From Too Many Chefs -

July 6, 2005
Press to Play

Isn't she lovely? Or is it a he? I haven't decided yet or named my new pet but there it is in all its glory.

Now maybe a tortilla press isn't something to necessarily crow over, but after all the searching I did to find this one, I don't mind singing its praises. I made a big Mexican meal last night from recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks by Rick Bayless. I'll have a separate entry on that later.

One of the recipes called for oval masa cakes pressed and then filled and sealed. I found the masa without a problem in my Albany Park neighborhood, but could not find a tortilla press. It was the Fourth of July, so I decided not ot even bother trying Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. Instead, I headed to Pilsen.

I walked all over Pilsen, trying to find a place that sold a simple tortilla press. If you have any interest in Latino culture in Chicago and haven't been to Pilsen, I highly recommend going. It's the heart of the Latino and especially the Mexican community in Chicago. I enjoyed tromping through the neighborhood, breathing in the smells from the taquerias and marvelling at the variety of produce and meats at the fruterias and carnacerias, but I had no luck finding a press.

Just West of the 18th Street El stop on the Blue Line (what used to be called the Douglas line), there is a liquor and food store. As a last gasp, just before I gave up I tried the store and inside was where I found my press. Williams-Sonoma wants $19 for their press, and Sur La Table online has no idea what a tortilla press is.

I got my press for just over $7. It's not as snazzy looking as the W-S press, but it works just fine and was manufactured in Mexico.

I'll show you what I did with the press tomorrow when we make black bean filled tlacoyos.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at July 6, 2005 9:54 AM | TrackBack

Isn't Pilsen where Nuevo Leon, producers of the best nachos in the world used to be? Is it still around? I want to go there in August. YOU MUST TAKE ME THERE.

And the Critic will sigh when he sees the heavy tortilla press I stuff in the bag and shake his head over the inevitable run in with the security freaks.

(You should have seen the reaction when I packed the mozzarella cheese in the same bag with all the cords for his electrical toys - apparently it looked somewhat like plastic explosives and, well, wires...)

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 6, 2005 at 10:29 AM

Why yes, Nuevo Leon is still there. I didn't sample the nachos this time since I'd eaten before travelling to Pilsen, but there are PLENTY of great restaurants in the area.

Posted by barrett on July 6, 2005 at 10:32 AM

What a funny coincidence! I was in Watsonville -the best kept Mexican food secret on the entire Northern California coast- yesterday and saw a massive 3-kilo bag of super fresh masa for like $5!! I remember thinking to myself I must get me one of those tortilla press baby. That bag would make easily about a thousand tortillas, time to throw a big party! You bring the press?


Posted by Pim on July 6, 2005 at 1:02 PM

Ooooooh. Fresh masa very very good stuff. Me not find good source fresh masa yet. Me like fresh tortillas and masa. Me like masa so much me talk like Mongo from Blazing Saddles.

I'll be glad to bring the press, but can we use some of the masa for tlacoyos? I'll post a recipe tomorrow, but those things are my new addiction!

Posted by barrett on July 6, 2005 at 1:21 PM

What a coincidence, Barrett--I will be dragging out my tortilla press tomorrow to make tortillas for some enchiladas verde. Tonight, I am making beans a la charra, and eating them with cornbread and some grilled pork, as I had a terrible craving for beans and cornbread. Then, the beans get made into refritos tomorrow, I cook up some shredded beef business, make some tortillas and a verde sauce, and go to town.

I still want to try out making my own masa from slaked corn, but I have to figure out if my Sumeet will grind enough corn to make it all worthwhile...or, if not, if I can get a good corn grinder somewhere.

If you know of a source, I'd be happy to hear about it.

Posted by Barbara on July 6, 2005 at 4:02 PM

You can also make puris and chapatis(made with wheat flour) very easily with this press. In 90s, this gadget was so popular in India, but now it's out of favor because people like very thin and flaky chapatis and you can't make like that with this gadget. Even my mother also bought one after seeing the ads in India, now its in the storage. Very rarely she uses it to press puris.
If you like puris, I think you can make them with it.
Just wanted to share this information after seeing the picture and your post.

Posted by Indira on July 8, 2005 at 9:36 AM

I've seen those presses at the market and wondered if they were worth it. We usually cheat and buy ready made corn tortillas.

I have never been completely successful making tortillas with my Indian rolling pin... it makes great chapatis though.


Posted by ejm on July 8, 2005 at 3:00 PM