Mama Rita’s Tortillas & the Pueblo Chile Festival

Yesterday marks our fourth visit to the annual Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival. It was, as usual, absolutely wonderful! As is tradition, it was a happy reunion with family and we immediately hit up the Pueblo Chile wrap stand. 

A hot tortilla rolled with melted cheese and a freshly roasted Pueblo Hot chile was just the thing to get me jump-started at 10:30 in the morning. A little “chile teaser” to leave us wanting more. We then headed just down the row to Musso Farms to order up a bushel of Annaheims and one of Pueblo Hots.

The guys there were hard at work roasting incredible quantities of fresh chiles, with the heat radiating from the roasters as we all stood under the beating sun (90 degree weather!). Our kids may have been side-tracked by some rides, but eventually it was on to Bingo Burger where we were rewarded with what could be their best Chile Fest burger ever and their ever-delicious chocolate chile milkshake.

People — you HAVE to try this! Dave suggested to the owner, Richard, to continue offering the shakes throughout the autumn months. So, cross your fingers — maybe you’ll have a second bite at that apple. Also, new to me is that Bingo Burger is carrying Bristol Brewing Co. beer, and Bristol had cheerful folks handing out samples of their good brew (another soon-to-be-a-favorite if you are a fan of Colorado microbrews).

It was good to see the obvious dedication on the part of Bingo Burger to sourcing their great food and drink from the locals. Just another reason you can go and feel great about supporting this place.

We left Pueblo sated, and wishing we had room for more. It’s my only complaint. Now, to incorporate freshly roasted chiles into our dinner. What sounded the best was a simple dinner of fried eggs, black beans, and fresh tortillas with the chiles finely chopped to mash around as needed. Which brings me to a recipe I’ve been meaning to share for a while now.

Tortillas! Probably one of my earliest and favorite foods made by my Grandma Salazar (who is gaining quite the global reputation with her tamales and sopaipillas recipes), and by my mom.  To this day, if you visit my Grandma or my mom, they will have tortillas on hand. I have been making them for about a decade now, but it was just this last week that I think I finally perfected my technique and I can’t tell you  how excited that makes me. It means, my tortillas taste like they should, and the texture is exactly right.

All thanks again to my mom who reviewed her recipe with me and talked me through her preparation step by step to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Turns out, I think I’ve been cooking my tortillas on too low of a heat all these years which results in drier tortillas with less flexibility. And I’m adding a touch more water now, which seems to help too. Another revelation is this: I don’t have to make 30+ tortillas at a time. I always felt like if I was going to go through the trouble, then I should make a huge stack and then have plenty to freeze. My self-imposed rule resulted in burn-out and it turned tortilla-making into a chore. My mom suggested just “one batch” which makes about 10 and it was so quick and easy. If you like tortillas and want to venture to make your own, go for it! It wasn’t 30 minutes later that we had a nice hot stack to go with our dinner.

Mama Rita’s Tortillas

by Rita Salazar Dickerson

Note: There are three important things to remember in order to be successful. 1) The heat should be quite hot: on an electric burner on a scale of 1-10, it’s a 7; on a gas flame on a large burner, I was right at medium flame and still had to stay on my toes to keep from scorching them too much. 2) The water you add will depend on the day really (how much humidity is in the air, conditions in your house). What you are going for is really smooth, elastic dough. If you think you’ve added enough water, add a teaspoon more and work it in. Then you’ve done it. 3) And last — the dough likes to rest. If you give it about 20-30 minutes before you start rolling and cooking, you will surely have fluffy tortillas with those trademark air bubbles that form. Makes 10. Feel free to double or triple the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 3/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder (lower altitudes will want to bump this up to 1 tsp.)
  • 1/4 cup regular olive oil
  • warm water (start with 3/4 cup and gradually add as needed… I usually use right about 1 cup, and sometimes 1 tsp. more)

Preparation of dough:

  1. Preheat your cast-iron griddle or skillet over low heat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to mix well.
  3. Pour in the olive oil, and the 3/4 cup of warm water.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, begin mixing to form a very rough mound of dough.
  5. With clean hands, begin kneading the dough, and adding additional water a little at a time as needed until the dough is super soft, smooth, and elasticy. Then try adding just one tsp. more of water. Don’t panic if the dough gets incredible sticky.
  6. Put the dough on a clean counter top and knead until it’s done.
  7. Cover with a damp, clean cloth to keep it from drying out as you work.

Cooking the tortillas:

  1. Turn the heat up on your cast-iron to medium on gas flame, and #7 on an electric stove (if the griddle/skillet is smoking, turn it down a touch).
  2. Take a golf-ball size piece of dough and pinch the rough ends under to form a smooth ball.
  3. Pat it onto the counter and flatten it with your palm to have about a 4-inch diameter disc.
  4. Using your rolling pin, roll from the center of the disc outward to form a round, thin tortilla. (You will want it very, very thin, but not so thin that it tears when you pull it from the counter).
  5. Transfer the tortilla to the now-hot griddle and cook for about 1 minute, until the underside turns brown in many places.
  6. Flip, and cook for about 30 more seconds.
  7. Transfer hot tortilla to a plate covered in a clean dish towel or flour sack cloth, and cover it to keep it warm.
  8. Follow the steps above with each tortilla until finished.
  9. Serve, covered in the cloth to keep warm to happy friends and family!
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13 Responses to Mama Rita’s Tortillas & the Pueblo Chile Festival

  1. Tío says:

    The fact that I love everything in this post is a testament to the fact that I was raised right!

  2. JH says:

    That looks like a great day. I love chile pepper! Any chance of getting a good chile burger recipe with a beer pairing and some homemade fries? In Florida it is finally starting to cool down a litte which means grilling season.

  3. Stephanie says:

    JH- we might be persuaded to work on a little burger post, and I’ve always wanted to try making homemade fries. Stay tuned ;-)!

  4. Lemon says:

    The photos are great, the recipe sounds delicious – what more to say… One additional point: I have never seen before how chiles are roasted, very intersting!

  5. Gina says:

    Go Mama Rita!!

  6. rita says:

    Tortillas. One of our family’s all time favorite comfort foods. Some my fondest childhood memories include tortillas in them: sitting at the breakfast table eating bacon and eggs with green chiles and tortillas…snack time: tortillas plain or with butter and honey…dinner: tortillas with bean soup or in a burrito with green chiles and cheese. When I moved out of my parents’ house I decided that I could not lower my standards and live without delicious tortillas and so the tradition continues!

  7. Emily says:

    And here I’ve been craving chiles…. Oh yum!!!! We might just have to call Bingo Burger and see if they are in fact still making the chocolate chile shakes and take a special trip down to Pueblo to satisfy this craving. One of these years I’ll make it to the festival. I must!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Thanks, Lemon! And yes– it’s fun to see chiles being roasted in such huge quantities! If only I could share that amazing aroma with you…

  9. Tío says:

    I just made the Chile wraps with great success! The extra water plus the high heat for the tortillas were wonderful suggestions. Thanks/Yum!

  10. MB says:

    Extraordinary! I have personally tasted this family recipe of tortillas and must say I was astounded first, when Stephanie told me she made her own (no amount of desperation would cause her to pay quadruple extra for expired “mass brand” tortillas when she could simply whip them up on her own (this is my first moment of awe in meeting Stephanie – one of many). Second moment of awe related to tortillas, Stephanie sends some freshly made tortillas, wrapped and warm home with us after a shared evening meal. Really? Really! My proper southern upbringing did not teach me specifically how to react to this situation – I was speechless and eternally grateful and humble. Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing…..

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