I’ve already shared with you why a salad bar makes a great meal for entertaining. The same principles apply to a taco bar – except instead of lettuce, you need a tortilla. I grew up in the suburban midwest. There, a taco invariably meant ground beef, cooked and crumbled with an envelope of taco seasoning. The meat was then crammed into a crunchy taco shell and topped with shredded romaine and cheddar – always yellow!
This incarnation of a taco still holds a certain nostalgia for me. I have now spent the bulk of my life in California – with a detour to Texas for college. Perhaps needless to say, my taco preferences – and standards – have evolved quite a bit. I am actually quite flexible on fillings. It can be grilled flank steak, Instapot chicken, roasted corn and cauliflower, and all sorts of fish – grilled or broiled or fried. I have become much pickier about the shell itself, almost exclusively relying on homemade tortillas.
Taco Bar Tortillas:
Homemade tortillas have fewer highly-processed ingredients and taste better than their store-bought counterparts. They are also easier to make than you think.
The first time I made tortillas was on a night when I had everything ready for tacos, and realized I hadn’t bought tortillas. As is often the case in our house, I was the only adult home while Mr. Diggy was working with a therapist. That meant a quick grocery store run was not an option. So I did a quick internet search for a recipe. I was thrilled to find a recipe for flour tortillas was not only easy, but it also contained only pantry staples. So I mixed up the dough, let it rest for thirty minutes. Before I knew it, I was turning out delicious (if slightly irregular!) flour tortillas.
Trust me – once you try this recipe, you won’t likely buy another tortilla at the grocery store again. I know it sounds intimidating, but the dough comes together as easily as homemade play dough (but tastes much better!). Once rested, it rolls out beautifully. As long as your cast iron skillet is on medium-high heat they cook up quickly without burning and your meal will be ready in no time.
Since now I make this recipe easily every week or two, I have invested in this simple tool that keeps the tortillas warm as they come out of the hot pan. You can definitely make the recipe without this – just use damp towels instead. However, it’s a nice and easy way to have a whole batch of tortillas be warm and soft for your next taco night. The tortilla warmer also works well to reheat tortillas you have frozen (or any that someone else buys for you at the store!).
- tortilla warmer
- 2 cups flour you can get creative with your flour choices like whole wheat, spelt, soy, or a mixture of flours
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup warm water may possibly need to add more, up to 3/4 cup
- Combine the flour, salt & baking powder into a large mixing bowl, then add the oil.
- Add the water, gradually working the liquid into the dough until a sticky ball forms.
- Wrap in plastic and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 8-10 balls (for small tortillaor 6-8 balls for larger ones, cover them again with the damp cloth.
- Lightly dust a counter or pastry board w/flour & roll out each ball of dough into a circle or oval approximately 1/4″ thick. Don’t worry if the shape is imperfect – it’s how people will know they are homemade!
- Microwave your tortilla warmer for 45 seconds (or prepare a warm, damp towel.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Cook the tortillas 30 seconds on each side or until the dough looks dry & slightly wrinkled & a few brown spots form on both surfaces. As you finish cooking them, place them in the tortilla warmer or towel and serve.
Taco Bar Corn Tortillas
A good friend of mine is gluten-free for medical reasons, so my next project was corn tortillas. For flour tortillas, the only “special equipment” is a rolling pin. Differently, the process of making corn tortillas at home benefits greatly from a tortilla press. If we have a crowd coming over, I usually make a batch of each. If I happen to have leftovers, they freeze well, with a bit of parchment paper in between layers.
- tortilla warmer
- Tortilla press
- 2 cups Golden Masa Harina Corn Flour or Gluten Free Golden Masa Harina
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups Hot Water
- Mix salt into the masa harina corn flour. Slowly pour the water into the dough to get a good consistency. The dough should be firm and springy when touched, not dry or sticky. Let rest for about an hour, covered.
- Preheat a griddle or flat surface. Divide the dough into 2 inch balls. Press dough between two pieces of waxed paper, or flatten according to a tortilla press directions. Place flatten dough on a hot griddle or flat surface and cook until the top of the tortilla starts to look cooked, about 1 minute. Flip to the other side and heat for a few seconds.
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