by George Steckel
Everyone has that one burner on their stovetop that they always use. Let me guess...front right? And on that burner, your favorite pan is patiently waiting for its time to shine. For many people, that pan could be their go-to non stick, maybe a pan passed down to them from their grandparents, or if you’re OG Made In, it’s probably carbon steel. However, Jorge Gaviria, the founder of Masienda, wants that pan to be a comal. We have partnered with Masienda to bring you a set consisting of Made In’s brand new Carbon Steel Comal, two packs of Masienda’s Chef Grade Masa Flour, and a virtual cooking class with Jorge and Made In cofounder, Jake. With this set, all of your taco, quesadilla, and sope dreams will come true, but you’ll come to realize that both a comal and masa have applications far beyond the essentials listed above.
Masienda is a vertically integrated masa company. They source the raw materials (heirloom corn straight from Oaxaca, Mexico) and custom build the machines that grind the nixtamal. It was apparent to Jorge, someone who had grown up eating Latin dishes, that high-quality masa just wasn’t readily available to home cooks or in many places, even chefs.
So Jorge built a team dedicated to making a corn tortilla with exceptional flavor, based on a robust supply chain of craftsmen, and the rest is history. Today, Masienda proudly partners with hundreds of traditional farmers to grow, source, and offer the highest quality single-origin ingredients. They continue to collaborate with chefs to develop in-house, specialty masa programs for their restaurants while also working to create thoughtful resources, tools, and value-added products to lead a new standard for masa quality, preparation, and consumption.
What Is Masa?
Simply put, masa translates to “dough” in Spanish, but culturally, masa is nixtamalized corn dough. In order to make masa, Jorge and his team source field corn from Oaxaca (which is different from the corn on the cob you’re used to seeing at BBQs). This corn is gently cooked and steeped in an alkaline solution. This process, called nixtamalization, softens the corn and activates natural nutrition that would not usually be absorbed into your body. After the corn has been lightly cooked, it’s run through a mill and dried. Masienda chooses to slow dry their corn to preserve those natural nutrients and flavor. The masa then gets bagged, and all you need to do is add some water, and perfect corn tortillas await.
I Have My Masa. What’s Next?
A comal is a flat cooking surface commonly found throughout Mexico, historically made with clay. However, after talking with Jorge, he specifically asked for a carbon steel comal. Why you ask? Carbon steel is a very nimble cooking material. With optimal heat control and the ability to stay hot for extended periods of time, it is the perfect surface for cooking tortillas. Just make sure to season it before putting it to use! A comal is the go-to cooking surface in Mexico and is ideal for almost any masa product. However, it is also used for eggs, reheating meat or taco filling, and toasting spices. When asked about a comal, Jorge put it perfectly.
“It literally lives on a stovetop. It almost never comes off. It is a permanent fixture of any Mexican home.”
Put Your Comal to Work
While crafting the perfect tortilla might seem simple, some practice may be needed. But hey, an imperfect tortilla is still going to be delicious. Luckily, a purchase of this set comes with a class on how to craft the perfect tortilla with Masienda founder Jorge Gaviria and Made In founder Jake Kalick. I can promise you that after partaking in the class, you’ll be flipping tortillas and getting that puff like it’s nothing. Now the only thing that’s missing is some guests, a big pot of carnitas, and a carbon steel pan with some oil waiting for some beer-battered fish, and you’re good to go.