Consider the tortilla. It’s a simple combination of masa (lime-treated corn flour) and water, yet few restaurants — and even fewer home cooks — make these flatbreads fresh. We opt for convenience: preservative-laden disks packed in plastic sleeves hold our tacos and enchiladas. Ever since sampling made-to-order tortillas at La Lupe in South Philly, every other specimen has come up short. And whenever I make tacos at home, I lament using packaged tortillas every time.
So yesterday, I took the plunge. A little research revealed that Rick Bayless (cookbook author and all-around Master of Mexican) recommends a simple cast-iron press for turning out tortillas. I called Fante’s, Foster’s, Williams-Sonoma and Amy’s Place in Reading Terminal. None carried the cast-iron version. A stroll down the south-of-Washington stretch of 9th Street offered plenty of cast-iron presses, all priced under $15. I picked up mine, along with an array of dried and fresh chiles, at Mi Pueblito, just off the market at 11th Street and East Passyunk. The results? Not exactly up to La Lupe standards, but close.