It's been 17 days since I had a corn tortilla, and finally, today, I gave in. I bought these Mi Rancho tortillas because they were the best I could find. (I'm in San Diego visiting my Dad this week.) They did not contain wheat or a long list of weird chemicals. (By the way, what's up with corn tortillas containing wheat? That's so strange, especially with so many people who are gluten-free.) I thought it'd be fun to start a series of American corn tortilla taste tests, so here are my thoughts on this one. Pros: Loved the phrase "real tortillas are made from real corn" on the package. I also liked that the color was a nice, normal yellow, and not paper-white and gummy, like the other packaged corn tortillas I've seen. The smell wasn't too off-putting either -- it was mineral and slightly bitter, like leftover cal-water. Cons: Very chewy, even after a thorough heating on the comal. The taste doesn't much resemble corn (it's got that bland, floury taste that comes from tortillas made from masa harina), and I would not enjoy eating a plain one sprinkled in salt. OVERALL: Not corn tortilla perfection -- does it exist among the packaged thousands? -- but not bad. I would buy these again if homemade was not an option. If you have a favorite corn tortilla brand, let me know. My Nixtamatic doesn't arrive until early March.
I saw the Nixtamatic in the window at Casa Boker a few months ago, but I convinced myself that I didn't need it. I didn't operate a tortillería. I didn't have a large family. Was I really going to make fresh corn tortillas every day, just for Crayton and I? Then I couldn't stop thinking about it. I Googled "Nixtamatic," and saw that Steve Sando had one, and he'd created a video of him using it. It was mesmerizing, watching the machine's metal plates squeak round and round, churning out squiggly bits of masa. He only had to add a bit of water to the dough, and boom. It was done. Why was I hesitating here? Sure, corn tortillas were available on every corner in Mexico City, but if I ever left Mexico -- heaven forbid -- I'd be stuck with the carboard-tasting American versions. And I just had this yearning to make my own tortillas. With my corn that I purchased. Who cares if I didn't make them every day. Even once a week would be fine. I could do that. When Crayton asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I told him, "A Nixtamatic!" (Well, first I said, "No, honey, seriously, you don't have to get me anything.") So we went last weekend and picked it out together. It wasn't cheap -- about 3,100 pesos, or around $250 USD. I refrained from telling Crayton, "Yes, but this is an investment," because he hates it when I use the word investment for something we're buying. (Him: "It's not an investment because it loses value the minute we buy it.") The high price meant this was my birthday, anniversary and maybe Christmas present rolled into one. But I really do plan to use it a lot. Tortillas, tlacoyos, gorditas, sopes -- the masa-based possibilities are endless. Hopefully I'll have an "Aaagh! Homemade tortillas with the Nixtamatic!" post for you next week. The manual is three pages long and seems easy enough to understand. I'm crossing my fingers.