Grandma’s Flautas Tradition: Stories from Campus Cooks Kitchens
This special story comes from Chef Mark at Triangle Fraternity at Illinois Institute of Technology, where he is still cooking for the men quarantining at the house. Last Friday, the men got to enjoy a To-Go Cinco De Mayo themed meal using a very special recipe held close to one of the men’s hearts, their Grandma’s Flauta recipe.
“There are no better days in the kitchen then when I’m cooking a dish from a student’s culture. The look of comfort on their faces reminds them of their loving homes and reminds me of why I love to cook. Better than that is when I can get the student involved by getting me his family’s recipe. But the best yet is when I can get him to show me how to cook the recipe.
“I didn’t think that it came any better than that. Carlos “Charlie” Medina, a Vice President with Triangle here at Illinois Tech, proved me wrong. He wanted us to make his family’s recipe for Flautas. He not only got me his mother’s recipe. He and his girlfriend, Celeste Shea, not only spent an afternoon cooking hundreds, which were almost instantaneously gobbled up here at Triangle earlier this year.”
Charlie also had his mother share the story of the family’s tradition with this dish. The story is as follows:
“My mother [Charlie’s Grandmother] used to make these for my eleven siblings and me because we were very poor and did not have money to purchase meat on a regular basis. So, she rolled the Flautas thin, although miserably portioned, the tender slices of beef were super tender and served as a tasty treat. When she would announce that she was making Flautas I knew it was either because my father had worked overtime, and therefore we had some meat to eat or someone special was coming to visit.
I can still see her rolling the seasoned beef, Carne Desebrada, into the warm tortillas with her soft chunky fingers as her gold ring with our 12 birthstones glistening every time she rolled a tortilla around the meat. The look on her face, the care she took performing this act made me think that it was as if she was remembering how she once rolled one of her 12 newborn babies in a blanket.
I can hear her voice calling out from the kitchen over the Juan Gabriel music that played on an 8 track tape in the background, “No tocen las flautas, son para manana” (Don’t touch the flautas, they are for tomorrow). I could not sleep all night anticipating the fanfare and delicacy that awaited us the next evening.”
“Charlie’s grandmother passed away earlier this year. I was honored to be part of a contingent from Triangle that attended her wake. His mother has asked that we “please do not eat your Flautas without first remembering my mom, and if someone cares enough about you to make them, consider yourself blessed.
“We’re going to delay our Cinco de Mayo meal here at Triangle because May 5th falls during finals week. But when finals are over at the end of this week, we’ve scheduled a “Fantastic Friday Farewell Flautas Fiesta”, where we’ll celebrate Charlie’s Mom and Grandmother, before the Chapter members return to their moms and grandmothers.”
Medina Family Flauta recipe:
(Note: no measurements were given for this recipe. Maybe that’s a family secret!)
- flank steam
- salt and pepper
- garlic cloves
- corn tortilla
- cooking oil of your choice
- Slow cook flank steak until fork tender in a large pot with onions, tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, cloves, cumin and adobo.
- Dry the meat and remove the fat.
- Warm the tortillas in microwave. Then, one tortilla at a time, roll a small amount of meat inside of the warm tortilla and then put in the fridge for at least 1 hour or freeze it overnight. The colder and tighter the tortillas are around the meat the more successful your Flauta making experience will be. Be patient as this takes time. Turn on a novella to make the time go quickly or play some Juan Gabriel music.
- Fry the flautas in a pan filled with a little oil on each side, just until they are golden brown.
Flauta making is a hassle, it causes a lot of spattering oil if the Flautas have any moisture. The meat must be seasoned properly and the tortillas must be corn to be authentic with every crispy bite. Do keep an eye on the oil as it can scorch the Flautas and they will taste rancid.
Since the word ‘flauta’ means flute in Spanish. do not make these thick. They should be rather skinny, about the thickness of about two fingers. This makes them crispier and more delicious. Dip the flautas or top with condiments such as guacamole, sour cream and salsa.