lime wedges and you’ve got a taco party! Well, it was just for two in our case but yeah, a party!
The best part is that you’ll have plenty of pork leftover. I suggest frying up some of it in its own lard (the edges go all crispy…mmmmmm) and having more tacos! There will definitely be more taco adventures in my future.