Be it fresh or masa harina (prepared corn flour), no Mexican meal is complete without some form of masa. Supermarket Chicago (5263 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-452-1361) is one of the few places in Atlanta where you can buy freshly ground masa. Masa harina works well in a pinch, but the earthy flavor and texture of fresh masa is unparalleled. Chicago grinds the masa to order in a nifty contraption located behind the meat counter in the back, and sells it by the pound (99 cents/pound).
You can use fresh masa to make a variety of things: tortillas, sopes, huaraches, and tamales. The store is now selling its own tortillas made with the house-ground masa for only 79 cents/package. Look for them in a cooler, marked with a sign, in front of the steam tables.
Jennifer Zyman's quesadilla recipe
In Mexico, quesadillas come in many forms. In Mexico City, the most popular version resembles an empanada and is not made with prepared tortillas. Instead, these quesadillas use fresh masa or masa harina. This style of quesadilla is a versatile antojitos Mexicano (street snacks often served as an appetizer) that you can fill with cheese and anything else your heart desires - crumbled chorizo, refried beans, huitlacoche (corn fungus), poblano chilies, fresh corn, and more. Start out simple with this basic recipe and don't be afraid to experiment!
- 1 pound of fresh masa
- Shredded Mexican cheese of your choice (Chihuahua works well)
- 1 cup of cooking oil
Divide the masa into portions the size of a golf ball. Using a tortilla press or a heavy rolling pin, flatten the balls until they are as thin as a stick of gum. Place a tablespoon of cheese - and any other fillings you'd like - on half of the round. Fold the masa over the filling and seal well. Set aside to rest.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan (preferably cast iron so the oil will hold its heat). When the oil is smoking, blanch the quesadillas for about two minutes or until they turn a pale yellow color. Be careful not to crowd the pan or the quesadillas will become oil-logged. Drain on paper towels and let them rest for around 20 minutes.
The recipe can be prepared up until this point days in advance. You can even freeze the quesadillas to use as needed at a later date. When you are ready to eat them, fry them a second time until they become a medium golden color - not too much or they will be too crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Quesadillas should be served with a salsa of your choice. You can also plate them and top with shredded iceberg lettuce, crumbled queso fresco, minced yellow/white onion, coarsely chopped cilantro, and a drizzle of Mexican cream.