2010/03/13

South of the Border... Dabbler Style

As I was bravely rifling through the back recesses of my freezer this morning, I discovered a preponderence of beef products (flank steaks, stew beef, etc.).  We aren't huge beef eaters, but whenever certain cuts are on sale, I pick them up for those occasions when a change of pace is needed.  Everything in moderation, right???

I had a half-bottle of raspberry chipoltle marinade that I had used on chicken a couple of weeks ago & it got those loose cogs in my noggin' a rollin'.  FAJITAS!  They're quick, economical, I had all the ingredients on hand + the kids like them.  Even better, they gave me an excuse to delve into something I had been itching to dabble in for a long time - making my own tortillas.  I am not sure why I hadn't given it a shot yet, but there is no time like the present, 'eh?  So I pulled that flank steak out of the freezer, popped it into the raspberry marinade and set that aside while we ran 85 gadzillion errands. 

Now I am normally a King Arthur girl through & through; but to make Corn Tortillas, I needed Corn Flour (aka Masa Harina).  Masa Harina is a specially treated corn flour used in traditional Mexican cooking.  In addition to its special treatment, Masa (i.e. dough flour) is also ground more finely than corn mean or corn flour, making it a better choice for tortillas and other related doughs.  Bob's Red Mill produced a large selection of organic specialty flours & mixes (I love their 10-Grain Mix - it's like cream of wheat, only a hundred times better and very good for you).  I like playing around with different types of flours; right now, I have 13 different types in the house floating between the pantry and the freezer.  Hey, I wasn't kidding when I said I liked to play around with different flours!

Since I wanted my tortillas to still have some flexibility, I used a mixture of 2/3 cup Masa Harina & 1 1/3 cup unbleached AP flour (King Arthur, of course).  To this, I mixed in 1/4 cup vegetable oil; then slowly added 1/2 cup + 1 Tbs water and 1/2 tsp salt.  This mixture was kneaded until it was just smooth.



I took the ball of dough & divided it into 10 pieces.  Rolled each piece into a slightly flattened ball and let them rest covered for about 30-40 minutes.  From here on, keeping them covered is important to prevent the dough from drying out. 


Once the dough has had a chance to rest (funny thing - why does food need to rest so much?  What does it have to do that is so tiring?), the balls are rolled out into flat, thin disks (about 8"). 

In the mean time, preheated a heavy skillet.  (Dry, no oil).  Placed the disks into the hot skillet and dry fried them for 45 seconds on each side.  When cooked, remove from heat & keep covered and stacked on each other to prevent drying out.  Pretty cool, huh?
Served these with steak, thinly sliced (marinated steaks for 6 hours & cooked stove top in a cast iron pan); cheese; salsa; avocado & just a touch of low-fat sour cream.  Beans & rice as the side dish, of course!  I wanted to get a better shot of the assembled tortilla, but a blonde moment got in the way. 


RECIPE FOR HOME MADE TORTILLAS
1 1/3 cups unlbleached AP flour
2/3 cup masa harina
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup + 1 Tbs water
1/2 tsp salt

Mix flour & oil until well mixed.  Slowly add water & salt until dough comes together.  Briefly knead until smooth dough is achieved.  Divide dough into 10 even pieces and roll into balls - slightly flattening.  Cover well and set aside for 30-40 minutes.  Heat a heavy skillet over med-high flames (no oil).  Roll each ball into large flat disk (~8") -- keeping remaining balls covered until ready to use.  Dry fry in hot skillet for 45 seconds on each side.  Immediately cover, keeping stacked to help preserve heat & moisture while remaining tortillas are cooking.  Serve immediately.  May be stored tightly wrapped in plastic for 1-2 days. 

Below is one of my favorite side dishes.  Simple, very economical & can easily be jazzed up with green onion or cilantro for more visual appeal.  Plus, beans are a great protein.  For some reason the School House Rock song is running through my head now.. "Beans & Rice, Beans & Rice, How Nice..."  Click on this link to hear the "Beans & Rice" song.  If the song doesn't come up, type "SchoolHouse Rock Beans and Rice" into the seach engine on You-Tube.  Deja vu 1980's!  I am going to have to dig up some more SchoolHouse Rock songs for future blogs.  Oh, the possibilities. 

RECIPE FOR BEANS & RICE
1 cup rice (can use "common" white rice or brown)
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 Tbs minced garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
1 package Badia Sazon seasoning
1 16 oz can beans -- well drained (chick peas, pinto or black beans work well)
Chopped scallion or finely chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in medium pan.  When oil is hot, add garlic -- stirring constantly.  Add rice and fry until rice starts to brown (continue to stir constantly).  Once rice is starting to brown, add stock & seasoning.  Reduce heat & simmer until rice is tender (about 20 minutes - brown rice will take longer).  After rice has cooked through.  Stir in drained beans - serve warm. 

Of course, you can continue to sing the "Beans & Rice" song while enjoying!

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