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Making Mexican at home

Mexican

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#1 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 07:05 PM

When I was growing up in Atlanta, my parents--both were born in raised in Mexico City--were definitely out of their element. All of their family was still in Mexico and their only consolation was visits from my Grandmothers, who would sneak all sorts of hard-to-find Mexican goodies like Churrumais, Mexican candies, and homemade quesadillas--think of an enclosed quesadillas made with masa and variety of fillings like cheese, huitlacoche, refried beans, etc.

The quesadillas were always my favorite and I learned how to make them as a young girl. My sister and I still make them to this day--especially for large parties because they are always a hit and very simple to prepare. I get a lot of questions from people about these thinking they are empanadas, but I grew up calling them quesadillas and the stores I frequent in D.F. call them quesadillas as well. I asked a local chef when I was in Cabo and he told me that the nomenclature is a matter of which region they are in. It warrants more research. Does anyone else make these out there? What do you call them?

But, back to making the quesadillas. I coaxed my lovely sister into 'modeling' for me as we prepared a plain cheese version for our guests on the 4th of July. I have to warn you in advance, we ate them so quickly there is no requisite gooey cheese oozing out of the crisp crust shot. But, hopefully you'll get the idea. :biggrin:

How I do it:

Before making the masa, I grate a round of Oaxaca cheese and set aside. Making the masa is very easy. I normally use fresh masa I get ground to order at a local store (Chicago on Buford Highway for all you Atlantans), but we just went with Maseca because we were short on time.
Just follow the direction on the package. I like to add a bit of salt.

Here is my sister kneading the dough. Make sure it does not get too dry.
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After kneading the dough, divide the dough into balls a little smaller than a golf ball. I then press the balls out into a thick tortilla using plastic wrap. You can also use a cut up plastic freezer bag or wax paper.
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After taking the tortillas in the press, fill with grated cheese and whatever else you'd like to add--the possibilities are endless.
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Fold in half and seal the edges very well so the fillings don't come out during frying.
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After ensuring the quesadillas are well-sealed, fry them in oil until they turn a very light brown, but not cooked all the way. Take them out of oil and drain on paper towels. I like to do this before company comes to save time. You can also freeze them at this point.
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To finish and enjoy, fry again and top with some killer salsa and crema Mexicana.

#2 nonblonde007

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 07:18 PM

Wonderful picture lesson, thank you Jennifer.
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#3 Dante

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 09:29 PM

quite lovely! Thank you for sharing!

Every so often, I find myself seized with the urge to make an entire Mexican meal from scratch. We have wonderful local sources for tortillas and salsa, so a lot of the time I "cheat" and buy those rather than make them myself, but once in a while I like to do it all from the straight ingredients.

Sincerely,
Dante

#4 kalypso

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 10:35 PM

I first encountered this style of quesadillas in D.F. in 1984 and fell head over heels in love with them. They're really great, thanks for posting :smile:

#5 infernooo

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 07:32 PM

How wet should the tortilla dough feel? Does it differ between quesadillas and "plain" tortillas that are grilled?

#6 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 08:00 PM

When you grab a bit of dough, it shouldd stick together without falling apart. Kind of like making a pate brisee.

#7 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 06:10 AM

If I had to credit one person with my never-ending curiosity about food, it would have to be my Dad. When I was growing up, he was working for a large Atlanta-based company that required him to travel a lot--I remember him telling me he had done something insane like 200 countries in 5 years. Since he was traveling the world, Dad was exposed to many different cuisines and constantly brought us home little food souvenirs like stinky cheese from Paris, immense bags of bread and smoked fish from Zabars, and dried fish snacks from Japan. When he wasn't traveling, Dad would cook. And, man, did he cook. Braised legs of lamb in white wine, amazing risottos, cassoulet, and all sorts of Mexican dishes. One of our family-favorites was a simple Mexican breakfast of chilaquiles (a peasant dish that uses leftover salsa and tortillas). There is something about them that is so satisfying and nobody makes them better than my Dad. There are many varieties of chilaquiles. Some people add shredded chicken or turkey to the mix, but we normally make them plain. You can use a red or green salsa--whatever you prefer. Every family does them a little differently. This is how we make them:

Cut up some corn tortillas into strips or squares and fry them in oil until they get some color on them. When they are done, place them on a paper-lined plate or bowl to absorb some of the oil.

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If you don't have leftover salsa from the night before, make your favorite red or green salsa--just be sure it is homemade because the store-bought versions won't cut it for this dish. Dad just normally throws one together with some tomatoes, onion, lots of salt, and whatever chiles he has on-hand.

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Toss the fried tortillas strips with the salsa and top with crumbled queso freso, chopped onions, and a drizzle crema Mexicana. A little chopped cilantro ain't bad either. I like to serve with a big bowl of scrambled eggs for a bit of protein, but you can just have them on their own.

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Edited by The Blissful Glutton, 24 August 2007 - 06:16 AM.


#8 Pat W

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 08:46 AM

That looks incredibly tasty. Much better than any chilaquiles I've had in the past. Thank you for the tutorial.

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#9 Dante

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 05:08 PM

[chilaquiles]


Hm. there's something I haven't tried before. I think that may need to happen some time in the near future. Thank you very much for sharing this!

Sincerely,
Dante

#10 Jmahl

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Posted 24 August 2007 - 06:13 PM

Bravo, que rico.

Desde la Frontera,

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#11 scubadoo97

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 04:18 PM

[chilaquiles]


Hm. there's something I haven't tried before.  I think that may need to happen some time in the near future.  Thank you very much for sharing this!

                                      Sincerely, 
                                                Dante

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They are wonderful. When visiting relatives in Mex city it is a dish that is served in the wee hours of the morning at the end of a festive occasion.

Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos

#12 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 05:30 PM

My pleasure.

I am trying to think of what I am going to do next.

Made these sopes with cochinita pibil a little while ago. They were insanely good.

Used a locally grown pork butt and did it in my Le Creuset. Topped with queso fresco, pickled red onions, avocado, micro-cilantro, tomatillo salsa, and crema Mexicana.

Here is the pork out of the oven:
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The finished product:
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Edited by The Blissful Glutton, 25 August 2007 - 06:50 PM.


#13 Jay Francis

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 06:06 AM

I say, stick with quesadilla (little cheese). Empanada implies "breaded" since "empanar" is incorporated into the word.

I recently assisted at a cooking class in whch the filling was solely epazote leaves and a melty cheese. Delicious!

The best quesadillas I have ever had were blue corn, flor de calabaza ones outside the entrance of the ruins near Tlaxcala.

#14 docsconz

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 06:26 AM

Wonderful photos and instruction, Jennifer. Thanks for doing this.

In reality, the only differences between your quesadillas and other styles I am more familiar with that I can discern is how you finish yours. You seal them (like an empanada) and then fry them. The quesadillas I know are not sealed and are grilled on a comal or equivalent. Your photos make making tortillas look so easy, when they are anything but! :laugh: With a little practice they aren't too hard, but they aren't nearly as easy to make as it looks!

It's true that there are many different versions of chilaquiles, which makes sense as they probably originated as a way to take care of leftovers.

Your cochinita pibil looks marvelous. How did you make that?
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#15 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 06:42 AM

Thanks everyone!

Doc: I loosely followed Diana Kennedy's recipe which you can find HERE.

I use the achiote paste that you find in blocks at most Mexican stores and mix it with the juice. I like a bit more normal orange juice because it gives it a little added sweetness that plays well against the heat of the salsa when plating. I also used a butt instead of a loin because I had it on hand. The marinade takes 5 minutes to make and then you just let it sit overnight.

Edited by The Blissful Glutton, 26 August 2007 - 06:44 AM.


#16 weinoo

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 08:12 AM

Toss the fried tortillas strips with the salsa and top with crumbled queso freso, chopped onions, and a drizzle crema Mexicana. A little chopped cilantro ain't bad either. I like to serve with a big bowl of scrambled eggs for a bit of protein, but you can just have them on their own.

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Those look so delicious, Jennifer! Thanks for your great posts and pix, too.

I'm wondering - have you ever taken that mix and baked it like lasanga - topping it with more salsa and cheese before popping in the oven?
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#17 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 11:40 AM

Toss the fried tortillas strips with the salsa and top with crumbled queso freso, chopped onions, and a drizzle crema Mexicana. A little chopped cilantro ain't bad either. I like to serve with a big bowl of scrambled eggs for a bit of protein, but you can just have them on their own.

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Those look so delicious, Jennifer! Thanks for your great posts and pix, too.

I'm wondering - have you ever taken that mix and baked it like lasanga - topping it with more salsa and cheese before popping in the oven?

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I have done that. My sister actually prefers it that way--you get a crisp crust that way and it is not so wet. I always add chicken if I do it that way. But, you have to be careful no to dry it out.

#18 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 05:59 PM

I wanted to add another photo of something I made a little while ago. Whenever my Grandmother (my Mom's mom) visits from Mexico, she makes a huge batch of mole. I have tried to get her to teach me, but she is one of those "a little bit of this and a little of that" kind of cooks. I need to get that recipe. I love her mole and I use it up way too fast. I made some enchiladas with my last container (sniff) a while back. Topped with the usual suspects (crema Mexicana, micro-cilantro, queso fresco, and pickled onions) and served with some radishes tossed with lime and salt.

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#19 Kouign Aman

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Posted 30 August 2007 - 07:09 AM

All that looks and sounds soooo good. I always figured chilaquiles were like bread pudding - a delicious way to rescue stale bread and stretch the food budget.

Whenever my Grandmother (my Mom's mom) visits from Mexico, she makes a huge batch of mole. I have tried to get her to teach me, but she is one of those "a little bit of this and a little of that" kind of cooks. I need to get that recipe.


Here's something you might try: before Grandmother starts cooking, weigh everything. Write all the weights down (on paper, on masking tape on the container, whatever). When she's done cooking, weigh everything again. As long as she didnt throw stuff away, the difference is what she used. (If you see throwage about to happen, weigh that too!)
Its painstaking, she'll tease you about it unmercifully, but its a great way to capture a recipe from an intuitive cook. (Of course, Grandmother never makes it exactly the same way twice.... but its a starting place).
"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

#20 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 05:53 AM

Thats not a bad idea, KA! I will have to try it next time she is visiting.

I have another photo of some food I have recently made.

This time it is breakfast.

My mother, bless her heart, is not the best cook. She was the queen of takeout when we were growing up, but there were certain things she made that were amazing. Black beans were her specialty. While black beans are not the most Mexican of items, we ate them a lot growing up--a holdover from our days in Rio (where I was born). Mom would make the most amazing dishes with black beans like fried tortillas topped with the beans, a fried egg, and salsa--something I even eat for dinner on occasion.

Another item she used them for was molletes. Making these is so very simple. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, butter a bolillo (I used a baguette for this recipe to fancy it up a bit), top with some refried beans, and cover with chihuahua cheese--you can use mozzarella if you cannot find Mexican cheeses in your area. Put them in the oven until the cheese is bubbling (about 10 minutes) and serve with some salsa (the one below is a salsa made with arbol chiles) and/or pickled jalapenos on the side.

They are especially popular with kids (served without the egg) because you can call them breakfast pizzas. If you are feeling naughty, top with a fried egg. Best breakfast in the world.
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Edited by The Blissful Glutton, 01 September 2007 - 05:55 AM.


#21 C. sapidus

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 07:08 PM

First of all, thanks to Jennifer for starting this thread and posting posting such helpful pictorials and beautiful pictures. She has kindly welcomed others to participate, so perhaps we can make this thread a repository of home-cooked Mexican meals, similar to threads on Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Dutch, and Japanese home cooking.

I know Mexico only through cookbooks, but I have adored Mexican food for years. Today I had time to snap pictures while making Mole Huasteco from Zarela’s Veracruz: Mexico’s Simplest Cuisine by Zarela Martinez. This is a pretty basic mole, but it shows some of the typical mole-making steps. My usual lament: I crave Mexican food every winter, long after fresh tomatoes are gone. Ripe, griddle-roasted tomatoes would have been wonderful in the mole, but we made do with canned Italian tomatoes.

Start by poaching the chicken (we used drumsticks) with an unpeeled white onion, mint sprigs, and salt.
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When the chicken is cooked, remove it and strain the broth. We froze four extra cups of broth in Ziploc bags.
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Soak ancho chiles (stemmed and seeded) in the hot chicken broth.
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Toast peppercorns, cloves, and canela (Mexican soft-stick cinnamon) on a dry griddle.
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Toast garlic on a dry griddle (the next step would have been to griddle-roasted fresh tomatoes if we had any). Slice an onion and saute until translucent.
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Add tomatoes, sauteed onions, toasted garlic and spices, soaked chiles, and the chile soaking liquid to the blender. Blend until smooth.
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Strain the blended sauce. After straining each batch, we returned any solids to the blender for another whirl. We were left with very few solids.
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Cook the sauce until it is concentrated and the fat begins to separate. Pull off the chicken skin, remove chicken meat from the bones, and add the meat to the sauce. When the chicken has heated through, adjust salt and add up to a tablespoon of sugar. Enjoy with rice and corn tortillas.
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Here are some re-heated leftovers that survived the pot luck.
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#22 lucylou95816

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 07:27 PM

Jennifer and Bruce

Thanks so much for your pictures and commentary. Excellent. Since I am doing Low Carb right now, I do miss the tortillas, but am going to keep some of this in mind for my "cheat days". I think that it was Ann T that showed a really cool tortilla press a while back. I had bought a heavy plastic one at a Mexican market a while back, and just using the Masa flour and water, it made okay tortillas, a little thick. This one seems to make good ones, judging by the stainless steel plates it has and the cast iron, and the weight would result in a thin tortilla.. I'll probably buy this one in the near future. Let me know if I am off base on this. I hope that you'll continue this thread, since so far, I am wiping drool off my keyboard. :biggrin:

Edited by lucylou95816, 15 December 2007 - 07:28 PM.


#23 heidih

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 08:24 PM

Jennifer and Bruce

Since I am doing Low Carb right now, I do miss the tortillas, but am going to keep some of this in mind for my "cheat days".

View Post


This seems like the type of hearty dish that could be eaten wrapped in a sturdy green like a napa cabbage leaf and some "eternal cucumbers" folded up with it. I'm off to the little Mexican mercado Monday with the big bins of dried chilis. Thank you Bruce!

#24 lucylou95816

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 08:42 PM

Jennifer and Bruce

Since I am doing Low Carb right now, I do miss the tortillas, but am going to keep some of this in mind for my "cheat days".

View Post


This seems like the type of hearty dish that could be eaten wrapped in a sturdy green like a napa cabbage leaf and some "eternal cucumbers" folded up with it. I'm off to the little Mexican mercado Monday with the big bins of dried chilis. Thank you Bruce!

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That sounds great, thanks for the suggestion

#25 The Blissful Glutton

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 07:43 AM

Looks good, Bruce!

And, Lucy, when it comes to a press, the heavier the better. I use a cast iron one at home after much trial and error with other models.

I am sorry I have let so much time pass since my last entry, but the Glutton has been on a diet and quite busy.

Looking forward to seeing more people's efforts though!

Edited by The Blissful Glutton, 17 December 2007 - 07:47 AM.


#26 C. sapidus

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 09:07 PM

Stephanie, I am definitely not the one to ask about tortilla presses. I just learned to make corn tortillas, and my “tortilla press” is a cutting board with felt pads on the bottom :rolleyes: (it happens to make tortillas of just the right thickness). Kids, don’t try this at home!

heidih, you are quite welcome, and please do share what you make. Cabbage or lettuce would make lovely, if nontraditional, mole wrappers. Besides eternal cucumbers (always appropriate, of course :wink: ), one could add sliced radish, diced white onion, cilantro, crumbled queso . . .

Jennifer, thank you! (and thanks again for starting this thread). Hmm, we can’t help with busy, but what about all of those reasonably diet-friendly Mexican dishes – pescado al mojo de ajo, camarones enchipotlados, ceviche, chayotes or hongos al vapor, lots of soups . . .

#27 snowangel

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 10:04 PM

Stephanie, I am definitely not the one to ask about tortilla presses. I just learned to make corn tortillas, and my “tortilla press” is a cutting board with felt pads on the bottom :rolleyes: (it happens to make tortillas of just the right thickness). Kids, don’t try this at home!

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Bruce, let's see this "contraption" in action, please! I have very limited kitchen space, and the idea of multi-tasking equipment is big.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#28 janeer

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Posted 18 December 2007 - 09:40 PM

Well, this is nice--talking and looking at my favorite cuisine! Great idea. I too adore quesadillas, which I make with cheese and epazote (which I can occasionally find fresh where I live) and serve with tomatillo sauce, or fill with huitlacoche when I can get it. I have a Mexican fiesta every summer and make 4 or 5 dishes in addition to antojitos and desserts. Here is a photo of a nontraditional taquito--caramelized corn, roasted beet and chorizo, and queso fresco. I also make tiny tamales about once a year--very labor intensive but so worth it--usually chicken and beef. I freeze them and then microwave them for breakfast. Divine.

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Edited by janeer, 18 December 2007 - 09:41 PM.


#29 C. sapidus

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Posted 21 December 2007 - 05:42 AM

Janeer, fun taquitos, looking forward to more from you!

Susan, here is our “tortilla press” – a bread cutting board with four felt pads on the bottom corners. The felt pads serve as spacers, and by sheer good fortune happen to yield tortillas with about the right thickness.
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Place the dough on a Ziploc bag with three sides cut off, press lightly to flatten . . .
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. . . fold over the Ziploc bag, and use the cutting board (felt pads down) to flatten the dough.
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Peel off the dough and place on a medium skillet for 30 seconds. Flip onto a medium-high skillet for 30 seconds. Flip again, press lightly on the tortilla to get it to puff up, and cook for another 30 seconds. Works like a charm.
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#30 lucylou95816

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Posted 21 December 2007 - 07:31 AM

very cool tortilla press. They look great.





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