The city wakes with an orange glow silhouetting Monte Tláloc and neighboring summits in the east. With lunch being the main meal of the day, vendors have begun setting their portable kitchens, ready to cater to the city of nearly 9 million people. From sidewalks to parks, storefronts to plazas, as the sun rises so does the aroma of spices and marinated meats filling the morning air. Tucked in a valley in the high plateaus of south-central Mexico, Mexico City has a vast history and culture not so easily ignored. An influence on food lands with a resounding, confident, bold and beautiful statement on world cuisine. To simply classify it as ‘Mexican food,’ as it is generalized in the states, does an incredible disservice to the culture and trivializes the idea that something as simple as a taco can be sophisticated. In terms of the taco, a common street food, less is often always more. Way more. In a country where fresh food is so inherent in society, there is no room for that ‘farm to table’ trend. Ingredients are nearly always prepared fresh, daily and are available everywhere.
So maybe you can’t make it to Mexico City anytime soon. Or maybe you have been years ago and need a reminder of the sophisticated tastes of a staple so simple that people around the world felt compelled to ‘doctor’ it up beyond recognition with infinite layers of condiments and accoutrements. We’re talking about tacos. Small, simple, sophisticated and packed with so much flavor it is best consumed as it comes or with a complimentary size of our Red Cactus-USA salsa of your choice. When we think of tacos, we think of them in two parts: the filling and the tortilla.
At Red Cactus-USA, we pride ourselves in providing our customers with options that are healthy alternatives to what is currently on the market. Our products are some of the only gluten-free options for dips and our salsas are made with fresh ingredients from our gardens which are non-GMO and reduce symptoms of acid reflux. So naturally, we’re sharing a recipe to make corn tortillas instead of flour. Compared to the flour tortilla, corn tortillas are not only gluten-free, but they are a significantly healthier option. To start, we use cornflour, Masa Harina. In short, it is made by curing corn in lime water in a process known as nixtamalization causing the corn skin to peel off. What remains is turned into a batch of flour.
2 cups of masa harina
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups warm water
- Combine the masa harina and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Starting with one cup, add the warm water to the mix and stir until it is absorbed. Continue adding the warm water 1 tablespoon at a time while regularly stirring the mixture. The goal is to have the flour create a dough.
Note: If the dough is sticky, you have added too much water. If the dough doesn’t knead well or form and hold a ball shape, you need more water.
- Next, form the kneaded dough into golf ball-sized balls.
- Using plastic wrap or a plastic bag on both sides and a flat surface, flatten the dough ball. Make sure the flattened tortilla easily peels off the plastic surface. Repeat for all balls.
- Cook the tortilla- Heat the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the flattened tortilla for 10 seconds. Then flip and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Flipping a second time, continue cooking on the final side for 1-2 more minutes. If they ‘puff’ up, that’s a good sign you have formed the tortilla correctly.
Taco filling can get out of control. Especially outside Mexico, taco filling can overshadow the flavor of the tortilla and the meat. For this recipe, think simple. Keep that bucket of sour cream and ‘Mexican mix’ processed shredded cheese in your refrigerator and bring out only your favorite selection of Red Cactus-USA salsa. If your neighborhood market sells cotija, pick up a block and crumble some of that into a serving bowl. You’re going to also need some fresh juicy limes and cilantro.
Choose your meat. From tacos al pastor to Guisado style, from Canasta to Carnitas, there are dozens of versions of tacos you can find on the streets, in the markets or on the plazas throughout Mexico City with all types of meat fillings. For this recipe, we make a common version of steak tacos.
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup Red Cactus Hot-N-Sweet sliced jalapeños, diced.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 1 inch strips
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 lime, cut into 1/2 wedges
- 1 serving bowl of your favorite Red Cactus salsa
- Combine spices, Red Cactus jalapeños, lime, oil, garlic, and steak strips into a large mixing bowl or sealable plastic bag and let marinate for roughly 1-4 hours. This is a perfect time to work on your corn tortillas and have them ready to roll.
- Once marinated, heat steak strips and marinade juices over medium-high heat.
- Cook the mixture until it is browned and juices have reduced.
- Serve with your homemade corn tortillas, cilantro leaves, cotija cheese and Red Cactus salsa of choice.
The Red Cactus-USA salsa operation is based in Hannibal, Missouri, but you can find our products in grocery stores around the country. Owner and founder, Steven, started the business in the name of encouraging others to serve and give back to help one another. If you or someone you know is interested in having Steven speak to your group, church or at a conference, he can be reached at 217-653-8147 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Red Cactus-USA and our mission, be sure to check out our About Us page and keep up to date with the latest and greatest on our Facebook page.