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Enter to win At My Table by Nigella Lawson

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May 2018 Giveaway

Every month, The Splendid Table helps listeners equip their kitchens, stock their pantries, and fill their bookshelves. This month, one (1) winner will receive one (1) copy of At My Table by Nigella Lawson. The book has a retail value of $35.00. Enter before May 31, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight Time, by submitting the form below.

And mark your calendars: Nigella Lawson will be the featured guest on an upcoming episode of The Splendid Table on the weekend of May 18, 2018. Host Francis Lam will embark on an in-depth conversation with Lawson, one of food's most beloved and compelling personalities. Be sure to listen that weekend on public radio or at your favorite podcast service.

 

You must be age 13 or older to submit any information to American Public Media and age 18 or older to enter this giveaway. Please review the official rules for this and all Splendid Table giveaways here. The personally identifying information you provide will not be sold, shared, or used for purposes other than to communicate with you about things like our programs, products and services. See Terms of Use and Privacy.

Gustavo Arellano's guide to the best flour tortillas

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A few shows back we visited the taco historian Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. He basically came to defend the honor of the flour tortilla. That conversation made us so hungry for authentic flour tortillas that we invited Gustavo back for a follow-up conversation. Think of this as a flour tortilla road trip to find the best of the best. Now that you've got all things tortilla on your mind, check out our Corn Tortilla Recipe & Tutorial from Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman. And check out our past interview with Gustavo Arellano, "The very definition of Mexican food is a multicultural cuisine."


Francis Lam: Gustavo, we've been talking about flour tortillas and even though I know deep in my heart that a great corn tortilla is like the heart of Mexican cuisine, I still love flour tortillas - even though most of them are kind of janky. But you think there are truly great ones. So where in the United States can we get truly great flour tortillas?

Gustavo Arellano: Oh, my lord. Where to begin? In Texas, the great brand from Tejanos in San Antonio all the way down to the Rio Grande Valley is called La Paloma White Wings. La Paloma White Wings are as thick as a pancake and not too big either. They sell the mix so you could order it online to make your own flour tortillas.

Gustavo Arellano
Gustavo Arellano
Photo Courtesy: Gustavo Arellano

Then we move over to Tucson, Arizona, the capital of Sonoran cuisine. The famous one you get there is from the tortilla factory at St. Mary's Mexican Food. Great chimichanga, that's the ones where you could get them as small as a hand or as big as your arm - the sobaqueras.

Then in Southern California it's interesting because we used to be a wasteland for flour tortillas; all of them were terrible. But in the past couple of years you've had local taquerias trying to emulate the Sonoran style. The ones I would recommend are a place called Burritos La Palma, which specializes in food from Zacatecas, a state in north-central Mexico where my family is from. They make these small little burritos in which they put birria de res. Everyone knows birria de res as goat stew, well this is goat stew but with beef and these buttery, gorgeous flour tortillas. And they're a weird size because most flour tortillas tend to be either 12 inches or nine inches. This one is seven inches, which is a little bit smaller than what you think while also a little bit bigger than what you think – if that makes any sense at all. What does make sense is that they're good.


 

MAP: Gustavo Arellano's Flour Tortilla Road Trip


FL: You describe those flour tortillas as being buttery and you've mentioned others as being biscuit-like and pancake-like. A corn tortilla typically is just corn and water. Of course, the corn is nixtamalized and processed, but it's really just corn and water. In the flour tortilla, is there always is always fat? Maybe butter, shortening or lard, something to give it that flaky, buttery flavor.

GA: Again, it's all regional. Of course, you're going to have Manteca, which is lard. In Texas, they use shortening for sure because those Tejanos there are Tex-Mex. They have a little bit of the Texas and a little bit of the Mexican, so the shortening is used there. The rest of Mexico, not so much. The amazing thing about the Sonoran tortillas – the ones coming from Arizona – is that they use no lard at all. In fact, in Sonora the official name for them are called tortillas de aqua because all they use is the wheat of masa, water, and nothing else. I still don't believe it to this day, but it's true – they only use water. They just roll it up, they put it over the grills or the comales, and there you have the magic. If you're a vegetarian and you don't want to use lard and that's what's been keeping you away from flour tortillas, go to Tucson. Or go to Burritos La Palma, they don't use lard either.

FL: Do you know of any restaurants or tortillerias, any families or communities that have brought these traditions north or east into the United States?

GA: Again, this is border cuisine. No one sees any border, especially among Mexicans and especially those who live on the Borderlands. So, I'll give a couple more shouts in Los Angeles. You have a place called Sonoratown which sells these really good tacos and carne asada Sonora-style - so cooked over mesquite. Originally, they were getting their tortillas from Sonora because one of the owners was from Sonora. Now they're making their own tortillas as well. You also have another place La Monarca Bakery. I can't remember where he's from. They first became famous for their great pan dulce, but in the past couple of years they've also started to make their own flour tortillas as well. All of which is predicated on this obsession in Southern California with the Sonoran style of cuisine. Which is funny because the first Mexicans to go to Southern California back in the 1700s were from Sonora, then we kind of turned our backs away until like 2012 or so.