[note: I wrote the posts for the next three days in advance, to give myself some time to cope with Lauren’s birthday and deal with all the emotions. They’re a little lighter in tone, which I think is important. As much as I miss Lauren on a daily basis, I also have a life to live. Please enjoy my chaotic ramblings.]

Look, I am a completely average person. I don’t make stuff just to show off that I can. I don’t do it to prove a point or even to show/tell someone else how to do it. I’m not some domestic goddess who does these things because they’re better/healthier/tastier/cheaper for my family. I do the homemade thing because I just want to, because I really don’t have anything better to do right now, so I might as well stand over the stove and make my own tortillas. If I don’t, I’ll just sit at the computer all day playing the Sims. I figure that making tortillas is at least more productive than that.

San Antonio is pretty close to Mexico, closer than I had first imagined. Getting to Laredo would take a two and a half hour drive to the southeast. Straight east to Del Rio is also two and a half hours. Both of those towns are within spitting distance of Mexico. So, the question is: why did I wait nearly a month to make Mexican food?

It’s not my favorite cuisine, I’ll admit that, but I believe that’s mostly because it’s not very well represented in States that don’t border Mexico. It took me a long, long time to adjust to the fact that Taco Bell is not Mexican. I just didn’t know any better. I didn’t figure out the difference between Mexican food and Tex-Mex until I was in college. To be honest, I didn’t care much. I wasn’t too impressed with either cuisine.

With that in mind, I’m jumping into cooking Mexican feet first, with chicken mole enchiladas.

I don’t think I’d ever had an enchilada before last year. I’d certainly never thought about making them. As for mole sauces, I had never heard of them before I started watching Food Network last winter. Even then, it took me a while to figure out just what a mole sauce was (hint: it varies, which is never a good thing for amateur cooks such as myself because none of the sources can agree with each other). At a Mexican restaurant in Massachusetts, my mother-in-law ordered a mole sauce, and I got my first taste of one. It tasted overwhemingly of onions.

You see, that’s probably my real problem with Mexican food. I hate onions. I hate bell peppers. These are not arguing points. I simply don’t like them. (There are plenty of other things I don’t like, most of them vegetables, but the onions and peppers are the important things here.) I have a hard time finding Mexican food I like, because onions form the base of nearly everything. That’s not just limited to Mexican cuisine, though. It happens nearly universally. It’s one of the reasons I like to cook for myself. I never have to touch an onion if I don’t want to – and I don’t need any fingers at all to count the times I have wanted to. So, if I want Mexican food I want to eat, I’m gonna have to make it. I’m up for that.

The first thing one learns about mole is that it’s time-consuming to make. I’m not exactly sure why, because that’s never fully explained. Something to do with grinding and cooking chiles, I think. Every recipe I looked at was more than a little confusing. A lot of recipes just suggested which jarred brand to use. That hardly helps.

Eventually, I found this: “Easiest Ever” Chicken Mole Enchiladas at Food Network. Marcela Valladolid is one of those under-sold chefs at the Food Network. I’m not sure if her show is even on the current Food Network roster, which is too bad, because I can’t think of any other Mexican-centered shows on the network. It might be one of those Saturday morning shows that don’t catch many viewers because they’re on at 9am or something. I’ve never tried any of her recipes before, but you gotta start somewhere, and it might as well be here.

Maybe this will be anti-climatic, but the less said about my first attempt at a mole sauce, the better. First, the recipe was way bland; I had to punch it up a bit with some ground cayenne just to get a little heat into it. Second, it called for way too much chocolate. I used about a third of what the recipe suggested, and that was just enough. Third, my sauce refused to thin out. It was chunky, thick, and not very appetizing-looking. Fortunately, combined with all the other ingredients, it was edible. Almost tasty. Really, our biggest problem was that the sauce was too thick. We both wanted something a little thinner and juicier.

Will I make a mole again? Probably. Just not with this recipe.

But, I was talking about homemade tortillas, right?

It took me about an hour to make 12 tortillas. About 30 minutes for mixing and resting, and another 30 minutes for rolling and cooking. It was easy to do and only slightly time-consuming. An hour of making something really isn’t that bad for me. They came out a little thick, but they had a nice depth of flavor to them, a real hominess.

So, is it worth making your own tortillas? If I didn’t live in Texas, I’d say, sure. They have a real authentic feel to them, taste good, and you know what’s going in them.

But, remember, I live in Texas. These people know their tortillas. At my local grocery store, they have a tortilleria. Seriously, it’s called that; it’ got a big sign and everything. It’s also got a big machine and two women constantly making tortillas – made of various flours and into various sizes. They make those tortillas fresh and package ’em warm. I picked up a package of them, and I could feel the heat still in them. And they’re economical. Twelve tortillas, ready to go: $0.59 for the package. Fifty-nine cents for fresh-made – as in, I can stand here and watch a lady make them – tortillas.

Why am I bothering to make my own again?

In short, yes, it’s nice to be able to say, “I made my own tortillas!” And it’s cool that I can totally bake them up and make my own tortilla chips (and they’re actually tastier that way). But beyond that, I don’t see the big deal. The taste was not orgasmic. It was pretty neutral. Tasty, but why wouldn’t it be?

So, my first foray into making real, authentic Mexican? Not the most successful. Definitely a learning experience. But it went well enough that I’m willing to try again. I’m thinking maybe tacos de pescado: the humble, yet delicious fish taco.

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