Weeknight Cooking

1 Bag of Masa Harina, 5 Dinners

August 26, 2013

Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way. 

Today: Increase your pantry's productivity with masa harina.

Over the years I've become a huge fan of all things cornbread. I'm not sure when it all started, but I have a feeling it has something to do with breakfast-for-dinner nights as a kid where we ate cornbread drenched in syrup with a side of bacon.

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During all of my experimenting in recent years, I've found masa harina to be the key in adding that deep, delicious, corn flavor to all manner of corn dishes: cornbread, tamales, corn tortillas, papusas, what have you. The careful process of making it -- the specific variety of corn, the lime, the drying -- is what gives masa harina the distinct flavor and texture I've come to love so much. Buy yourself a bag -- dinner awaits.

Cornbread Waffles from Food52   Cornbread Waffles from Food52

Cornbread Waffles
This is an homage to my childhood breakfasts for dinner, combined with my love of cornbread. After many trials, I finally came up with the perfect cornbread waffle. Mix the masa harina and other dry ingreidents together, whisk the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then combine the two. Pour the batter into your hot waffle maker, and in just minutes, they'll be done. Top with butter and maple syrup, berries, or a even a fried egg.

Veggie Tacos from Food52   Veggie Tacos from Food52

Corn Tortillas and Veggie Tacos
If there was one recipe to truly let masa harina shine, it would be corn tortillas. All you need for this recipe is masa harina, water, and salt. First, make the tortilla dough and let it sit for at least 30 minutes to hydrate. Then, flatten portioned pieces using a tortilla press or a rolling pin between two pieces of parchment paper. Cook them in a hot skillet for just about 1 minute per side. Pile them up as they cook, then fill them: I call this a veggie taco feast.

Cornbread Doughnuts from Food52   Cornbread Doughnuts from Food52

Cornbread Doughnuts
Hump day calls for doughnuts, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. To make cornbread doughnuts, stir, whisk, then pour into your doughnut mold (you can use a standard pan or a twist pan, like I did for the photo on the right) and put everything in the oven for about 18 minutes. You'll want to let them cool for just a few minutes, but then it's game time: warm, fluffy, cornbread doughnuts. 

Cornbread from Food52  

Gluten-Free Cornbread
Let's talk actual cornbread: this simple, no-fail recipe is perfectly textured with a slight crumb and hint of sweetness. It also happens to be gluten-free! And it only takes a couple flicks of the wrist before it's sent off to the oven to bake. Two tricks to making this bread extra delicious are using a seasoned cast iron skillet to bake it in, and pre-heating the pan with a few tablespoons of butter. This helps create a perfectly crispy edge and a golden brown, buttery flavor. Serve this alongside a giant bowl of chili or a hearty salad for dinner tonight. 

Enchiladas from Food52   Enchiladas from Food52  

Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
Now that you're a pro at making corn tortillas, use your leftovers for making enchiladas. You can fill them with almost anything -- vegetables, different proteins, cheese, or all three! In this recipe you'll take the fresh corn tortillas, fill them with a seasoned black bean and potato mixture, roll them up, place them in a pan, and smother them with homemade enchilada sauce. This meal is great for a crowd, too -- or for leftovers. 

Cornbread Waffles

Makes two 6-inch Belgian-style waffles

1/2 cup masa harina
1/4 cup medium-ground cornmeal
1/4 cup oat flour (gluten-free if needed)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other milk)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 tablespoon honey

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin

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  • Kylie Held
    Kylie Held
  • CrabCakes
  • sfmiller
Hello! My name is Ashley, and I'm the photographer + writer behind the blog, Edible Perspective. LOVE // the husband // family // cooking for others // farmers markets // the first winter snow // cycling // snowshoeing // snowboarding // bluegrass // architecture // our pups // farm fresh eggs // mountains // boxed wine // breakfast // biking to breweries // clean sheets // traveling


Kylie H. August 27, 2013
I too LOVE all things masa harina! Especially homemade, super thick and doughy corn tortillas...one of my favorite things. I recently added a tortilla press to my wedding registry and couldn't be more excited (to get married, of course...but also to get that tortilla press!)

Really enjoyed this roundup of so many great recipes!
CrabCakes August 26, 2013
I just saw a recipe over the weekend that uses masa harina, which I've been requested to make. However, I'm still not sure what it is or where to find it. Help!
sfmiller August 27, 2013
Masa harina is corn that has been treated with calcium hydroxide (which softens the husks and makes certain nutrients available for human digestion, among other things), ground into a dough (fresh masa), then dried into something resembling corn meal. It's most commonly used to make tortillas or tamales. It's available at any latino grocery and in most U.S. supermarkets, either in the baking aisle or wherever they segregate "ethnic" products. No doubt someone sells it online if you can't find a local source.

In some recipes you can get away with substituting cornmeal or corn flour for the masa (for example, where a small amount is used as a thickener or a coating for fried food). But if the masa is a large component of a dough or batter, that substitution probably won't work.