Author Archive: Jay

Revisiting Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas

Once upon a time, Deb posted her mother’s flour tortilla recipe at our former joint/family/anything blog, Accidental Verbosity, before moving to Blogblivion. We eat these fairly regularly, and once etsimated the cost for perhaps 16 of them at under 40 cents, versus, say, $1.69 for a pack of 8 commercial ones. You pay to save time and effort and get uniformity, but even Manny’s brand isn’t as good as homemade. It probably costs more now, given the recent increases in grocery costs and particularly, we just noticed on having to replace an empty, Crisco. That resulted in buying store brand soy/cottonseed shortening comparable to the current Crisco formulation. Traditionally one would use lard, which Deb almost got me as it was available and inexpensive. Definitely have to try that sometime.

This is a repost and, because it wasn’t written by me, guest recipe, inspired because I recently started making these myself, and found that the recipe was harder to find searching than it ought have been. I realized I’d started a food and cooking blog but never posted this here. Duh.

This was something Deb knew how to do inside out and I deferred to her, as one of her specialties. I’ll comment further at the end, but here is her original text:

Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas

We’ve been experimenting with different things to do with flour tortillas ever since we finally got around to trying my mother’s recipe for them. She used to make these often when I was a kid, since they’re better and cheaper than store-bought (and, I believe, because at the time it was tough to get even a passable grocery-store tortilla in rural Minnesota, a situation that has since changed). She taught some of the other women in the neighborhood how to make them, too, and they’ve been a hit with all who have tried them.

Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas

4 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening, in small cubes
1 & 1/4 cups warm water
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt

Dissolve salt in water and set aside. Rub shortening into flour with fingertips. (I’ve got the warehouse-club-sized can of shortening, so I meaure it into a cup then divide it as I add it to the flour…instead of a single lump, little spoonfuls. Works just as well…the point is to have it in small pieces so it’s easier to rub into the flour.) Gradually add salt water to flour mixture. (The trick here is getting the flour/water ratio right so the dough is smooth rather than sticky or flour-y. I always seem to need a tablespoon more water or flour to make it just right, depending on how perfectly I’ve measured and the weather that day.) Knead well. Set aside covered for a minimum of three hours (I wrap it in plastic wrap

, to keep the dough from getting a “skin,” then toss it back in the bowl and cover with a towel.). Knead again. Divide into 1 & 1/2 inch portions and roll out on floured board. (I shape the dough into a cylinder, then cut off the appropriate portion for the size I want for each tortilla. Usually takes me a test tortilla or two to get it right. The best part of that is that the mistakes are so tasty…yum. I also roll them out right on my countertop…a board is certainly not required, unless you have tile. *grin* The dough should be good and stretchy and a bit of a pain to roll out, and tends to shrink slightly when transferred to the pan, so roll ‘em thin.) Cook each on a hot griddle/frying pan until it bubbles and browns slightly. Makes anywhere from 12 to 18 tortillas, depending on size, thickness, and how many get eaten along the way.

As for what we’ve done with them…we’ve made burritos and quesadillas and even chicken and veggie wraps in the last couple of weeks, and I have no doubt some of the turkey will find it’s way into them in one form or another. Very versatile and very, very yummy.

The first time I made these, I became the official tortilla maker, they came out so well. The directions above say knead again after the dough sits at least three hours. Turns out that Deb didn’t actually do that when she made them. I did it minimally at best. It doesn’t seem to hurt them and anecdotally may be better, though certainly if the dough needs a little extra to get the texture feeling better while making it into cylinders.

I use one of those Pyrex cups that has lines up to a cup but room to add an extra quarter cup by eye. I microwave cold water a minute or 90 seconds, stir in the half tablespoon of salt to dissolve, and set it aside. I’ve been using about a cup in practice.

I make sure the flour is worked into the shortening extremely thoroughly. It’s somewhat like making pie crust, but without the objective of flaky.

I flip them over and over while rolling, to hel combat the curling and get them thin enough.

Basically it’s an easy easy thing to make. The big consideration is the sitting time for the dough. It’s fast compared to making bread. It’s even relatively fast to roll out, and I roll a couple then start cooking as I roll more.

They are so useful and so cheap. We’ve had the challenge of a baby with food sensitivities that seem to be based around salicyslates, and these were a perfect introduction to wheat-based foods, which as expected don’t bother him. Being simple and homemade, I knew exactly what was in them. Not like, for instance, whoile wheat pasta that contains corn meal, which he can’t have. But I digress.


Hell’s Kitchen 2008… Then There Were Two

Not much time, as I am about to make supper here myself. As predicted, it’s Petrozza versus Christina, with Corey gone at three. Respectable, and apparently she was better than my impression of her had been. I do think it was an easier decision that he made it appear, because as always, it came down to the pass, and Corey was easily the worst.

Christina was smart to realize what the challenge was going to be and think about and discuss the ingredients of the dish while dining with her parents.

It was amusing Ramsay called Christina a cheerleader, because Deb has been doing that all season, as a type, at least, perhaps worse if she never actually was one.

It’s a tough call, and there are a variety of skills being tested. Christina would be Heather the second, only less obviously competent up front, more of a talented newbie who lucked out. Petrozza would be the “hey, they let an old guy win for once” winner. Christina would keep the alternating male/female pattern. Petrozza would set them free from it.

Petrozza would seem to be perfect and would definitely be my choice, except the lackadaisical, forgetful tendency. That can be sharpened off and balanced by supporting staff.

Christina is more capable of leadership than I might have expected, but would need some polishing of her own. For her, though, it’s the start of a career, with a bang, and she’d have incentive that Petrozza, being established in his own right, might not.

I’m perhaps rooting slightly for Petrozza, but it’s not going to bother me either way. Presumably we’ll see a lot more of how each of them really are during the finale.

In the course of this, I was looking at the Hell’s Kitchen Wikipedia article and associated season articles. It’s interesting to note that Heather is done with her spiffy contract and is working as “a chef” at nowhere significant. It’s interesting to note that Michael, who famously accepted and then withdrew from an offer to work with Ramsay, and eventually got a plum restaurant gig as executive chef on the strength of his win, is no longer in that position. You just never know.

Ding Dong, Jen is Gone

I have been remiss about posting on this season of Hell’s Kitchen regularly, so now we’re about to see the top three be pared to two finalists.

I just have a few things to say about the last couple episodes.

Bobby I had pegged for a finalist, despite their making fun of him in the very first episode, and his apparently poor leadership skills the first time those were tested (perhaps enhanced through editing). The catch was whether Hell’s Kitchen would break the alternating sexes and/or races mold. Did you really think a woman would win American Idol this year? Least of all a black woman? If they follow the pattern, the script, the storyline, this year’s winner will be female, or at least white. Bobby winning would have broken the pattern and shown they ry not to follow one (or are doing the opposite). Jen winning, well, that would almost overplay the pattern thing.

Petrozza I had pegged for cannon fodder at the outset, shades of Dominic, but he has been steady, if not always clearly outstanding, more similar to Rock Harper than I’d noticed until just lately. And why does he go by his surname, Petrozza, rather than his first name, Louis?

I fear I’ve always liked Christina because she’s cute, but she also seems competent and not as obnoxious as Corey. The two of them have both had their moments of pure bitch, but I perceive Corey more so. I like to like the winner. It still bothers me that Michael won the first season, because I found him too annoying, however competent.

Hell’s Kitchen really played it close to the vest this year, disguising the fact that anyone had sufficient ability to be worthy of winning. I’m still skeptical, but the past couple episodes, particularly the final four, really showed there’s more there than we’d seen. I figure they didn’t want a repeat of Heather and Rock being obvious finalists from near the beginning of the season. Entirely aside from the issue of the winner being leaked, as happened last year.

At this point, I see it being Petrozza versus Christina, with a slight edge to Petrozza. However, if it’s Corey versus Christina, I think Christina takes it, and if it’s Corey versus Petrozza, I think Petrozza takes it. If Jen had somehow made it that far, I don’t think she had a chance. I am so glad she’s gone. They famously edit people to be more annoying than they really are

, but I got the impression Jen didn’t need much help.

Hell of a way to conduct a job interview.

The top three is a very telling episode, when each one calls and runs things for a while. Christina could fall apart on that, but Corey strikes me as weaker.

As for the challenge, lunch for 80 pregnant women, what about the issue of soft cheeses and shellfish and whatever? It struck me as odd for the contestants to go into that not aware there might be restrictions. Not that the risk is high, but hey.

Recipe Stoppers

Just a quick link without as much comment as I would like for Recipe Deal Breakers: When Step 2 Is ‘Corral Pig’.

It doesn’t take a huge amount for me to stop cold, but I’m the master of substituting or taking a recipe merely as suggestion, or inspiration for something perhaps only marginally related. Substitution should not be an epiphany.

Still, it’s usually a matter of ingredients, especially since usually the stuff I’d have to run out and buy will be expensive and never used in anything else before the remainder expires. Sometimes it’s tools or techniques. I can’t afford to buy new implements. I am not familiar with all too many techniques. It’s not that long ago I thought making a roux was some mysterious thing you had to go to cooking school to know about, when it’s really something elementary with a fancy name. One reason I couldn’t see myself on Hell’s Kitchen is I don’t know some of what even the most edited to look hopeless contestants do. I’d be a cross between Elsie and the traditional older heavy guy who leaves quickly. For all most of them probably know far more, I’m shocked at some of the things like taste challenges, in a “how are you a chef if you can’t taste or smell” sort of way. But I digress wildly.

How about you? What stops you cold when you see a recipe that you otherwise might try making?

Hell’s Kitchen 2008 So Far

I haven’t been posting about it regularly, as I might normally. That’s in part because it was on adjacent to American Idol, in part because of the kids going crazy when we dared try to watch 2 hours of TV, in part because I just haven’t been posting as zealously, and in part because this season… Yawn.

We are now down to six contestants.

There is no clear indication who will be the finalists or who we should start rooting for. I don’t know if that’s poor contestants, or great editing, perhaps influenced by the leak last year that Rock had won, and the fact that most of us reacted to that with “duh, it’s obvious nobody could beat him.”

It seems clear they cast the show with a small number of likely winners rounded out with people who have no chance, or who even fit specific roles, even if editing is required to mold that.

It seems clear that Bobby is a prospective winner, but they did shoot him down right at the beginning, if only to mislead us, he appeared incapable of being a team leader early on, and he would violate the unofficial rule of alternating specs of winners. He’s male. He’s black. So was Rock, just last season. Not right, and maybe they’re going off script because we expect it, but we expect him not to win based on Rock winning last year. In fact, we expect a woman to win.

I had a positive impression of the woman who left after being burned too severely to continue, and wondered if they were losing one of their prime prospects with her.

I was about to type “the last two women,” which tells you what I think of Jen, because I was thinkin g of the two other than her. I thought Jen might be one of the qualified contestants, but she seems just to be designated bitch and not as capable as she imagines herself. The other two women are coming to impress me enough to think it could be one of them in the final. Even both of them. And who knew, you can dislike each other but work well as a team! It should be interesting to see what happens after the switch back of Jen and Matt to their original teams.

I thought there might be something unexpected to Matt, and he’s shown sense a couple times, but I believe he’s there mainly for character. The previews made it appear his week to go will be the next one

, but they’re so misleading with previews, it could be Jen, or someone less expected.

Petrozza is really off the radar. He seemed to be in a class with Matt, yet now appears quietly competent and thoughtful. Could it really end up Petrozza versus one of the girls? Probably not, but he seems almost a wildcard.

At any rate, the show doesn’t seem so great this year, but apart from giving us contestants who are more seriously qualified and less cast to expected parts, I’m not quite sure what I’d do to help it.

Beware of Global Cooking!

You know, I love Hell’s Kitchen, notwithstanding how boring it’s been this year, and the lack of evidence that any of the cast – face it, they’re cast – are qualified to win (which may be good acting and editing, after Heather and Rock were too obvious, even before Rock’s win was leaked). I also loved the first season of the American version of Kitchen Nightmares. Both are more about business than cooking, especially the latter. Gordon Ramsay is a big part of the reason they are good.

Thus it’s sad to see him completely losing it, assuming he’s not being quoted wrongly or out of context. There are plenty of reasons to use local and iin-season, even emphasize it. One of those would be marketing. Good business. However, in addition to the questionable hype about “carbon footprint” and debunked global warming hysteria that’s all about grabbing power, the more efficient production, greater variety, and global flow of food has been a boon to human health and longevity.

I meant to add that I lose a lot of respect for anyone who goes all “there ought to be a law” over something

, because no, there ought to be very few laws. To suggest that it’s in any way acceptable to fine restaurants over the seasonality of what they serve is heinous at best.

Beth’s Banana Bread

I’ve been meaning for ages to post this guest recipe courtesy of Beth Mauldin. I’ve used it many times as my preferred banana bread recipe since she sent it to me over a year ago.

It’s also flexible. I’ve substituted a little corn flour into it, which gave it a grainier, almost dry result, which turned out especially good for banana bread french toast. The amount of banana can vary significantly and it’ll still be good. It can be doubled readily, as I did with the latest batch. I ran out of brown sugar, so for the two it was one part brown to almost three parts white sugar, plus a squirt of honey. I also added an extra egg, making it an egg and a half per loaf (large eggs, not extra large as I normally prefer – again, it’s not exacting). The dough was the least wet I have ever seen, with the modified double batch, puffed up higher than normal, and gave a delicious result.

Let’s get to it…

Beth Mauldin’s Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups bananas (usually somewhere near 2 bananas)

Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Add in the oil, milk and egg, mix, then add and mix in the bananas last.

Bake in a loaf pan, greased as appropriate, at 350 for 55 – 60 minutes. I find it’s usually shorter, but it’ll depend on the foibles of your oven.