The Humble Tortilla

I’m about to share with you something that was a big ole’ blinding flash of the obvious for me.  Because about a few million Mexican mamas all over the world know this.  It only took me five years of measuring, sifting, not sifting, using cold water, using warm water, no water, using AP flour, using self rising flour, butter, crisco, and tears to figure this out.

Pork.  More specifically pork fat.  Because really, isn’t that the answer to everything?  Oh, and a cast iron skillet.

I’ve been trying for about five years now to come up with a tortilla that I love.  They’ve been too thick, too tough, too much like Elmer’s paste… I’ve made hundreds of tortillas at this point and tonight I finally got it right.  Finally.  It’s like the weight of the tortilla world has been lifted from my stooped and hunched shoulders.  Of course now all of that tortilla world weight will be settling in happily on my ass, but that’s ok, I’m going to be eating tortillas like a mofo!

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit my father’s sisters in Florida.  Each is an excellent cook and they shared tips and tricks and recipes with me for several days.  It was awesome.  (They’re all big John La Carre fans…)

Well, one of those days my Aunt L taught me how to make chicken and dumplings.  They were so delicious, light, puffy, and tender.  I noticed though that while she was showing me how to make the dumplings the recipe was very similar to every single tortilla recipe I’ve ever tried – except instead of oil, butter, or some other fat we used bacon grease.

Nectar of the Gods

Yes, this little bottle of pig liquor is the magic secret to the glory of my tender, light, floury tortilla.

The Humble Tortilla

So let me tell you what it takes.

1 Cup AP Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Salt (I used Kosher)

2 Teaspoons Bacon Grease (Chilled Solid)

Enough Iced Water to make a smooth, dry dough

Yeah… that’s it.

I mixed the flour, salt, and bacon grease with a fork until the grease made little lumps of flour, then I used my fingers to blend it in a little better.  I added a few tablespoons of water and mixed until most of the dough came together.  I added another two or three tablespoons until the dough smoothed out and had a nice silky texture to it.

Next I kneaded it together for less than a minute to make sure all the crumbly bits stuck together.  I wrapped that in plastic cling film and let it sit in the fridge for about half an hour.

After the dough rested I cut it in half and then each half into thirds.  I rolled each little wedge into a ball about the size of a golf ball.

I turned on the flame to medium high and started heating the skillet.  While all that heat was going on I rolled out the tortillas.  I rolled and rolled those little balls on a light layer of flour until they were so thin you could see light through them.  They GLOWED!  Yeah, my tortillas glowed.  No big.

And do you want to know how I knew they were exactly right this time?  I’ll tell you.  The second they hit that hot skillet they DID NOT SHRINK!  Oh yeah.  Normally they look like shrinky dinks once they hit the heat, but all that delicious pork fat made the dough supple and they didn’t shrink an inch.

A few seconds on each side and they were perfection.

So I guess bacon fat was my two teaspoons of wishful thinking…