Flour Tortillas

My love for Mexican food runs deep. If I am having a bad day, J’s go-to solution is to take me somewhere where homemade beans and tortillas are cooking in the back kitchen and server puts warm tortilla chips on the table before I have even ordered my drink. By the end of the meal I usually have completely forgotten why I was upset in the first place.

This love stems from my heritage and my family. This love stems from homemade tortillas.

My father grew up with a mom who made fresh tortillas every day for her family. She served them with warm beans, eggs and chili. My grandma Onita probably made thousands of tortillas in her life. We talk about it often with my father. When we do, it is with a tone of wonder and a smile, as we each remember the kindest soul any of us have ever known.

As I write this I can smell the tortillas, the chili, the beans. It makes my heart flutter.

I grew up with my father making himself extremely over-easy eggs in the morning with a sprinkling of chili powder on top. He would take a warm tortilla and rip it. Holding a piece in his hand he would scoop up his egg, the red chili swirling with the bright, yellow runny yolk, and take one giant bite. No fork or spoon, just his hands and his tortilla.

Tortillas aren’t hard to make. In fact, they are impossibly easy. But they are an art.

A homemade flour tortilla is more than a just vehicle to hold your carnitas. Tortillas are about the hands that deftly made them for you. Mixing the dough, kneading it, letting it rest. Pinching of perfect rounds and rolling them out impossibly thin. Placing one on a hot skillet and watching it closely, flipping it quick to keep it from burning. Tortillas are made by someone’s hands, my grandma’s hands, my dad’s hands, my aunt’s hands, my cousins hands, my hands.

Roll, cook, keep warm. Roll, cook, keep warm. My dad rolling, my brother cooking, me keeping them warm. Roll, cook, warm.

Simple, light and delicious. If you decide to make these you won’t regret it. If you have a few idle pair of hands around the house, ask them to help. Tortillas are a learned art and rolling them out thin and shapely can take some practice. Be warned though, once you perfect them you won’t have a hard time walking past the tortilla section in the store.

Roll, cook, keep warm. Roll, cook, keep warm. Eat warm. Feel warm.

Flour Tortillas

Makes 12 8-inch tortillas

2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into pieces

3/4 plus 2 tablespoons warm water

vegetable spray

  1. Whisk flour and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Add vegetable shortening and rub into flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles course meal.
  3. Stir in water with wooden spoon or spatula until dough forms.
  4. Turn dough out and knead briefly to form a smooth ball of dough.
  5. Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Heat cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly spray with vegetable oil and wipe with paper towel.
  8. Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll dough into 8-inch tortilla (can do this between two pieces of parchment) as thin as you can. It may take a few tortillas to get the knack of rolling them to be circular. I don’t bother with shaping them.
  9. Cook tortilla until the surface begins to bubble and is free from the skillet- about 1 minute.
  10. Flip using your fingers or spatula.
  11. And cook till spotty brown and puffed- about 1 minute.
  12. Remove from skillet and transfer to a dish towel- wrap and keep warm.
  13. Repeat with remaining dough.