Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dark Days Dinner #8: Mexican!

It all started with this:

Well... OK, maybe it really started with reading this post about corn tortillas from scratch and this post about black bean and venison chile in the slow cooker and then finding another post about home made tortillas that really did it.

That and I've been saying since week one that I wanted to try to make Upstate NY local Mexican food!

Today was my day off, so the timing was perfect. I got started about ten in the morning with onions, garlic, spices, venison stew meat, black beans (like the corn meal, also from Cayuga Pure Organics who are just 17 miles away) and home made venison broth in the slow cooker on low.

Then just before dinner I prepped my toppings:  chopped some local cabbage (still good in the fridge from weeks ago!!), dug out a jar of home made salsa from garden tomatos, peppers and onions, and set out the home made yogurt that I'd put in a coffee filter to drain/thicken all afternoon.

In the end I also went with a block of cheddar cheese that Doug's mom had brought us from her home in Tillamook, becuase there's just something about tacos/tostadas that needs cheddar in my mind!

Have I ever mentioned that I love cheese? That might be a slight understatement of the truth.

Finally, the *challenge* part of the meal for me - the corn tortillas.  I didn't have local masa harina, but I'd found that finely ground corn meal pictured above. The recipes I "followed" both did the same thing, using whole wheat or white whole wheat as a binding agent of sorts.

I'm not sure I ever did get mine to ... bind. Or maybe it bound too well? 

They tasted fabulous - tender and corn-ey and the texture once cooked seemed about right to me, but to work with the dough was miserable! I added WAY more wheat flour that the other recipes followed, and it was still like working the paste (not play dough as had been described, though at the time I'm not sure I could have told you the difference between the two).

I did manage to get some rounds made and cooked but gave up at six and I probably could have gotten eight or nine from my batch if I'd kept at it. My apologies for the poor picture - at this point I was getting a little nonplussed and also had the kitchen full of smoke from the hot oil on the griddle that wasn't getting tortillas laid on it nearly as fast as they should have been.

(Note to self and husband: if at all possible we should move up on the list of priorities getting a fan above the stove.)

So here's the finished product, with accoutrements:

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • Spices (cumin, coriander, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt, pepper) and oil for cooking were not local.
  • The yogurt was home made, but the milk was not local (at least from a known local source).
  • The salsa was mostly local, but there was non-local vinegar and cilantro (embarassing that at the time that I made it I was out of my own cilantro!) in it.
  • I already mentioned the pseudo-local cheese.  Mmm... Tillamook Cheese....
  • We opened a bottle of fantastic CA wine that we'd saved from our wedding (over four years ago now!) to go with the meal. At the time of our wedding, it was (fairly) local - does that count?!
  • As for the tortillas, as I was cleaning up after dinner I think I may have found part of my problem. While I thought I was scooping the dregs of a bag of whole wheat flour, I was actually using oat flour (mmm... slow down... read your labels... your memory isn't what it used to be, Wendy), and that may have been my problem.  I'm not sure exactly how the two differ (out flour is sure good in our pancakes!), but perhaps it at least contributed to my stickiness issue?
  • I pressed my tortillas down with a dutch oven to start (great idea, Kaela), and then rolled them with a rolling pin between sheets of waxed paper. I think if one was going to do this often, a press would be a worthy expenditure, assuming you have room in the kitchen to store it. I'd also like to try doing this with plastic wrap instead of waxed paper - maybe the stick factor would be lower?

All in all a success and another Dark Days meal well enjoyed. However, though as always I like the idea of from-scratch food better since I get to know exactly what's in it, I'm going to have to hone my tortilla technique quite a bit for this to be a worthwhile endeavor to do again in the future. 

I'll certainly try one more time at least, and see if the right flour will make the difference!

Here are just a few random pictures of the day to close out the post - thanks for reading!

The little bug cannot see a candle any more without
needing it near by enough to try blowing it out.
He did eventually get this on out all on his own, but
there was good bit of spittle spread around before that happened!

A bird's eye view. Or six.

This photo is out of focus (it was getting late in the afternoon),
but I love the expression on the little guy's face.
He just absolutely LOVES being outside!


  1. I don't think the apple falls too far from the tree! Maybe he'll be Antarctic bound someday.... :)

  2. Wouldn't that be wild? He LOVES being outside, even in the cold. Must be in his blood or something...


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