I’m a taco slut. There I admitted it. Actually, I’m a tortilla slut. Hard shell tacos, soft tacos, taquitos, burritos, flautas, chimichangas – you get the idea. Just wrap me up in a tortilla and I’ll die happy. Good corn tortillas are difficult to find. You know the ones that are soft and scented with lime? Yeah, there ain’t no Mission tortillas allowed in my kitchen. And absolutely no boxed taco kits either! The only tortilla brand I think is any good is La Tortilla Factory, which of course is hard to find. Occasionally I stumble across a good batch of corn tortillas at Newark Farmer’s Market but even there the quality isn’t consistent. When you know what a good tortilla is supposed to taste like it’s really difficult to settle for anything else. Same is true for good BBQ but I digress. I grew up eating TexMex as often as my parents could afford to take us out and my mother’s sister learned how to make flour tortillas and tamales from her mother-in-law and I even witnessed my Uncle Albert and his father cooking Hog Head Barbacoa on one occasion. On birthdays my Aunt would usually spend the day in her kitchen making and steaming tamales and charring tortillas over the grill grates of her gas stove. A few times I was present to watch her and I still remember the smells and tastes like it was yesterday. I loved watching people cook even back then. The most pleasant memories I have of my family and childhood all revolve around food and the memory of my Aunt in her kitchen cooking authentic Mexican cuisine is something I will always cherish.
Amy and I have attempted several times, using several different methods I might add, to hand make corn tortillas but they just aren’t very good at all. The texture is completely wrong and is more reminiscent of a tamale than a corn tortilla and despite all our efforts, they crumble and fall apart.The flavor is good but you definitely can’t wrap anything in it. So I decided to give handmade flour tortillas a go this time around and hoped they’d turn out better than our corn tortillas have. I don’t have a high tolerance for food disappointment. So I did some research on Pinterest (of course) and came across the site below and sort of followed the recipe. Amy was low on all purpose flour so I subbed with 1 cup all purpose and two cups of bread flour (bread flour just has a higher protein content). The recipe also called for 4-6 tablespoons vegetable shortening and I opted for 4 tablespoons and will probably do the same again.
I found the pictures on the above site particularly helpful since I don’t handle dough very often. Usually any and all tasks related to dough are handed over to Amy seeing how she’s a phenomenal baker already. But I asked myself, “What kind of Texan are you T if you can’t make a damn tortilla?” So I measured and mixed the flour, the vegetable shortening, and the water with my own hands until the dough was formed and it was actually kind of fun. In fact Amy commented that I looked like I was having a little too much fun with it. Afterwards, I patiently let the dough rest, portioned it out, and let it rest some more. Then I hand rolled out each tortilla, set my cast iron skillet on high heat and toasted them one by one. The tortillas were delicious! And I’m excited to make them again! For a good tortilla I’m willing to step out of my comfort zone and knead a little dough. If you’ve got a little time, fresh tortillas are definitely the way to go but be forewarned. Once you’ve tasted a fresh, handmade tortilla you will never be satisfied with sub-par, prepackaged ones again.
Shredded Chicken Tacos
4 Detwiler’s Farm Raised chicken thighs
2 tablespoons Grapeseed oil
1 tomato, chopped
3-4 organic Fair Weather Farm garlic gloves, skins removed and left whole
2 organic Fair Weather Farm garlic scapes, chopped
1 cup of water
6 tablespoons TexJoy Chili powder
6-8 tablespoons Cumin Powder
Salt and Black pepper to taste
4 handmade flour tortillas (recipe found on link above)
Garnishes: 1 – 2 small handfuls of Fair Weather Farm Spring salad mix, salsa fresca, sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a cast iron skillet over med high heat. While the skillet is heating, season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add the Grapeseed oil to the hot skillet and sear the chicken thighs skin side down anywhere from five to ten minutes or until the thighs release easily from the skillet and skin is golden brown. If the chicken seems “stuck” on the bottom of the skillet then the skin isn’t crisp yet. Once the skin is crisp and browned remove the thighs to a cutting board and turn off the burner. Deglaze the skillet with a cup of water and with a wooden spoon break up all the fond from the bottom of the pan. To the water add the chili and cumin powder and stir until well combined. Add the whole garlic gloves, garlic scapes, chopped tomato and a pinch of salt and pepper. The water, garlic, tomatoes and seasonings will create a perfect TexMex Chili Gravy, which I grew up eating on cheese enchiladas and crave regularly. Nestle the chicken thighs back into the skillet skin side up. Carefully transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and roast 45 minutes to an hour or until the internal temperature of the chicken thighs reaches 175 degrees. Once the chicken has reached the proper temp, remove from the oven and let the thighs rest on a cutting board to cool. Once cooled, either discard the skin (criminal and not recommended) or enjoy that scrumptious, crispy chicken skin like all good chefs do! Once the skin is removed, debone the chicken and shred it. Next add the shredded chicken back to the skillet and toss it in the chili gravy until well coated. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve the shredded chicken immediately on a warm handmade flour tortilla. Garnish with salad, salsa, and sour cream.