Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crunchy Taco Shells, Air Drying

The perfect crunch taco shell is not easy to accomplish.  You would think it would be, but it isn't.  If you start with nice, stone-ground yellow corn tortillas and fry them, a crunchy shell is somewhat easier to accomplish, but still there is an art to it.  What's more difficult is turning your average white corn tortilla into crunchy taco shell that remains crunchy and flaky and that is also not closed up like a clam.  When you deep fry an ordinary corn tortilla, they tend to become chewy.  Their layers also come apart, and they bubble and blister.  The bubbles and blisters can be a great thing once you master the art of handling the common tortilla.  It took me more than ten years to realize that drying the fried tortillas is the trick.  All sorts of things dry out really well in the winter (or whenever the humidity is low and the air is reasonably warm).  I got onto a drying kick with parsley this winter.  I also got into leaving my orange peels on the table to watch them dry out.  These things go nicely with the dried flower heads from last summer's garden.

Those citrus peels are probably a month old.  They are permanently cured.  They could stay like that for years.  Same with these zinnias.  So long as you don't brush up against them too hard, they keep their shape (and their color) for a long time.

I wouldn't have expected that air drying seed heads would lead me to improving my crunchy taco technique, but sure enough that's what happened.  One thing led to another; flowers led to parsley, parsley led to taco shells.  I realized that I could fry some taco shells one day, pop them into the pantry, and then enjoy them the next day.  I was about to enjoy this taco shell, but I accidentally broke it, so I had soft tacos for lunch.

To make the taco shells you want to put a bunch of oil in a pan.  I use cast iron because the iron retains heat really well.  You will want to use two forks or some tongs.  Once the oil is hot, toss the tortilla into it and shape it into a taco shape as the tortilla becomes pliable.  If the oil is really hot, the shell will crisp up rapidly.  Be sure to keep the tortilla in taco shell form.  You might need to fiddle with it constantly, turning it and minding that it doesn't close up like a clam as it will be wont to do.  When it's done, pull it out of the oil and set it onto a paper bag, upside down, to dry.  You can pop your shells into a low (200 degrees) oven for a few minutes.  That should help the drying process along.  After that, just pop your tortillas in your pantry or anyplace in the open air.  You don't have to worry about germs or anything.  The air is not toxic.  If it's not humid, you will end up with crunchy, flaky taco shells.  If you want to store them in a paper bag once they are dry, I bet that would work.

Have fun.  I gotta get back to my grading.  

No comments: