Tortillas de maíz hechas a mano – Homemade corn tortillas

Today I am posting my 100th blog entry! I wanted to make it special. I am posting my handmade tortillas because one of my first recipes was I’ve perfected this soup by popping  homemade tortillas into the broth.

I am fortunate to work in the Fruitvale section of East Oakland, near La Finca tortilleria which sells both their own tortillas and the fresh masa (dough). I’ve bought their tortillas for years, because I love to take home a warm package and because they are preservative-free. I recently dug out my tortilla press and began making my own tortillas from their fresh masa. This is stone-ground nixtamal, corn soaked in a lime mixture.

You can also make decent tortillas from dry masa. Mix 1 cup of the masa to a bit more than 3/4 cup water in a bowl. The dough should not be dry (the balls of dough should not crack) or too wet.

The trick was to make the tortillas not stick to the pan or come out misshapen. The key is to have the comal hot enough and to handle the tortilla carefully so it doesn’t bunch up. My friend and colleague Maria  helped me perfect my tortillas and showed me how to make them puffy by pressing on them lightly after turning.

Here’s the drill: Heat a comal or heavy frying pan. Spread a long piece of plastic wrap over the inside of the tortilla press. Roll a golf-ball size piece of masa into a ball and place it slightly off  the middle towards the back of the bottom press.

Flatten it a little bit with your hand, then close the press and press the handle down. Don’t press so hard that the tortilla is too thin and squishes out beyond the edges. When you open the press, the masa should make a perfect circle.

Carefully peel one piece of the plastic off the tortilla. Holding the loose plastic over your hand, flip the tortilla on your hand.

Then carefully pull off the other side of the plastic. Flip the tortilla back on  your bare hand.

Slide the tortilla on the hot comal so that it lies flat on the comal. I usually can fit about 3 tortillas on my comal.

Heat the tortilla until the sides begin to dry out and start to curl up slightly. (Don’t turn them too soon or they will crumple and stick.)

You should be able to flip them with your hand, although you can use a spatula if you wish. If the comal is hot enough, they won’t stick. Heat the other side for half as long. Both sides should be lightly toasted. Flip it one more time and press your fingertips on them several times.

This somehow makes them puff up, which looks really cool.

Tonight we had tacos de Tinga de Pollo with homemade tortillas.

I love quesadillas with grated or sliced cheese on the puffy tortillas.

Tortilla Soup, bién rica

This classic Mexican soup is fragrant with lime, comino and oregano, with just enough heat from chile powder. This is one of the first recipes that I posted on my blog. I’ve updated it to the way it has evolved in the last 10 years.

You could make a vegan version of this recipe by using vegetable broth.

I make my own Tortillas de maíz hechas a mano – Homemade corn tortillas from fresh masa from the local Mexican market or with dry masa. They will literally melt into the soup. When I’m not up to that I buy preservative-free tortillas made in East Oakland: (from La Finca or La Mexicana)  in Mexican markets in the East Bay,  or at La Palma in San Francisco.

You can roast the tomatoes ahead of time and make tinga de pollo or season the chicken ahead of time.

Serves 3 for dinner with a warm tortilla in the soup.

1 ½ quarts (6 cups) homemade chicken bone broth.  See   (ok, buy it boxed or canned  it you don’t have homemade.)

1 corn tortilla (homemade is best) for the soup, plus 3 tortillas to serve in the soup.

14 oz can roasted tomatoes or 5 fresh Roma tomatoes and olive oil spray

2 Tb olive oil, divided

1/2 onion plus 2 Tb onion for chicken and 2 Tb for garnish

3 cloves garlic

2 large stalks celery, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 tsp. cumin (comino in Spanish) divided between chicken and soup

2 tsp dried oregano, divided between chicken and soup

1/2 to 1 tsp ancho chile powder (to taste) Remember a little goes a long way!

1/2 teaspoon salt to taste

½ roasted chicken breast shredded (tinga de pollo is an excellent addition and will add extra flavor)

2-3 teaspoons salsa

1 lime, juiced

Garnish with any of the above:

Several sprigs of fresh cilantro for each bowl if desired

2 – 3 tsp dried oregano

A tablespoon of minced raw onion for each bowl

1-2 Tb Monterey Jack cheese for each bowl

1 small to medium avocado sliced

If roasting your own tomatoes: Preheat oven to 300′ Halve tomatoes and place cut side up on a foil-lined pan. Spray with olive oil spray and bake for 1 hour. Remove the stems and skins from tomatoes and onion, then pulse them in a food processor. You can do this step ahead of time.

Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a large pot. add onions, celery and carrots and saute until onions soften. Add broth and bring to boil, then stir in tomatoes, cumin, chili powder and salt to taste.

Shred chicken breast. If not using tinga de pollo, prepare the chicken as follows: In a separate pan, heat 1 Tb olive oil and add onions and saute until soft. Add chicken and mix in 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon comino and 2 Tb salsa. (You can do this part ahead of time.)

Heat tortilla on a comal or heavy frying pan until soft. You can alternatively microwave it for 30 seconds.

Ladle 2 cups of broth into a blender (try not to include the vegetables). Tear up the tortilla and add it to the blender. Blend on high until tortilla has crumbled into the broth. Pour back into the soup pot and mix thoroughly.

Stir in the cooked breast. Heat soup to hot. Juice the lime into the soup.

Pour soup into bowls. Roll a freshly warmed tortilla and put it in the bowl. Add avocado slices, sprinkle dried oregano, raw chopped onions, and cilantro as desired. Crumble cheese on top. ¡Disfrùtela!

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