tortillas: when to use corn, when to use flour?
Are corn and flour tortillas completely interchangeable and a matter of personal preference? Or is one or the other traditionally used for certain dishes and better for certain foods, just as red and white wine are paired with some foods? It comes to mind because I was offered a choice between the two when I ordered my Mexican dinner at a restaurant once.
It's a personal choice all the way, but to me alot depends upon the quality of the product. I have many Mexican/Tex Mex restaurants where I live, and some have one better than the other. I prefer seafood in a flour generally, but with meat, and a good salsa plus some grilled onion, peppers and tomatoes, a good corn seems to bring out the flavors. Sometimes I'll order corn just to be contrarian. At some of the more authentic restaurants, the waitstaff assumes because I'm a white guy, (even though my wife is Hispanic), that I want flour, therefore I'll order corn.
Like James said, this is a personal choice but there are some rules that can apply. Corn tortillas are generally smaller and less sturdy than flour tortillas. Flour tortillas are probably most associated with Tex-Mex or Americanized Mexican.
The definition of "Mexican" food is used pretty generically so here are the rules I use:
Flour is better than corn for:
Corn is better than flour for:
Tacos (I know....some people like soft tacos with flour tortillas; this is a personal choice but authentic Mexican tacos are always corn.)
Accompaning any dish (main course, huevos)
I use corn when I am baking in the oven with a sauce, or layering with a sauce (like an enchilada, or huevos rancheros) . I use flour for anything I assemble and eat out of hand.
When served as the side to a meal, it is purely a matter of personal choice. It's like the choice of bread and rolls. If you want to be more 'traditional' or 'Mexican' choose corn, but it you prefer the taste and texture of flour, choose those. And if you know from experience that this restaurant has particularly good ones of one type, choose those.
When used as integral part of dish, such as a taco, enchilada etc it does matter. For some of these dishes, the tortilla determines the name.
In general, corn tortillas are common through out Mexico. Flour ones are common in the north, much less so further south. Corn stands up to 'saucy' preparations like enchiladas. Flour are larger and more flexible, so work better as warps (burritos). Flour also takes sweetening better.
Never flour enchiladas. That is a burrito. A wet, ick burrito. Most people do flour torts for Burritos, fajitas and quesadillas. Mixed use for tacos. I like corn quesadillas. Sometimes it is a size issue. Unless you are making your own torts, the corn are usually too small for some applications like burritos - and not pliable enough - like for a burrito.