Blog of Los Arboles Hotel and El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana in Palm Springs.
Hecho a mano. Hand made. It’s a phrase that implies craftsmanship, small-scale production and an investment of time and energy by human hands to get a product to completion.
I have to admit that I have enjoyed quite a few machine made corn tortillas in my day … hot off the end of the line with a pat of butter they are warm, inexpensive and very tasty. However these thin, symmetrically perfect machine made tortillas just don’t seem to have quite the same flavor or the resilience to stand up to holding or reheating.
While hand made corn tortillas have a thicker, more durable consistency that holds up to reheating, their flavor is what really sets them apart. The simple flavor of the masa (fresh ground corn) shines through in a hand made corn tortilla in a way that just doesn’t seem to come together from a production line tortilla.
Have my taste buds been influenced by too many romantic images of native Mexican ladies sitting in front of a fire heated Comal (large cast iron griddle) making hand made corn tortillas while wrapped in colorful Sarapes … perhaps. But when that hand made, hot tortilla gordita ('thick little one' to translate the term gently) mixes with the other essential flavors of classic Mexican cuisine … sublime is a word that comes to mind.
El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana has always served thick corn tortillas 'gorditas' as the perfect compliment to the hearty flavors of their lunch and dinner plates. Owner Felipe Castañeda found his source for these Gorditas in East LA years ago and often made the trip himself to bring them back fresh to El Mirasol. But all good things must eventually come to an end and so it was for the East LA tortilleria that fed many a hungry El Mirasol customer over the years. So the search was on to find a new source … but nothing was quite filling the niche the way the Castañedas had hoped. With no product fitting the bill available … there was really only one viable solution. Make the tortillas in house.
A supplier of fresh corn masa was identified in neighboring Cathedral City. Staff were trained in the art of tortilla making. Additional labor was scheduled and tortilla production for two busy restaurants commenced. Is their additional labor cost? Yes. Does it require additional planning and resources to add another “hand made” item to the responsibilities of the culinary team? Hell yes. But when you dip that hand made tortilla into a steaming plate of Pollo en Mole or Pork Chile Verde … we think you will agree it was worth the effort.