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.

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,

Carnitas

Carnitas Pulled PorkOver the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been making a slow cooked pork shoulder. This is not just your typical slow cooked, pulled pork, this my friends, is carnitas. Think of it as the mexican style pulled pork. Now I state ‘over the past couple of weeks’. Why? Because both my wife and I love it so much, it is hard to escape the thought. The beautiful thing is that once you are done braising the pork shoulder for roughly 4 hours, it gets pulled apart, and then cooked in an oven for nearly 15 minutes at 375 degrees. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, so lets get started.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6lb pork shoulder (whole, with fat trimmed)
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of salsa verde
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Cumin Powder
  • Fresh Cilantro

Carnitas Pulled PorkFirst start by admiring your pork shoulder. It’s a thing of beauty is it not? Kidding aside, take the pork shoulder and season generously with salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin. You can blend roughly 3 tsp of each into a small bowl, then rub into the meat if you want as well. Keep in mind that we are going to let this shoulder marinate and get happy in a ziplock bag overnight. Once the shoulder is seasoned, place in a large ziplock back, and add in the quartered onions to surround the meat.

The next day, give yourself nearly four hours to let this braise. This is a great Sunday meal, and awesome for leftovers. In a large pot, put in your shoulder, the onions that you had in the bag, and add to this the salsa verde and the chicken stock. Bring this up to a boil on medium-high heat, then cover, and reduce to a simmer for the remaining time.

Carnitas Pulled PorkCareful to remove the shoulder onto a cutting board. If this falls apart, get excited, as this is the beauty of the shoulder as well as the braising process. With two forks, pull the pork apart, and discard any of the strange fatty pieces that you might not want to eat.

Now, with your shredded pork, you can do a few things. Reserve some for barbecue sandwiches, or add it to a baking sheet and cook in the oven so it all gets a bit crispy. Welcome the carnita. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and cook for roughly 15 minutes. When you are ready, place the meat in fresh corn tortillas and make your favorite taco, or if you are wanting something even better, go for the chimichanga.

Watch for my post later in the week for the burrito that is seriously going to compete with Chipotle or Qdoba. It’s all good.

The Potsticker

Pot Sticker - GyozaI realize that most of my ingredients and flavors are surround by Asian cultures, and there is a reason for that. The freshness of the ingredient, the intense flavors, and the simplicity of the cook time. Today I am focusing on the pot sticker, otherwise know as the gyoza. I have been making these for many years and they truly are delicious. The process contains meat marination, wrapping, and cooking these little morsels, similar to the egg roll process. I was turned onto these dumplings while eating Dim Sum, and figured out my own pot sticker from that point on.
Ingredients:

  • Ground Pork
  • Shallots or green onions, thinly sliced/chopped
  • Roasted Sesame Oil (dark)
  • Sherry Cooking Wine
  • Pepper
  • Chinese Cabbage (Savoy)
  • Chopped Ginger
  • Water for wrapping
  • Chicken broth or water for steaming
  • Small amount of oil (vegetable or canola)
  • Gyoza Wrappers (found in many Asian markets)

For the non-meat eater, please note that you can substitute meat for vegetables as well.

Pot Sticker - GyozaOnce you have the meat mixture marinated with above ingredients, excluding the wrappers, let it marinade for nearly thirty minutes to a hour. Once ready, place about a tablespoon of the meat mixture into the middle of the wrapper, and be mindful that you want to make a tight seal of the wrapper, so do not get too close to the edges. Brush water along the half-side of the moon-shaped wrapper, fold over and seal. Move onto the next twenty or fifty.

Once you are ready, heat a large pan of about one tablespoon of the oil and disperse throughout the pan. The goal is to lightly coat the pan with oil as we want to go through a light fry process on both sides, amounting to about 2-3 minutes on each side. Once lightly browned on each side, add your water or chicken broth, about a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup, cover, and let steam until the liquid almost evaporates.

Pot Sticker - GyozaThat’s it. Plate and serve. You can do a few things with these at this time. Add them to a broth, a few glass noodles, and serve as a soup, or my favorite which is dipping them into the gyoza sauce, or a chili sauce, or heck, simply eat them alone as the flavor itself is so good.

If are are wanting to make the sauce, it is really easy:

  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Srirachi hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • Garlic or ginger is optional