Conquering my fear of Fresh Masa and freezing questions
If I take one golden lesson from Bayless's cookbook of the month, it will be that masa preparada makes magic. Truth be told, fresh masa used to intimidate me; I had no idea what to do w/ it. I never really understood that the hard work of grinding the corn and mixing it w/ other ingredients til it was a smooth paste had already been done for me. This is a ready-to-use item after all.
So I've been having fun w/ that 7 lb. bag of masa I purchased for gorditas. View my gordita report here:
Photo of bag of masa:
My favorite use for it has been making fresh tortillas for quesadillas. I was worried after I came home and realized I accidentally bought masa para tamales, but these have worked great for tortillas; the lard adds a wonderful nuttiness and creaminess that enhances the toasty corn. The result is so tasty that husband and I think we're developing a physiological addiction to masa.
I don't have a tortilla press, but have found that pressing the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap w/ my rolling pin has worked just fine for my small batches. At first, the process was a terrible mess and raised my blood pressure w/ the dough sticking, tearing, buckling in the pan, etc. I wanted very tender and supple tortillas so didn't want to compromise by drying them out w/ too much flour. Let's just say that one time I had a little tortilla tantrum that sent flour flying everywhere. :-)
After a few times though, I got the rhythm down. I began to acquire a feel for how much flour prevented sticking, how thin I could push it, how to carefully peel off the plastic w/o tearing the dough, how to gently lay them in the pan, etc.
Photo of tortilla griddling:
Unlike Bayless's suggestion to use two pans (one hot and one cooler), I prefer to keep it simple and use one pan. They usually puff up a little as they get hot. For quesadillas, I add the cheese filling after flipping once. A combo of creamy monterey jack w/ sharp anejo is very nice. I then fold them in half to get half moon shapes. Unlike typical quesadillas made w/ commercial tortillas where it's all about the cheese, these are all about the tortillas...
Photo of quesadillas w/ salsa and crema:
So we are down to about 3.5 lbs. of masa and are readying to leave town for the holiday. This masa is about a week and a half old and will be more than a couple weeks old by the time we return. What's the refrigerator life of this stuff? Is it possible to freeze it so that I can use it at my leisure? If so, specific freezing instructions are appreciated since I don't know much about freezing foods to retain optimal integrity.
Has anyone tried that contemporary masa casserole in Mexico OPAAT? Any suggestions for how else to feature this masa besides tamales? Thanks for the help, hounds!
I know nothing about fresh masa, so I am completely useless to you on that point. But, I wanted to say...
Brava, Brava, Brava for your masa making exploring experiences. I am completely intrigued by the whole thing. Before your posts, I wasn't even remotely curious about playing with masa.
I have frozen masa in my freezer on the advise of folks on this board. It doesn't have lard in it, though.
Great work. The conventional wisdom in my family is that fresh masa spoils quickly, especially if it's already preparada. I've never kept any for over a week myself. I froze fresh masa once, when I made a large batch of deep-fried quesadillas for the Picnic. I wrapped each prepared quesadilla in plastic and froze. When I fried them up later they came out just fine. That might be a better way to keep it: prepare the items and then freeze instead of freezing a whole block which has to be thawed later.
Other things you can do are the deep-fried quesadilla recipe from Bayless' book, or variations on that theme. One awesome dish I made recently was chorizo and potato empanadas. I used Bayless' instructions for preparing the masa from the deep-fried quesadilla recipe, then just filled with a mixture of cooked chorizo and potatoes.
nick, i have a fav preparation which is :
skin-on boiled, drained,cubed potatoes sauteed in chorizo fat;
sauteed sliced chorizo (i prefer the portug chorizo to the mex myself);
onion chopped and sauteed in chorizo fat//
combine all 3 in pan; add green salsa verde (trad joes is just fine)
enough to have good flavor.cook together a bit til not too wet.
put this filling in corn tortillas toasted over a flame.
Ooh, thanks Nick. I'd forgotten that I wanted to try the potato/chorizo filling for tortillas last week.