Tamales

TamalesThe tamale is a thing of beauty, and is something that tastes so natural and earthy to me. Having worked with masa in the past, I wanted to extend it beyond the tortilla, and therefore I came up with the notion of making the tamale. Making the tamale is a bit of a process (making the dough, choosing the meat or vegetable to stuff, and steaming), however it is one that is truly worth it. My wife has never experienced a tamale, and she loved it.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of masa harina
  • beef broth (warmed)
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 1 cup of vegetable shortening
  • Dried corn husks (purchase from a supermercado or mexican grocery store)
  • Meat to stuff (I used my shredded pork)

First, rinse the about 20-40 corn husks, then place in a large dish to soak for roughly 30-40 minutes.
In a large bowl, add the masa, and to that add in all of your dried spices, stirring to mix well. In a separate mixing bowl, whip the vegetable shortening until it gets slightly fluffy. Add the masa mixture to the shortening and incorporate really well. Slowly add in about a cup or so of the warm beef broth. You basically want the masa mixture to be the consistency of a thick peanut butter. Add more broth if you have to.
Tamales with Corn HusksOnce the masa is ready, and the husks are done soaking, remove the husks from the water, and pat dry with a large towel. Get your steaming pan ready as well. I use a large pan, filled with about 4 cups of water, then put my steamer on top, covered with a lid.

Now, let the games begin.

Get a corn husk and lay it across the palm of your hand with the small end toward your fingers. scoop up about 1/4 cup of the Masa dough with a knife, and then smear it on the husk.

Cover about left 2/3 of the husk with Masa, leaving the other 1/3 on the right uncovered. Similarly, cover the bottom 2/3 of the shuck, and leave the top 1/3 uncovered. Do this the same for about ten of the husks to work in batches.

Now it is time to add the meat. Take about 1 tablespoon of meat, and lay it on the masa about an inch from the left edge.

I folded mine into purses or bundles, then shredded some of the husks to tie the bundles as we do not want them to unwrap during the steaming process.

Continue this process until you are done making the tamales. Bring your water to a boil, then reduce the heat a bit. Add your tamales to the steamer, cover, and let steam for roughly two hours. When you are ready to test, take a tamale out of the steamer and set it aside for roughly 5 minutes. The husk should unwrap easily, and the masa should be firm and fully cooked.

Now get ready to eat. Remove the tamales from the steamer, place on a large serving plate, and let your guests unwrap themselves. These tamale purses with so good. Serve with your favorite mexican sauce, or eat them plain.

A thing to note is that if you have plenty of leftovers, these can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or seal in a ziplock bag and place in the freezer for up to six months. I used a Foodsaver system that vacuum seals the food, so they can be stored in the freezer for a much longer period of time. When you are ready to cook them, remove them from the freezer, let thaw, then cover with a wet paper towel and cook in the microwave for 1 minute or so.

Salsa

Salsa with roasted goodiesLet me start by saying I have never seen my wife eat that much salsa before, at a restaurant, or out of a jar. I watched her eat this salsa, loving every bite. When I see that, I know I am doing something right. The spice, the flavors, the aromatics. Salsa is something that I have been experimenting with for some time now, as it is so versatile. This “first” batch is worth trying and making your own. Trust me, it’s all good.

Ingredients:

(50 minutes)

  • 2 large roma tomatoes, crisscross sliced near the top
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 fresh jalapenos
  • 1 Guajillo pepper, dry
  • 1 Ancho Pepper, dry
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Salsa in a food processorThis might sound complicated, but only takes about 50 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375. In a small bowl, add the onion, jalapenos, and garlic, and coat with approximately 4 tbs of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for nearly 35 minutes.

In the meantime, in a small pot filled with water, add the tomatoes, ancho, and guajillo peppers, and bring to a boil for roughly 10 minutes. The goal with the tomatoes is to get the skin soft enough to peel away. Once the veggies have cooked in the oven, as well as the tomatoes, let them all cool. Once cooled, peel the skin off the tomatoes and toss the skin away, squeeze out the garlic into a bowl, slice and get rid of ‘some’ of the seeds of the jalapenos, and get ready to rumble. Now do not remove the water from the pepper/tomato pan, keep this to add liquid to the salsa for texture.

For the peppers, including the jalapenos, slice them down the middle, get rid of the stem element, and remove some of the seeds, depending on how hot you want your salsa. Now I removed about 90 percent of the seeds for my wife’s sake.

OK. Toss all of this into a food processor, or blender, everything. Toss in a tbs of salt. Add your black pepper, cilantro, and let it blend. Blend to your texture, and add more of the tomato/pepper water to build this texture. You know how you like your salsa.

Now let it cool for a couple of hours, one hour in room temperature, one hour in the refrigerator, and let it go. Eat it with your carnitas, burritos, tacos, nachos, or an omelet. The fun thing is that you can make this your own. Go with it until you find it.

Bagna Calda

Bagna CaldaBagna calda you ask? I thought the same thing when my sister-n-law mentioned how good this was, and was also heavily supported by my brother-n-law. This recipe is made once a year by the Gaughn family, and we all know that if you are going to make a dish once a year, it has got to be good. Well, I finally got around to making bagna calda. I consider this dish a warm bath filled with love. Not only that, but one that is way too simple to make.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 6 anchovie filets
  • 8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Dash of pepper
  • French bread, cut in large cubes
  • Fresh vegetables, I used the following
    • Brocoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Red Bell Pepper
    • Zucchini

Start by cleaning and preparing your vegetables. Trim the cauliflower and broccoli into florets for easy dipping. Take the other and cut them into large quarter slices. Keep in mind that you and your guests will use skewers or toothpicks to dip into the bagna calda.
Bagna Calda with anchovies Once prepared, heat the butter, oil, garlic, and anchovie filets on medium to low heat. Occasionally stir the to melt away the anchovies. Keep the heat on low, and if possible transfer to a fondue plate or some type of warming dish. When you are ready, dip your vegetables, and bread into the bagna calda, and enjoy with a glass of your favorite wine. After having this as an appetizer, I thought that it would also be good drizzled over steamed vegetables later in the week. Remember, it’s all good.

The Burrito

Burrito with carnitasI have been leading up to this for some time now. I have been writing about the rice, and the carnitas; no need to write about the black beans, or salsa (just yet) at this time. What happens below is something truly wonderful. In all honesty, after the carnita experience, the burrito experience kicked in two days in a row. Why? Because there is leftover rice, beans, carnitas, salsa, and large flour tortillas. If you have ever been to Qdoba or a place like Chipotle, or heck, even your local latino getup, then watch how the tortilla is folded. This is important. The wrap is crucial, keep it in mind, as you will not want all the beauty to fall out. I will not put the amounts to put in the tortilla, use your judgment, as you will have to wrap this, and better yet, eat it.
Ingredients:

  • Large Flour Tortillas
  • Shredded Carnitas
  • Shredded Cheese (to your liking)
  • Cooked Black Beans
  • Rice with Lime and Cilantro
  • Your favorite salsa
  • Sour Cream (optional)

Sides:

  • Chips (store bought, or homemade(better))
  • Guacamole

Burrito with carnitasNow if you are like me and have eaten at places mentioned above, it seems like you bite into a big thing of rice, then beans, then comes the meat. It appears orderly, and as it is good, it is not great. Here we go. I say mine is great, because I eat at both places mentioned above with my wife. I have noticed the difference between my burrito and the chains mentioned above. The feeling was substantial.

My wife also orders the carnitas off the menu. Keep that in mind. The look, the feel, the emotion, it was different during our burrito time at home. It was something delightful. We honestly attacked them like hungry dogs on a beef bone. No kidding. The carnitas. The burrito. It’s all good.

You will need to either do two things with your tortillas; wrap them in foil and warm them in the oven, or put them in the microphone until warm and soft; roughly 25 seconds. Now you need to work quickly, as you want to wrap within the warm tortilla as it is flexible. Add your rice, the beans, salsa,