Posts Tagged ‘masa

25
Jan
11

3-D printing with masa

Thanks to Jon Camfield for this one: The French Culinary Institute prints and fries a 3-D masa flower.

20
Jan
11

busy kitchen

Several projects going on at once: 1. marinating pork shoulder with sesame oil, cayenne, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and salt, per J-P’s orders; 2. rendering fat from said pork shoulder; 3. parceling out fresh masa from La Palma “Mexicatessen” to see if it freezes well; 4. eating a few tortillas from said masa. Also note that we will never want for read chili flakes again:

DSCF0696

That was the smallest bag I could find. It smells fruity and hot and delicious. I think John might be in for another housewarming present…

20
Oct
10

mis segundos tamales de elote

Still not right. I made them a little while ago, all excited, thinking that omitting the cornmeal would lead me to a triumphant post about how awesome they were. It was not to be. Leaving out the cornmeal did improve the texture…but not the flavor. That left my (probably stale) stash of Maseca as the culprit. I let the post go, and put the tamales in the compost bin. Add masa harina to the list of things (like non-direct flights home) that I’ve gotten to old to tolerate.

On Monday night, I had tamales from the Tamale Lady as she made her round at Zeitgeist. So, so, so good! They were California-sized, so I expected to be peeling off excess masa, but no–the corn was tender but not soggy, and it tasted just right. Four dollars per was a bit steep, though.

The experiences renewed my quest for good tamale masa, especially if I’m going to make pork tamales around the holidays. I’ve heard that La Palma at 24th and Florida sells fresh masa. I’ll pay them a visit this week and let you know how things turn out.

08
Oct
10

a large vocabulary for corn

There’s a paragraph in the November/December Cooks Illustrated that delighted me and confused me at the same time:

Masa and masa harina are both made from hominy, which is dried corn that has been soaked or cooked in an alkaline solution of water and calcium hydroxide [sic] to remove the germ and hull. This process, called nixtamalization, imparts a distinctive flavor that differentiates masa-based products from other forms of dried corn like polenta and cornmeal.

There’s nothing wrong with the way that’s worded. Why was it reading so funny to me? I realized that it was because I could think so many other ways to word it, and I was thinking of them all at more or less the same time.

  • masa aka dough
  • masa harina aka maseca (a genericized brand name)
  • hominy aka nixtamal
  • corn aka maize
  • soaked or cooked in an alkaline solution… aka nixtamalized, slaked, limed
  • calcium hydroxide aka quick lime, cal, calcium oxide (all these synonyms name the substance before it is mixed with water)
  • nixtamalization aka slaking, liming

This sort of linguistic interference makes playing Scrabble very interesting sometimes, as I try to sort out whether a word is or is not part of the English vocabulary.

17
May
10

Corn tortillas and Bay to Breakers

Chez Cervantes-Ferguson was culinarily busy, and full of runners, this weekend for Bay to Breakers. All of which partly explains how I found myself, at 5:50 yesterday morning, breakfasting on two stale corn tortillas and some cherries because they were the most readily available food in the house.

A little over an hour later, I was standing at the corner of Howard and Spear, corn tortillas whizzing through the air around me. Apparently this is a Bay to Breakers tradition. It took me three tries to get the hang of making one fly like a frisbee.

The tortillas got me to telling Courtney about atol and the changing availability of fresh corn masa in my grandparents’ neighborhood in Houston when I was growing up. When I was very young, there was a woman in the neighborhood who had a wet mill and ground her own nixtamal. She would make extra for any neighbors who wanted to buy it. Usually there wasn’t much demand, except in December, when everybody wanted to make tamales. Maybe someone would buy fresh corn masa if they were making a big batch of enchiladas, but almost everyone preferred flour tortillas and thought of corn tortillas as poverty food.

The holidays were also the only time I experienced champurrado–a sort of hot chocolate thickened with fresh corn masa. I had no idea that champurrado was part of a whole matrix of drinks known as atol: sweetened milk or water thickened with a grain, usually corn masa or old corn tortillas, but sometimes fresh corn, rice, or oats. Like champurrado, horchata and my grandmother’s sweet, milky preparation of Cream of Wheat also belong to the atol matrix, but I didn’t know what to call it until I lived in Guatemala for a while as an adult. When I came back and mentioned it to my grandfather, he said that atol was often all his family had to eat during the Depression, and that he couldn’t stand the stuff, or the memory of it. So it was no wonder neither I nor my mother had ever heard of it.

When a Fiesta supermarket opened up at the end of my grandparents’ block in the early-to-mid-80s, its mill put the neighbor lady out of business. It was able to run at large volume all the time because of a fresh wave of immigration–the newcomers preferred corn over flour tortillas. I’m sure they knew all about atol, too.