Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hard Taco Shells from Scratch

So yesterday morning my darling husband headed off for work with both of the car seats in his car again. You think we would have learned our lesson by now. The real tragedy of this was that I had tacos planned for dinner and no taco shells in the house! What I did have, thankfully, was a bag of Masa and a little ambition. :)

So the first thing I did was hop on the internet and see what other people had to say on the topic. By and large the "from scratch" hard taco shell recipes I found were not really from scratch. The first step in each one was take the corn tortillas you bought at the store... um, has no-one explained to these people what from scratch means? Now granted I didn't start with grain corn and make my own hominy but the ones I made are a little more from scratch those at the sources I found.

 Step 1: Masa! Go buy some masa if you don't happen to have a bag in the house already like this crazy chick. I found this bag at the Wegmans in Elmira in the international section. It makes nice white corn tortillas and has the best set of instructions I've ever seen on a product on the back of the bag. Although I had to laugh a bit at the gluten free label; I would hope so, it's corn.
With pictures no less!
Step 2: Gather materials. Aside from your masa and water, you'll be needing a bowl, spoon, oven racks and something to flatten these bad boys out with. I don't own a tortilla press. I would never use it often enough to justify the cupboard space, but I do own two silicone baking sheet liners and a rolling pin. You could also use plastic wrap or your hands. I've used both before with reasonable success.
Step 3: Make your masa (masa actually means dough). I made the 2 c masa 1-1/3 c water recipe which makes 16, 4-5 in diameter tortillas. This was a great size for me and the kids. Toward the end I doubled up a few to make them closer to 8 in diameter for the hubby.
Not quite enough water yet but close.
 Step 4: Divide dough into 16 equal balls. I covered these with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out too much in case I had to run off to break up a fight or something else kid-related.
 Step 5: Heat a skillet and smoosh your dough.
Prepare to be flattened.
 I pressed the balls a little with the heel of my hand before rolling them out to prevent them for attempting escape.
 Now I screwed up a lot of these little bastards. Firstly, look at a ruler to see what 4-5 in looks like before you start. You can totally roll them much larger than this. You just can't peel them off the mat after you do. Thinner ones made better taco shell shapes later on and were a bit crispier. You'll have to find a nice balance for yourself between insanely hard to get into the pan and the tastier thinness.

Step5: Start preheating your oven to 375 (take out the oven racks first) Then cook your tortillas! Place your flattened dough into a hot dry pan and cook as per instructions on the bag. I didn't time mine, I just flipped them when I felt like they were starting to brown a bit.

Once they're all cooked you grab one of those oven racks and drape the larger tortillas across 2 rungs so that they hang down and make a taco shape. (Sorry no pictures, what was I thinking?)

Now, the little 4-5 in tortillas were too small to drape on the oven rack like this as their sides would end up too short. So, I whipped out my cookie cooling racks (mine look like this) which have narrower rungs and placed that on the oven rack. Then I draped the smaller tortillas over the cooling rack which was the perfect size.

Pop the rack back in the oven. These bake for 7-9 min or until crispy (the thicker ones I made were a little doughy still).
Taco shells!
 I took two of the less attractive shells for myself, because that's what us moms do, but they still made for some really tasty tacos! They were a little more filling than the store bought taco shells and much more flavorful, an excellent combination as I've always felt tacos weren't filling enough.
The left-over taco shells got thrown on a baking sheet the next day with the remaining taco meat and cheese, under the broiler it went and Nachos! The kids really loved both meals. Nothing makes you feel more accomplished than making something from scratch and watching your family enjoy it!

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