There are many ways to heat a tortilla: my friends of Mexican heritage wrap them in a damp cloth and pop them in the microwave. Other people use the oven (but that can feel wasteful unless the oven is already being used for another dish) or pan fry them in a skillet. But I have another strategy which I believe is the most fun and flavorful way to accomplish this task. Hint: see picture above!
That's right! I skip the frying pan entirely and place the tortillas straight on the burners of my gas stove. This slightly chars them on the outside, adding a nice flavor, and heats them through. Once I get all four burners going I'm able to whip through a stack of tortillas in a few minutes. Here is the method, which works with both corn and flour tortillas:
• Purchase the best tortillas you can find.
• Find a large, clean tea towel and place it on a surface near your stovetop.
• Turn each burner on the lowest setting you can that still uses the larger, outer ring.
• Place one tortilla on each burner and grab tongs if your fingers are sensitive. (I seldom use one but I'm not that sensitive to heat.)
• After about 45 seconds, check underneath the tortillas. They should be starting to char. When the color seems right, flip them and char the other side. They will usually begin to puff up at this stage.
• Adjust the burners as needed, keeping them as low as possible. The second side will take less time than the first. It's okay to flip the tortillas a few times to reach the desirable color.
• When they are done, move them to the middle of the tea towel, stacking as you go. When the first batch is piled up, flip the corners of the towel over them to cover completely. This will keep them warm and steam them a little, which softens any stiffness they may have taken on from the charring.
• Proceed with the remaining tortillas, adding to the stack as you go. Keep covered until you are done.
• Do not use oil as it will cause too much smoke. The tortillas should easily lift off the burners. I have not tried this with electric burners as I imagine that the tortillas will stick, but please let us know if you have had success with them.
(Images: Dana Velden)