Twelve Days of Christmas: How To Make Tamales

Getting to the finished product is a long process

Getting to the finished product is a long process

This year Katherine wanted authentic tamales for her birthday meal. Well almost authentic due to her dislike of both the pigs head and lard which were substituted with pork shoulder and crisco. Tamales are a traditional Mexican meal served over the holidays and for a really good reason. Tamales will take all day to make and they make a ton, so why not have a bunch of friends and family around while you make them. Once steamed the tamales can also be frozen in the corn husks and then re-steamed when ready to eat. Many different sauces and meat mixtures can be used in a tamale and can also be used to pour over the finished tamales when done. For this recipe I went as authentic as my Italian genes would let me and this is a very close reproduction. I did jazz up the chili sauce with a mix of red chilies instead of all ancho. I also added some aromatics to the pork shoulder.

To start you will need one batch carnitas, four cups red chili sauce, about 50-60 dried corn husks, and one batch masa dough — recipe below. Tamales are always best if everything is made fresh that day so be ready to start about 10 hours before eating. The first step is to make the carnitas, shredding the pork and straining all the cooking liquid. Keep the fat that rises to the surface of the liquid. Also go ahead and make the red chili sauce while the pork shoulder simmers. In a large saute pan place two tablespoons rendered fat from strained liquid in the pan and add the shredded pork. Add the chili sauce and bring to a simmer. Add a little pork liquid and simmer until thick, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Now make the masa mixture.

The consistency of play dough is right on

The consistency of play dough is right on

This requires a special corn flour and really fresh pork stock from carnitas. If making a different filling for tamales use that particular cooking liquid in the masa mix.

Masa

  • 3/4 cup crisco or other shortening
  • 6 cups masa flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 cups pork cooking liquid
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Beat shortening with a mixer at medium speed until whipped. Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a separate bowl. While beating shortening on medium low add flour mix and pork cooking liquid alternately forming a thick batter the consistency of cookie dough. Continue to add flour and pork liquid until all is absorbed adding more liquid if too stiff more flour if to loose.

Once the masa is mixed soak the corn husks in boiling water. When buying corn husks six ounces equals about 30 good-sized husks and another 20 crappy ones. Use a plate to press them down below the water to soak. You can find corn husks almost anywhere now but a trip to the Hispanic market is always fun.

Or take a walk in the neighbors field depending on where you live

Or take a walk in the neighbors field depending on where you live

Once all the base ingredients are ready it is time to form the tamales. Start by rinsing and sorting through the corn husks and separating all the small ones from the nice full-sized untorn ones. Store all of them in fresh warm water. Use the largest untorn wrappers first like this one.

Use my hands as a size reference

Use my hands as a size reference

Spread the leaf out flat. If using smaller leaves lay one over another backwards forming a rectangle.

Now add about 2-3 tablespoons masa dough.

About a 1/4 cup

About a 1/4 cup

Notice the placement of the dough in the corner.

The same as a swedish massage really

The same as a Swedish massage really

Press the dough  flat filling the top quarter of the corn husk completely. The layer should be a little less than 1/4″ when done. The layer should be even with the top and side of the corn husk as well. Like so.

An ariel view of the drop site

An aerial view of the drop site

Yes, really leave that much space empty in the shell, hence use the biggest corn husks first and start doubling up when they get too small.

Now add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the stuffing. This is skipping the layer of mashed potatoes found in some traditional recipes. I did this because it just seemed too much with the heavy carnitas and I was out of potatoes.

Or a heaping spoonful as I like to call it

Or a heaping spoonful as I like to call it

Place the filling in the center and don’t let any touch the sides of the masa. Now fold the corn husk making the dry edges of masa touch like a sandwich.

Went to the side view to really illustrate that point

Went to the side view to really illustrate that point

Press the edges together and then roll the top husk edge under the sandwiched dough mix between the bottom part of the corn husk.

Just ever so gentle like

Just ever so gentle like

Now fold the bottom of the husk up at the base of the flour mixture.

About halfway up the husk if you spread the flour right.

Tuck you in all cozy like

Tuck you in all cozy like

Now roll the whole thing over and….

Wait for it

Wait for it

……………

Microwave burrito be scared

Microwave burrito be scared

Now repeat for all the remaining carnitas and masa dough. If done right there should be enough masa for all the carnitas. Either way stack the finished tamales in a pile and prepare the steamer.

All Clad is the snizzle

All Clad is the snizzle

I used my 12-quart All-clad steamer pot to cook tamales, but any large pan will work with a cheap collapsible steamer disk at the base. The Most important thing about the pot is the size of the sides have to be taller than the longest tamale standing upright plus the height of the steamer basket inside the pan. For comparison the tallest tamale I made this particular time came up to the top of the perforated metal of the steamer basket pictured.

Layer some of the torn little husks on the bottom of the steamer basket covering any gaps between steamer and pan sides if using a disc steamer. Also fill the bottom pot with enough water to come just below the height of the steaming basket.

Layer away

Layer away

Now stack the tamales upright along the outside edge of the steamer basket or the large pot with the open filling side upright.

Starting to come together now

Starting to come together now

Continue until all tamales are in pot. If there is any space in the center of the pot fill it with crumpled up corn husks.

Do you see the empty husks there

Do you see the empty husks there

Cover the top of the tamales with another layer of corn husks then cover pan with a tight fitting lid. Steam the tamales over low heat until done, about an hour. Remove from pan and unwrap if serving immediately. All sorts of crazy sauces and salsas can now be served on top of the tamales, but a scoop of guacamole and some pico are always good all by themselves.

Tamales can also be refrigerated or frozen for long periods of time in the corn husks after cooking. They can then be r steamed for later without much loss in flavor.

Posted in Dinner, Food, How to, Mexican, Pork | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

 

Time for all the holiday props

Time for all the holiday props

Our annual Twelve Days of Christmas posts start tomorrow and we’re getting giddy, or maybe we’re just tipsy and suffering from slight sugar comas. Here are all the recipes from our past Twelve Days of Christmas posts. Like we’ve said before sugar and booze help us all survive the holidays or at least help us tune out Aunt Maude.

Look it is the Christmas star

Look it is the Christmas star

Hot Drinks

Hot Buttered Rum

Brandied Hot Chocolate

Wassail

Ain't that a kick in the head?

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Cool Drinks

Rosemary and Pomegranate Gin and Tonics

Liquid Cream Puffs

Chocolate Hazelnut Martinis

Cranberry Cocktails

The Tom and Jerry

Candy Cane Martini

Jack Frost Punch

Hazelnut Shooters

Gingersnap Martinis

Perfect for dipping in hot or cold beverages

Perfect for dipping in hot or cold beverages

Cookies

Biscotti with Prunes, Dried Cherries and Chocolate

Eggnog Cookies

Pistachio Biscotti

In no way is there a secret layer made of mayo

In no way is there a secret layer made of mayo

Sweets

Peppermint Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Gingerbread with Lemon Icing

Peanut Butter Balls

Ricotta Cheesecake

Sugar Plums

Butterscotch and Back-of-The-Bag Fudge

food607

Eats

Roasted Chestnuts

Eggnog Pancakes

Christmas Eve Dinner

 

Posted in Dessert, Food, Spirits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lemon Squash

That pitcher has lots of room for added booze

That pitcher has lots of room for added booze

This is a nonalcoholic drink. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Drink it as is, or add seasonal herbs. You can use it as a base for punch at a family gathering like a child’s birthday party. Just spike your own glass when no one’s looking.

Lemon Squash

  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 24 oz sparking water

Pour all ingredients in a pitcher. Add ice and fresh lemon slices.

 

Posted in Food, Recipes, Spirits | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Carnitas

Amazing how Mexican food and bbq start off so similiar

Amazing how Mexican food and bbq start off so similar

Carnitas are basically just stewed pork that is shredded and then added to many sauces and dishes. This recipe explains how to make the basic meat mixture. If making traditional tamales then use the traditional red chili sauce recipe here and conserve all the cooking liquid and fat.  The cooking liquid can also be strained and saved for many other stocks and sauces that may need a little pork flavor.

Carnitas

  • 2 1/4 lb boneless pork butt or shoulder
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 onion diced medium
  • 3 tbsp garlic diced roughly
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick

In a large stock pot or dutch oven bring stock, water, salt and cinnamon stick to a boil. Turn heat down to a low simmer and add meat, onion and garlic. Cover partially and stew over very low heat for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally until meat is very tender and pulls apart into shreds very easily. Remove meat from pot and let cool. Meanwhile strain broth into a bowl discarding any solids. Let cool and skim off the fat if using for stock. Keep fat if making tamales. Shred pork with two forks. The carnitas can now be mixed into many different sauces for many different recipes. It will also keep packed in the cooking liquid for three days in the refrigerator.

All that broth is needed

All that broth is needed

 

Posted in Dinner, Food, Mexican, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Red Chili Sauce for Tamales

Looks like some sort of pork substance has merged with the sauce Captain

Looks like some sort of pork substance has merged with the sauce Captain

This is a very simple pepper sauce that requires a couple different dried peppers that may be hard to find at the grocery store. A trip to a Mexican market is always fun though.

Although this is usually used for tamales it would work equally well in many stewed meats for tacos, burritos or other Mexican meals.

This is not fully authentic due to the fact I use shortening instead of lard. This makes roughly four cups finished sauce depending on the size of the peppers.

Red Chili Sauce

  • 10 large dried Ancho chilies stems and seeds removed
  • 10 dried Arbol chilies stems and seeds removed
  • 4 dried cayenne chilies stems and seeds removed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp shortening
  • 2 tsp flour

Place dried chilies on a baking sheet and place in an oven at 350 degrees. Roast peppers for 3-5 minutes until they begin to smell sweet, do not burn them. Remove from oven and place in a large bowl. Cover with four cups boiling water and let soak until water has cooled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile crush cumin seeds with sea salt to a fine powder. Place ground spice, garlic and peppers in a blender with 2 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid and blend to a smooth sauce adding more soaking liquid if needed. In a large saute pan melt shorting over medium heat and add flour. Mix until flour dissolves and begins to turn light brown then pour in blended chilies and bring to a simmer. Simmer sauce on low for 10 minutes, adding a little more soaking liquid if needed until thick and smooth. Sauce can now be refrigerated forever or used in any number of things.

Posted in Food, Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Flan

All that caramel is not a bad thing

All that caramel is not a bad thing

This is a fairly standard flan recipe. It works well as one large flan in a 9″ cake pan or 5-6 individual flans in ramekins. Either way it is guaranteed creamy, sweet and satisfying.

Traditional Flan

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7 tbsp sugar

In a three-quart saucepan combine cream, milk  and salt. Split vanilla bean in half and scrap the black seeds into the milk. Add the bean and bring milk to a low simmer. Stir constantly for 10 minutes making sure not to scald the milk. remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes stirring occasionally to break up and skin that forms on top. Meanwhile in a two-quart saucepan combine one cup sugar and water over high heat until sugar dissolves. Turn heat to low and let sugar turn to caramel without stirring. Use a pastry brush to flick any sugar crystals into the liquid and remove from heat when caramel turns deep golden brown. Do not burn sugar. Quickly pour caramel into a 9″ cake pan (or ramekins) and swirl to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Set pan in another baking pan with sides high enough to hold a level of water that goes half way up the cake pan. In a large bowl beat eggs, egg yolk and seven tablespoons sugar until it turns a light yellow color. Strain milk mixture slowly into egg mixture and beat gently until smooth. Discard any milk solids that catch in the strainer along with the vanilla bean. Pour custard into baking dish and place baking pan filled with enough water into a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Steam flan for 45-50 minutes then check with a knife. Knife should pass through the flan smoothly but there should still be a little jiggle to the custard. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature then refrigerate the flan for at least four hours but for best results 24. When ready to serve remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Place a plate over top the baking dish and quickly invert, tapping out the flan and caramel sauce.

Posted in Dessert, Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Sunday Suppers: Better than Fish Sticks

We’re still not ready for a Sunday Supper starring poultry. Here’s a zesty meal with a citrus punch that won’t leave you feeling too heavy.

Baked Salmon with a Crumb Crust

That's a big piece of fish

Fingerling Potatoes with Wilted Kale

That's nice roughage

Poached Pears in Champagne

It's fruit it has to be healthy

It’s fruit it has to be healthy

Posted in Dessert, Dinner, Food, Seafood, Sides | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments