Corn Tortilla Dough from Scratch (Harina Nixtamalizada)

If you want the absolute best tortillas, you really need to make the dough from scratch. I’m not going to lie and say they are easy, but it is not really difficult either, and the taste is amazing! Comparing store bought tortillas to freshly made tortillas is like comparing mass produced grocery store bread to a fresh artisan sourdough loaf straight out of the oven. There is simply no comparison in taste and quality.

I remember my tortilla making class like it was yesterday. We took the first corn tortillas off the griddle, let them rest, then spooned on a bit of refried black beans, and sprinkled on some queso fresco (all from scratch).

My first bite was a revelation. I could not believe how good a simple bean taco could be. I remember thinking to myself, “wow! If all vegetables could taste this good, I could totally go vegetarian”. It was so far beyond Mexican fast food that I was so used to. I consider myself a pretty manly man, but damn, I wanted to cry it was so good.

Unless you are living in Mexico and making masa for other people, this is not an activity you want to do every day. But you can do it once month and freeze what you don’t use right away. That way you have masa to make tortillas, tamales, or any other deliciousness that sounds good. The recipe scales well, but in really large quantities you need better, and bigger equipment.

You do need one piece of equipment – a food processor or grain grinder. Both work, but using the grain grinder is a bit of an acquired skill. If you wanted to go old school and stone grind it, I take my hat off to you.

One important note: You need dried corn kernels, but do not use dried sweet corn, or popcorn kernels. They will not produce the right flavors. Blue, red, yellow, white etc. all work, so choose your favorite. If you are in the USA, you can find dried corn on Amazon or thru several providers like Rovey Seed Co.

If you are in South or Central America, you can find dried corn kernels almost everywhere, except Argentina it seems. In Argentina look on Mercadolibre.com.ar, or head out to the market in Liniers to pick up some corn, and some peppers for your next Mexican Fiesta.

You will likely find lime (AKA “slaked lime”, not the fruit) at the same place. Make sure it is food grade!

On to the recipe!

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Corn Tortilla Dough from Scratch (Harina Nixtamalizada)
This recipe for making corn tortilla dough (Harina Nixtamalizada) from kernel to finished masa.
Prep Time 1 hour
Servings
5 inch tortillas
Ingredients
Prep Time 1 hour
Servings
5 inch tortillas
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Rinse the corn in water and sort, checking for anything that isn't corn. Can be done with a wide mesh sieve, but not a lot of people have them.
  2. In a large pot, add the water, corn, and lime. Turn heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cook until the corner is tender, but not soft, about 30-45 minutes. The kernel should still have some bite, kind of like al dente pasta. How long it takes depends on the variety of corn, so start checking at 30 minutes.
  3. When the corn is ready, remove from heat and let it sit overnight.
  4. The next day, drain the corn in a colander, and rub between your palms to remove the outside covering (called the bran). You don't have to get it all off, just do your best. Rinse again and allow to drain well. It is important to drain well before grinding or you could end up with a dough that is too wet and sticky.
  5. Add the corn to a food processor ( you may not want to add all of it at once if your food processor is smaller) and process on high speed until the mixture is smooth and no large corm chunks remain. It should come out the texture of a good hummus. This could take a decent amount of time, ten minutes or more.
  6. Scrape the dough into a mixing bowl and mix well with your hands. The dough should have the consistency of Playdoh. Test the dough by pressing some with your palms. If the dough is too dry, the edges will crack. In that case, add water a little at a time until it is soft and pliable.
  7. At this point your dough is ready to make tortillas, tamales, gorditas, and more!
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Corn Tortilla Dough from Masa Harina


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Corn Tortilla Dough from Masa Harina

This is an easy dough from masa harina that can be used for tortillas, gorditas, and many other Mexican delights.

Course Breads
Cuisine Mexican

Prep Time 15 Minutes
Passive Time 30 Minutes

Servings
Corn Tortillas


Ingredients

Course Breads
Cuisine Mexican

Prep Time 15 Minutes
Passive Time 30 Minutes

Servings
Corn Tortillas


Ingredients


Instructions
  1. Add masa harina and salt to a mixing bowl and mix well.

  2. Add lard if using

  3. Add half of the hot water, and mix until dough has come together, and then add the rest of the water little by little until the dough is soft and slightly sticky, but not sticking to your hand. If you accidentally add too much water, simply add a bit more masa and mix. If too dry, add more water little by little.

  4. Cover and let rest 30 minutes


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Home Made Corn Tortillas (and from scratch)

Corn is a staple through the Americas and used in many ways, from the arepas of Venezuela and Columbia, and of course, to the tortillas in Mexico. They are also really easy to make, unless you are making them from scratch the traditional way, and even then, it’s not too difficult.

For both versions, you need a tortilla press. It doesn’t have to be a traditional one. You can use a strong flat bottom plate, or, if you don’t care about them being completely round, you can use a rolling pin or even a wine bottle.

So, here are two ways to make corn tortillas. The easy way from already prepared masa, and also from scratch.

Corn tortillas from masa

Prepared masa harina can be found in most grocery stores in North America, and the brand I am most familiar with is Maseca. It is a good product, and easy to work with. If you’re feeling fancy, you can order red or blue masa on Amazon. Either way, the procedure is the same.

It is important to note that you cannot use corn flour, polenta, or other corn “flours”to make good Mexican tortillas. They wont taste the same, and will likely just fall apart. Just trust me on this, I have tried so many different ways, and none were the same, though, some could be used to make arepas, or other things.

Step 1. Make the dough (aka Masa Harina)

Below we have link to two ways to make the dough. The first is the “easy” way using masa harina that has already been prepared from brands like Maseca, but doesn’t quite reach the full potential of a made from scratch dough. We are including both versions, because in some countries, it is nearly impossible to find already prepared masa harina.

Link to “easy” dough

Link to “from scratch” dough

I like to add a bit of pork lard to the mix (if you haven’t already done so in the dough recipe) because it adds flavor and flexibility. I add about 2 tablespoons to the dough mixture and work it in by hand.

To make the tortillas, simply roll the dough into equally sized balls, then press between two plastic sheets (like two sides of a ziplock or wax paper) using a tortilla press, books, or whatever you have available. You want the tortillas to be just under 1/8th inch (2-3mm) and about 5 inches wide (125mm).

Heat a skillet to high, and add tortillas according to how many will fit comfortably. Cook on one side for about 30 seconds, or until it is starting to brown in spots. Then flip and cook on the other side for about the same amount of time or until they start to brown in spots. Don’t worry about bubbles. In fact, that is a good sign that your tortillas are well made!

Remove and wrap in a towel. The tortillas will continue to steam and cook all the way thru.

Serve the bottom tortillas first, and freeze any left over tortillas, or store in the fridge for a couple days.

Best Parrillas in Buenos Aires

The Battle Royale of Argentine Steakhouses.

Hi peoples! OK, first things first… I am going to add pics, but my computer is a mess right now with my new image sorting method. Once this first paragraph disappears, I have it sorted. If it is still here, I likely forgot so remind me!

Argentina is known for the legendary quality of it’s steaks. So in a country known for it’s great steak, the obvious question would be “where do I get the best steak in a country known for great steaks?”

I have made it a personal mission to figure that out because I have unwittingly become a steak snob. I didn’t realize it until as I was dining with my lovely wife, I started criticizing one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.

We were out to dinner and I was commenting on the food to my wife as each course came out and she was giving me a weird look. A kind of “Who did I go to dinner with?” look and she was responding to me with “uh huhh” and “ok, you think?”… And suddenly I understood why she was being “weird” and burst out laughing! Here I was, criticizing one of the best restaurants in the world, and we had had a really good bottle of wine, two amazing steaks, and several sides, some better than the others, but our total bill was about 120 USD. I was the one being “weird”. In the USA we would have paid more than that just for the bottle of wine, and the steaks would have easily cost 3 times what we had just paid. So I laughed and begged her apologies. Then she had the crepe with dulce de leche dessert (lol, even she didn’t really like that) , and I ate humble pie.

That being said… 120 USD dollars for a great steak dinner in Argentina is freaking ridiculous. You can easily feed two for 30 USD at any more than decent parrilla.

If you do an internet search, three Parrillas will be consistent winners for top results. The first would be Don Julio in Palermo. This steakhouse is consistently on the Top 50 list, and of course, as a result, gets huge press coverage and attention from travelers.

La Brigada usually comes next. The owner is renowned for his curly mullet, flamboyant attitude, and “steaks you can cut with a spoon”. Also huge press coverage as celebrities and international politicians are often seen eating here.

In “third place”… you will likely see La Cabrera also in Palermo. Not “as much” press coverage, but still good, and excellent reviews.

I’ve eaten multiple times at all three and I’d like to add a few more based on experience. The three I’d add to the battle are Gran Parrilla del Plata in San Telmo, Las Cabras in Palermo, and also Desnivel in San Telmo. More on why in just a bit, but I have to say, there are so many more places that deserve mentioning that this post could be a book.

First of all, I’d like to mention that all reviews are subjective and personal, and I find that there are so many good Parrillas in Argentina, it is really hard to say “this one is the best”, because there are at least two dozen I still want to try. For me, it is a mix of service, ambience (which depends on my attitude; sometimes I want fancy, sometimes relaxed), and the quality of the food. And also, consistency. I have had amazing steaks at hole in the wall parrillas in Argentina, and I have had sub par steaks at high priced upscale places. As always, I am all about value for money.

Let’s start with Don Julio. First off, the service is great. I have no complaints at all about that, and every time I have been to Don Julio, the service always shines. The staff is friendly, informative, efficient, and knowledgeable. The wine list is filled with great wines, and the staff know a lot about them. If you are not sure what to order with dinner, just ask. I appreciate the fact that they do not automatically steer you towards the most expensive wines. They will ask what you are having for starters, mains, and sides, and then make a recommendation or even a few to go with each course if you are multiple people.

The steaks at Don Julio really are outstanding. Always tender, always flavorful, but for me the sides could do with some work. The grilled provoleta tastes amazing, and I think it is made of goat’s cheese, but am not certain, and both times I ordered it, it came out slightly cold and not melted in the center. I am starting think that is on purpose, but I prefer melty goodness all the way thru. The grilled artichokes are well cooked, but not much more than grilled artichokes. Serve these with a nice dipping sauce and they could reach another level… But they are served plain. Not even butter, and I really couldn’t taste any smoky goodness from the grill, so I suspect they were steamed or boiled and then thrown on the grill to mark them, though I could be wrong. I love artichokes though, so, even if this sounds harsh, it is not. I still love the artichokes just grilled and they serve you 6 halves, so yeah, still good! The mashed potatoes were creamy and smooth, with a touch of thyme, but lacked depth of flavor and seasoning. Note on seasoning: Argentina has mandated that restaurants don’t salt foods. So, Don Julio is probably just following the rules. Prices are high at Don Julio, and although I have some reservations about the side dishes vs price, all in all, this is a very high quality restaurant. The question is… is it worth the extra cost? For a “I ate at a top fifty restaurant” moment, sure it is worth it. And the cost doesn’t even come close to a top steakhouse in the USA or Europe, which Don Julio definitely compares to (and in many cases exceeds). But if I am paying really high prices for quality… keep the quality really high in the sides as well.

Let’s move to number 2: La Brigada. Awesome atmosphere! It is fun and raucous. It is loud, crowded, and again fun. You are surrounded by Argentine Futbol paraphernalia and memories. And Argentines arguing about politics or the economy. So many players and celebrities have dined here, and there are photos to prove it; it has a well deserved reputation. I can’t really think of something bad to say about it, except again, the prices are pretty high. But they are pretty high because they can be. This guy has put years of work and love into his place, and it shows. With a full room every night at those prices, if I were him, I might even raise them a little. It’s been a while since I visited this place, so I don’t really remember the quality of the sides except the Chorizo which was excellent. I do remember the prices were 30-50% higher than my favorite place in San Telmo and the steaks weren’t quite as flavorful, or maybe I just expected more because of the price difference. IDK. I would still take visitors here for the fun/unique factor, but better price to value can be found within a few blocks. However, La Brigada is worth a visit any time.

La Cabrera is number three on most lists. Once again, really good steaks, but still kind of expensive compared to quality. Not to say the quality is sub par, because it is far from it. Solid sides, delicious steaks, really good wine list, and good service. Plus, as a bonus, they have a “happy hour” where everything is 50% off. At the 50% off price, I might move this to the top of my list. Happy hour happens from 4-7 PM, so maybe give that time slot a chance if you want to give them a chance at an incredible price, but fair warning, make it a late lunch, because if you are not there at 4, you probably won’t be seated before happy hour ends. I really liked their creamed spinach (but so far for me, the king of that dish is Las Cabras).

Desnivel in San Telmo is a quirky place. They are located on Defensa in San Telmo, and were my go-to place for a quick Choripan (chorizo on french roll) any lunch or snack time I was out and about. The restaurant is not fancy by any means, but the waiters are professionals, the meat is good (and so is most of the pasta), but maybe not quite the quality of the previous three. However, the price is better than the previously listed.

That leads me to the next two on my personal list…

Gran Parrilla del Plata, also in San Telmo. This place was very close to my previous apartment, but quickly became my favorite because the staff is excellent (shout out to Jorge who became not just our favorite waiter, but a friend), the quality is excellent, and everything is so good. I love their salads, steaks, fresh bread, no rush friendly attitude, and excellent prices. Of all those Mondays when our own restaurant was closed, we went here maybe 50% of the time because we knew it would be excellent, relaxing, and at a good price. I have eaten here more than any other restaurant on the list, because I have never had a mediocre meal here. It has always been top notch. Perhaps my favorite steak restaurant in Buenos Aires. Take that back… definitely my favorite.

Last but not least is Las Cabras in Palermo. Like Gran Parilla del Plata, We have NEVER had a steak cooked incorrectly here, and now that we are in Palermo, and these guys are only four blocks away, they have become our go to place. With the steaks they serve a Ceasar salad that is frankly kind of weak, but their creamed spinach is out of this world. Definitely order that! Also some nice fresh baked bread, that could use a touch more salt, but still delicious. Great value as well! This place is casual and fills up quickly on the weekends fro lunch and dinner. Service can be hit and miss sometimes, but the food… yum!

With all that said, I want to reiterate that I was comparing some of the top spots listed on search engines and review sites, and my personal favorites. There are soooo many great steakhouses in Argentina it’d take a long time to compare them all.

If you are exploring on your own, you might have a hit and a miss, but overall, you are going to be very happy with the quality of even hole in the wall steakhouses in Argentina.

Dude! Where have you been?

That’s a question I have been getting lot lately from friends and readers who think we disappeared! You may have also noticed a lot of content has disappeared. I “removed” a lot of posts because after doing this for a while, I re-read them, and really want to refine the previous posts. I am not a writer by training, trade, or experience, and I saw a lot of areas that could be improved. So I am looking to spiff up those articles so they make more sense and are more entertaining or informative.

But! On to the story! Most family know what happened, but some friends and readers do not. For those that do not, I apologize. The reason we haven’t posted for quite a while is simply because we opened two restaurants!

The first was a finer dining concept but still casual. Concentrating on slow cooked comfort food, and everyday Euro favorites. The second is a bar that serves amazing Mexican food. Think Cochinita Pibil, Chicken Tinga tacos, etc. We wanted to bring everything we miss about amazing Mexican food to BSAS, because, it is sorely lacking here. There are two Mexican restaurants within a block, but all their Mexican employees came to our bar to eat. So, I feel good as a gringo trying to respect the amazing Mexican cuisine. We also got great online reviews, which doesn’t mean much, but it is always nice.

We were working from 8 am to 2-4 am, six days a week, and frankly, there were no posts because we were too exhausted to sit down and write one!!! Once we got going, things relaxed a bit because of our amazing employees, but with only Mondays off work, we didn’t want to do much other than catch up on sleep. And we were never cooking at home. We just ordered or went out because after cooking for 12 hours a day 6 days a week, there is no way I feel like cooking at home.

You will notice I used a lot of past tense. That is because we sold and no longer own either restaurant. We met a lot of amazing people, had a constant stream of repeat customers, but the Argentine economy has been sliding hard and we could sense that things were going to get real tough, real quick, so we sold.

We are super grateful to our friends that came and visited us. The new friends that came every week and that we got to know really well, and most importantly, our employees that remain lifelong friends.

I’m going to “try” to post more often. We are still cooking up some great food, and have learned a ton about Argentine cuisine. I say “try” because now we are running cooking classes and cooking privately for many of the friends we have made as well as tourists that are visiting Argentina. So we are still busy! But at a much more relaxed and rewarding pace.

We are looking forward to sharing new insights and recipes with you guys!