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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tortillas Supermercados

I went a little slap happy this past weekend. The family and I went to Buford Highway for Indonesian food at the charming Tempo Doeloe (5090 Buford Hwy NW, Doraville), and then we stopped in at Supermercado Chicago (5263) to see if they had fresh masa for sale (I didn't find any). I came out with two kinds of preservative-free corn tortillas, and later picked up a few more varieties for a long-overdue taste test.

Homemade is always better, of course, but I'm supposed to be serving tacos to a crowd (I hope it's one anyway) in a couple weeks and I am kind of losing sleep about how to get everything done, and do it without cooking or warming anything on site. Purchasing the tortillas will just make my life a bit easier.

Here's the lineup, left to right: Olé (with preservatives; made in Norcross, GA, by La Banderita), El Milagro (no preservatives; Doraville, GA), La Banderita (no preservatives; made in Norcross).

Again left to right: La Banderita mini taco size (with preservatives; Norcross), Guerrero (with preservatives; Irving, TX).

I warmed all of them one by one in a hot cast-iron skillet just until they started to brown. (Later I tried out various steaming methods and confirmed what I already knew: I don't care for steam-warmed tortillas.) For this comparison I ignored factors like price (they were comparable, as I remember) and availability.

The two that did not have preservatives, El Milagro (the brand I observed more Latinas picking up than any of the others, in two different supermercados) and La Banderita, were coarse-textured, heavy, thick, and had a pretty unpleasant metallic aftertaste. They didn't seem "fresher" to me. With the exception of the Guerrero, the texture of the ones with preservatives was finer and more tender, and perhaps those would not stand up as well to damp fillings—or to time.

The best tasting of all of them, and the one with the nicest texture, was Guerrero: it had lots of masa flavor, it puffed beautifully on the griddle, and was light without being flimsy. Oddly, it was the most rubbery straight out of the package, and I didn't have high hopes for it, but the griddle fixed everything.

La Banderita's mini taco–sized tortilla was probably my second favorite. It also puffed and browned nicely; its flavor was a bit bland compared to the Guerrero and the two no-preservatives brands but not as . . . challenging as the latter.

Conclusion: For personal use, if I'm not making them myself I'll try to make an effort to get Guerrero tortillas (the store on Prince in Athens has them). For the event in a couple weeks I'm going to use the mini tortillas—the size is right for a two- or three-bite sample-type serving, eaten standing up and maybe with a glass in one hand, and the texture and flavor are not bad.

And yes, I had my hamburger off the grill yesterday in a tortilla, with pico de gallo. And I toasted our nation of immigrants.


Obsessiondujour said...

My first instinct, in reading this, is that your fave? with the rubbery texture that fixed itself on the griddle? Means that they were probably made with real lard, yes? Of the two locals I can get here, that's the huge difference between them. I'd be curious if your ingredient list prooved out the same way?

Also, you're making me SO homesick with your tales of Buford Hwy.

Liana Krissoff said...

No lard in any of these, actually. My impression is that the only flour tortillas worth eating do have lard (I'd rather eat a low-carb tortilla than a lard-free one), but that it's not used so much in corn tortillas. But I could be wrong. Anyone?

margie said...

You're right about corn tortillas; traditional ones are made with masa and water, and maybe a bit of salt - that's it!

I make my flour tortillas with the no-trans fat shortening from Spectrum Organics. I know, from experience, that lard makes them better, but I don't have a reputable source here in L.A.

Betsy said...

I'm not sure if you've found your masa yet, but I get it at Buford Hwy Farmers' Market (just north of 285 on Buford Hwy). It's in the refrigerated section, with the latino cheeses.

They also have warm, fresh tortillas in the store. They aren't my favorites once they cool, but if we are just planning on eating them on the way home, well, then there isn't much better than those warm ones.

Liana Krissoff said...

Betsy: Thank you! I haven't found fresh masa yet, but next time I'm over BuHi way I'll check it out. One of my next food projects might be making fresh masa myself.

Anonymous said...

Liana - I'm surprised that Supermercado Chicago didn't have fresh masa. Unless they've changed things since I lived in Norcross, you could request it from the guys behind the meat counter. They have the machine back there that grinds the corn and everything. That's where I always got my fresh masa for tamales and tortillas. It's great! As for your tortilla experiment...there's a reason that the Latinos buy the Milagro tortillas...they are more like homemade. Now, I must say, they are best when you get them right off the truck, but I can't imagine you picking anything over them! My husband is from Mexico and he even asks if they have Milagro tortillas when we go to Mexican restaurants that don't serve hand-made! I've never had a metallic taste when I heat them at home and we eat them almost everyday. :)