Saturday, June 9, 2007
¡Memelitas! with a big bag o' lard
This is a bag of lard. Look how shiny it is!
I am sorry for ever having called my cooking classes unserious. The teacher, Soledad, is an excellent cook, and everything we have made so far has been from scratch and with care. Everyday, there's something new to learn and taste, and so I'm a little behind. Frankly, I could blog about something new every five hours, but I am trying not to overwhelm my faithful readers.
Last Wednesday, we made memelitas, which are little corn tortillas with a little lip around the edge, the better to hold in a nice spread of manteca de cerdo (lard), frijoles (beans), queso (cheese), and salsa made of guajillo chiles and tomatillos or tomates verdes as they are called in Mexico.
We began by toasting herba sante on the stove and boiling the tomatillos in some water. The guajillo chiles were also toasted and then everything was ground together in a mocajete or mortar. It took a lot of work, a little bit from all of us, to get the right texture.
Previously, Soledad had taken the maiz we had boiled the day before with lime and had it ground. She added water to create a wet dough and asked us to start kneading it.
Again, it took a fair amount of time to knead it to the right stretchy and tight consistency. She then grabbed a small ball of dough and started rolling and patting it into a small tortilla, slightly thicker than the tortillas we normally eat. In a few seconds, there was a perfectly round, flat tortilla in her small hands. Of course, when we tried, the tortilla wouldn't stay round, or it would stick to our hands, leaving gaping holes. When we asked why ours didn't look like hers, she simply said, "Because you're doing it wrong!"
This is my second attempt. My first one was quite grotesque. I realized the second time around that you really need to pat it between your fingers, not between your palms, and to keep turning it as you pat it. You need to pat it with speed and courage, because the longer you think about it and try to make it better, the worse it will get it.
We then put them on the flat griddles on the stove to get toasty and brown. Once they were nicely spotted on each side, Soledad had us pull away at the edges to form a little lip. You have to do it while it's hot, so that the top layer of the tortilla will pull away without leaving a hole. My fingertips burned, but it was a necessary sacrifice.
Then the accoutrements: first a thin layer of lard spread on the inside, then a layer of pureed black beans, then a sprinkle of crumbled queso and the salsa we had already made. It all went back on the griddle to get toasted again. Soledad said, en espanol of course, "You can tell when it's ready because the lard will start bubbling up."
I ate three memelitas. I couldn't help it, todo con manteca, claro. It was a masterful combination, the crunchy texture of the tortilla, the smooth flavor of the beans, with the salt of the cheese and the heat of the salsa. And we were the masters of the universe.