Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Best Laid Plans
One of my birthday gifts this year was Diana Kennedy’s “From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients”. It is a beautiful book and fantastic resource loaded with photographs of ingredients, equipment, and techniques. It doesn’t have a great number of recipes, but provides instructions for making things like tortillas, tamales, and even queso fresco (fresh cheese) from scratch.
As I browsed the book, I found that several of the recipes that appealed to me required tortilla masa. Diana Kennedy suggests that you buy the masa at a local tortilla factory, "Or as a last resort, buy the powdered stuff and hope..." She also provides instructions for making it from scratch. It is made from dried corn which is boiled in lime water and then ground. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find a source for the dried corn, but I decided to keep an eye out for it. I checked several stores and finally found it in the international section of a local grocery store.
So I had my corn and I was psyched. I went back to the book and read the recipe carefully. It looked challenging in some ways, but doable. As I read through I mentally checked off each step, “OK – I can do that, and I can do that…” until I got to the last paragraph, “Drain the corn, now nixtamalizado, and take it to a mill (molino), where traditionally it is ground – with no water added – between round, flat grinding stones to give it a smooth, soft texture.” Um… where’s the mill?
Well, I’ve since done a little research on the web and, it turns out, I do have some options. I happened on a website called GourmetSleuth which is sort of a cross between an on-line store and a search engine. It also has some great content – lots of recipes and articles. They sell specialized equipment and quite a few ingredients for Mexican cooking. They also just happen to have an article on making homemade masa which discusses the ways that the corn can be ground. If you’re making tamales you can use your food processor, but for tortillas you need a metate y mano or a molino. Oooooh…so the mill (molino) is a gadget you clamp onto your counter rather than a place where you take your corn.
I think I’m going to get myself a molino – I’ll let you know how it works out!