Sunday, November 28, 2010

"A Gringa Made These??!! " Tamales

This recipe is a hybrid of traditional Mexican tamales recipes. It's a combination of the green corn tamal, popular in Arizona and actually originating from the Tucson, Arizona area, and the traditional Mexican masa-and-pork filled treat that is better known in the U.S. Tamales are popular around the holidays, they are time consuming and labor intensive so it's not a bad idea to find some friends to help. Have a tamale making party and have a few beers.

Green corn tamales are traditionally made with fresh corn when it's in season, but I'm going to assume that for this recipe, it isn't available. I usually make tamales around Christmas and fresh corn is a distant memory by then. So I improvise with frozen packaged corn, and the result is good, but use the best quality frozen corn you can find. You can find the ground cornmeal in the Mexican section of a grocery store.

There are three parts to making these tamales: the masa, the filling, and cooking. If you're going to make them, allow yourself a good part of a weekend. It's okay to spend this much time cooking, really. They are worth every bit of effort.

This recipe got it's name when my husband brought my tamales into work for some of his co-workers to try when we lived in Arizona. Many of the people my husband works with are of Mexican descent, and when they said, "A gringa made these?", I considered it a huge compliment.

A Gringa Made These?!! Tamales (makes 30-36 tamales)
Tamales (plural, an individual one is a tamal) are made in different stages. You have to plan ahead and prepare each part in the proper order or it will end up taking forever, and maybe turning into a disaster.

1 pound of roasted green chiles- thaw these overnight before day 1.

Pork Machaca filling
1 8 pound pork shoulder butt roast
4 bell peppers: 2 red, one yellow, one orange (or whatever colors you like)
4 large dark green pasilla (poblano) peppers
2 large sweet onions
6 cloves of garlic
salt, smoked ground paprika, cumin, ground red chile, dried oregano to taste

2 lb frozen corn-I like a combination of yellow and white sweet corn kernels
2 1/4 lbs of cornmeal for masa (Maseca or Quaker Masa Harina de Maiz)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 T. homemade lard (see below- not the white bricks from the grocery store)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup media crema
1 tsp salt
1 package of dried corn husks

Day 1
I buy up to a bushel of roasted green chiles every fall and freeze them. I thaw the chiles the night before I start making the filling. Then while the roast is cooking I peel the chiles and remove the seeds (use gloves) and refrigerate in a bowl.

To make the filling, I like to make enough for an army, because the frozen pork machaca is so good, I like to freeze it and use it in other recipes, like tacos, burritos, and enchiladas. I am going to give my recipe which makes about 3 times the amount needed, you can adjust accordingly.

It's best to make the filling the day before, also.

Cook an 8 lb pork shoulder butt roast in a large pan. Rub slivers of garlic, smother it with onions, add some salt, pepper, ground red chile, and cook at 325 degrees, until it is done, inserting a meat thermometer indicates it is well done. Cover it with foil while it's baking.

While the roast is cooking, thinly slice two red bell pappers, and a yellow or orange bell pepper, and four pasilla (poblano) peppers. Slice a large sweet onion, and saute all the peppers and onions together in a small amount of oil, until they are soft and the onions are caramelized.

When the roast is done, leave the drippings in the pan and return them to the oven at 295 degrees. Allow the meat to cool, then shred the meat in a large bowl with two forks, then add the sauteed pepper and onion mixture. Add spices like cumin and smoked ground paprika, salt, oregano, or whatever you like, to taste. If there are big chunks of fat as you shred the meat, place the fat in with the pan drippings. If there are onions in the roast pan, pull these out and add to the sauteed pepper/onion mixture.

Set the filling aside and refrigerate.

Let the pan drippings continue to roast for up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, they should be turning deep brown. Take the pan out of the oven and once they are cool enough, pour into a glass bowl or plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2
Making the masa
Fill the sink or a large bowl with hot water and soak the dried corn husks for at least an hour or two until they are soft and pliable.

Take the container with the pan drippings out of the fridge. It should be separated with the white lard on the top. Scrape this white layer off the top gently with a spoon, and place in a large mixing bowl. Ideally there should be about 8 tablespoons of lard from an 8 pound pork roast. Discard the remaining fat from underneath the lard, unless you have a use for this- base for gravy, etc.

Saute the frozen corn in a little oil until it is thawed and a few kernels start to brown at the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and let them cool.

Add the butter, sugar, media crema, and salt to the lard, beat this with an electric mixer until it's fluffy.

When kernels are cool, combine them with the cornmeal in the food processor. You might have to do this in several batches unless you have a huge food processor. Run this through the food processor by pulsing the mixture until it is crumbly, not sticky or wet. It should be soft and not completely mixed.

Place the corn mixture in the bowl with the lard mixture. Continue mixing with the electric mixer until it's well mixed and has a uniform texture.

Assembling the tamales
Place three bowls on your work table: the chiles, the filling, and the masa.

Take a corn husk, place about 2 T. of the masa on it and lightly flatten with the spoon. Place one or two chile strips over the masa, then add 1-2 T. of the filling. Place another tablespoon or so of the masa on top of this. You can dip the spoon in water to keep the masa from sticking to it.

Fold the corn husk over the mixture, one side at a time, then fold the bottom up, leaving one end open. You can tie the bottom end with some twine if it makes you feel better, but I just turn them over to hold the end of the husk in place.

Keep assembling the tamales until you run out of masa.

In a large pot, place some water under a steaming basket, and place the tamales upright, open end up, packing them loosely. Cover tightly and steam for 90 minutes or more, until the masa separates easily from the corn husk. The masa shouldn't stick to the corn husk when the husk is pulled away. It can take up to 2 hours or longer for this recipe because this masa recipe has more moisture in it than regular masa.

Freeze the leftover machaca and use the green chiles in another recipe.

You can serve these tamales plain or add some sauce. I like mole sauce or tomatillo sauce. I also like them without anything.

The tamales can be frozen and then thawed and re-steamed, or microwaved. They have a tendency to disappear, fast.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mexican Creamed Corn

This recipe is incredibly easy, decadent, and caloric!

I got this recipe when I was on a guided sea kayaking trip in Baja California back in 1997. We were kayaking for 8 days, going from Loreto to La Paz and islands in between. The guides fed us so well, I remember the food from the trip as much as I remember the scenery.

Mexican Creamed Corn

1 pound of frozen premium quality corn
2-3 large pasilla peppers (also known as poblano), seeded and sliced into strips
2 bell peppers, red, orange, or yellow, seeded and sliced into strips
2 7.6 oz cans of media crema (available in Mexican section of most supermarkets)

Saute the pepper strips in a little oil, until the skins are slightly blackened.

Add the frozen corn and saute together with the peppers.

When corn is hot, stir in cans of media crema.

Cook until cream sauce thickens, then serve.

2010 Thanksgiving Wines

We're bringing Mountain Spirit Winery Pinot Soleil and Angel Blush wines to Thanksgiving dinner this year.

A deep red blend of Cabernet Sauvgnon and Merlot, the Pinot Soleil is an award-winning wine in international competition.

The Angel Blush is another award-winning wine, a blend of apple, raspberry, and pear wines, for those who like a sweeter but light blush wine.

No Whining: Try This!

Blackberry Cabernet Franc from Salida's Mountain Spirit Winery. We discovered this late last summer on a trip to the Arkansas Valley. Mountain Spirit is our favorite Colorado winery. It's worth the trip.

It's tart but not overly sweet. No, you can't buy it in any retail stores. Go to their website. Better yet, join their wine club. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Veggie Quesadillas: The Video

Recipe to be posted soon!

Lemon Ginger Cranberry Scones

This is a variation on my recipe for lemon ginger scones. I had some frozen cranberries I needed to use up, so I added a cup of them to this recipe.

1 cup buttermilk
3 T.sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup of lemon juice (squeezed from 1 large lemon or two small ones)
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour (plus up to another cup for kneading)
2 tsp.baking powder
1 tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 lemon with skin and pulp, sliced thinly and chopped finely, seeds removed- can use lemon that was juiced for this recipe
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)

Set oven temperature to 400 degrees. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.

Place buttermilk, egg, and sugar, and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Mix together well.

Add 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on top of buttermilk mixture and mix together with a spoon. Add 1/2 cup of softened, not quite liquid, butter. Add remaining flour on top and mix all these ingredients together well with a wooden spoon. Mixture should be a stiff dough but still wet enough to stick to fingers.

Add fruit and ginger to dough. Mix together again until dough is stiff enough to knead by hand. Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead a few minutes until mixture is a soft dough that no longer sticks easily to your fingers. Be careful not to add too much flour, it should be soft, not tough like bread dough.

Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a 4-5" diameter circle on a cutting board and slice into quarters with a sharp knife. Arrange quarters on baking sheets.

Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 25-30 minutes.

Makes 12 scones.