With any Mexican meal, serve whole, plain tortillas (corn or flour) as a bread. These are usually served soft and hot, preferably wrapped in a napkin to keep them moist and warm as long as possible. Both the tortillas you make from scratch and those you buy can be prepared this way quickly if you follow directions carefully.
Instructions follow for preparing soft, hot tortillas on an ungreased surface or in a conventional or microwave oven. Sometimes they are buttered before serving and folded or rolled to keep the melted butter inside. Extra butter may be served at the table.
Corn tortillas provide a cracker-type accompaniment when crisp-fried in oil (see below). They can be fried whole but are most convenient to serve if they are cut into wedges before cooking. These wedges can serve as dippers for guacamole and other appetizers and as an accompaniment for soups or salads. They are best hot but are also palatable
cold and will keep their crispness for several hours unwrapped. These are commonly know as tortilla chips.
How to Reheat and Soften Corn or Flour Tortillas
Fresh tortillas are already soft in a sense, but when reheated they become even more tender and flexible. If tortillas are dry and a little hard, dip your hand in water and rub it lightly onto surfaces of the bread before heating. Be sure not to heat tortillas longer than necessary to soften and warm them thoroughly, or they will become hard and brittle.
On an ungreased surface:
Place tortillas so they do not overlap on a medium-hot griddle or in a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Turn frequently until soft and hot (about 30 seconds on each side).
Put immediately into a covered oven proof container or foil packet; then hold in a 200°F oven until all tortillas are heated. (The secret is to keep them from drying out once heated.)
In a Conventional Oven:
Stack tortillas, wrap in foil, and place in a 350°F oven until hot and steamy (about 15 minutes).
In Microwave Oven:
Stack tortillas, wrap in plastic film (or puncture several holes in plastic of purchased tortillas), and cook until hot and steamy (1 to 1 1/2 minutes for 12 tortillas).
How to Keep Soft Tortillas Hot for Hours:
Wrap hot tortillas airtight in foil and place in an insulated bag, or wrap the foil package in a cloth and the 12 to 14 sheets of newspaper. The tortillas will stay hot for at least 2 hours in the paper wrapping, and longer than that in the insulated bag. You can use this method for picnics or any occasion when it would be handy to prepare tortillas ahead of time.
How to Toast Corn or Flour Tortillas:
Place tortillas on a grill or in a hinged broiler 3 to 4 inches above a low flame or coals; cook, turning frequently with a fork or tongs, until tortillas are heated through, soft, and lightly blistered (about 1 minute).
How to Crisp-Fry Whole Corn or Flour Tortillas:
Heat 1/2 inch salad oil, shortening, or lard in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat to 350°F on a deep-fat frying thermometer. Fry one tortilla at a time, using a spatula or tongs to turn tortilla frequently or to hold it uner fat until it crsps, puffs slightly, and browns lightly (about 12 minute or less). Drain on paper towels.
How to Crisp-Fry Corn Tortilla Chips or Strips:
Cut tortillas into pie-shaped wedges (4ths, 6ths, or 8ths) or thin strips. Heat about 1 inch of salad oil, shortening, or lard in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Fry just a few at a time, turning occasionally, until crisp and lightly browned (about 1 minute or less). Drain on paper towels; sprinkle lightly with salt if desired. Store airtight.
This information is from Sunset Mexican Cook Book Copyright 1969, Lane Publishing Company
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