We eat a good bit of Mexican food – I have a CSA meat subscription, so every month I get pork shoulder for carnitas and ground beef for tacos or enchiladas. 

All the local Mexican restaurants make their own tortillas, and they’re always so much better then store-bought, so I figured I’d try my hand at making my own.  I’m not sure exactly where this recipe came from originally, but I’ve been using it for a while.

It’s very simple – mix flour, baking powder, and a bit of salt in a bowl.  Add lard.  I’ve done them with shortening, but they don’t come out nearly as good – I’d recommend getting the lard.  Here, I can buy it in buckets, but I’ve seen it in blocks next to the shortening, too.  I use it mostly in tortillas and tamales, so a big bucket lasts me a very long time.

After you’ve worked in the lard, add enough water to make a dough.  Knead it enough to work in all the flour, then split it into a dozen little balls.  Let them sit on the counter for 10 minutes.  If you don’t let them sit, the dough will be springy, and when you roll them out, they’ll just shrink right back to the size they were before and they’ll end up too thick.

Roll them out:

Tortillas

I usually roll them out one at a time, while the previous one is cooking, but that’s mostly because I’m usually in a hurry. You probably don’t want to do it that way until you’ve made enough batches to have a good feel for how long they take to cook – it’s easy to get distracted and burn one.  If I have plenty of time until dinner, I’ll roll out all 12, and just stack them on a plate until I’m ready to cook them all.

The recipe says to use a comel, but I just toss them in my heavy-cast iron skillet:

Tortillas

They’re done when they have nice brown spots on both sides – depending on how hot my pan is, anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds a side:

Tortillas

They’re great wrapped around almost anything, or by themselves with just a bit of butter (or butter and cinnamon-sugar!).  I haven’t had much luck keeping them until the next day – they’re best eaten within half an hour or so.

Try them.  You’ll never buy another bag of tortillas at the store again!

( see the recipe )

Cheese Souffle!

I buy all my meat from a local farm with a CSA program.  Every month, a cooler full of beef, chicken, and pork shows up on my doorstep.  There’s everything from all-pork hot dogs and sausage to steaks, whole chickens, and roasts.

But I was particularly excited this month, when I got an email telling me they were adding eggs.  There was only one thing to do with fresh eggs – make a soufflé!

I’d never tried one before.  I had a Corning Ware dish that was the right size and shape, and I’d seen a Good Eats episode on them a while ago.  Oh, and everyone said they were really hard to get right.

It turns out they’re not hard at all to get right.  I cheated and buttered the pan with Pam, and then dusted it with grated Parmesan cheese.  I made a roux with the butter, flour, some dry mustard and garlic powder.  I didn’t think the garlic powder added much, but mine may have been old. I’d probably recommend either adding more or leaving it out entirely. 

Once the roux comes together, add milk and let it thicken.  In the meantime, beat some egg yolks, and carefully temper them into the hot milk sauce – the idea is to raise the temperature of the eggs slowly so they don’t end up scrambled.  I added the milk to the eggs one spoonful at a time until they were close to the temperature of the milk, then added them to the pot. 

Then stir in the cheese. I used a good aged cheddar, but I don’t know why you couldn’t use any cheese you like.

I used a stand mixer to beat the egg whites until they got to the “stiff peak” stage.  Then, very, very carefully, you fold the beaten egg whites into the cheese sauce, one third at a time.  If you don’t fold carefully, you’ll deflate them, and the soufflé will be flat.  But if you don’t mix them thoroughly, the cheese won’t be evenly distributed.

After three rounds of folding, it was ready for the oven.  I poured it carefully into the pan, and baked it for 35 minutes.  

I worried about it deflating, but it held it’s shape well.  It didn’t even deflate when I cut into it to dish it out. 

It was probably too much egg and cheese to have as a main course – next time I’ll make it as a side dish for more people – but it was really good.  Light, fluffy, and cheesy, all at the same time.

There are still a few eggs left, which I’m going to poach and turn into Eggs Benedict.  But next month, when I get another fresh batch, I’m making another soufflé!  Maybe this blue cheese version

( see the recipe )

Leek Bread Pudding

I don’t think of bread pudding as savory – or at least I didn’t.  Then I found this Leek Bread Pudding recipe.

The recipe sounds just like bread pudding: toasted bread (I used challah), eggs, milk, and nutmeg.  But instead of sugar and raisins, it’s got leeks and cheese.

What you end up with, though, is closer to dressing.  In fact, it’s going on my list of Christmas side dishes for this year, to replace the bread stuffing that never seems to turn out.

I used about half a loaf of the challah I had leftover.  The leeks got sliced and caramelized while I cubed and toasted the bread.  Then everything got tossed together – the bread, some fresh thyme (I doubled the thyme, and I’d probably throw in some sage as well next time I make it), the caramelized leeks, and the fresh chives. 

The NYT recipe called for a 13×9 pan, but I tried Smitten Kitchen’s idea and put it in a large loaf pan.  I don’t have any clue how she managed to get it back out of the loaf pan in one piece, because despite using a non-stick loaf pan and butter, the cheese still stuck firmly to the bottom of the pan.

Whatever pan you use, layer in the cheese and the bread mixture, pour in the milk and egg mixture, let it sit for 15 minutes so the bread absorbs the milk, then put it in the oven.  The entire house will smell amazing for the hour it takes to bake.

Leek Bread Pudding

Since mine refused to let go of the pan to be neatly sliced, I just spooned it into a bowl.

I served it with a beer-can chicken:

Leek Bread Pudding

It’s definitely replacing all my existing stuffing recipes.  You could modify the spices to make it fit with pretty much any meal – the thyme and sage would go fine with poultry, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add other traditional stuffing ingredients, like oysters, apples, or sausage.

But I might not tell my Christmas guests that it’s bread pudding.  At least not until after it’s all been eaten.

( see the recipe )