Tuesday, June 5, 2012

158. Tamales-Pork

Traveling around the United States has allowed me to meet new people, learn new traditions, see and explore new territory and try so many new foods.

I feel that these experiences have shaped who I am and how I cook.  I have friends from all over the world that are first or second generations living in the US.

What their families have brought to those of us who have been raised here, in the US, is greater than what one could read in a book or see in a picture.  They are living accounts of how they lived, their families lived, the foods they ate/eat, the ingredients that shaped and molded their dishes and why they are here in the US.  

They brought a wealth of information that could easily be found in a book, but it's not the same as talking with them, cooking in their kitchens or listening to their stories.  Feeling and experiencing the emotion behind what they cook is a powerful experience.

I have never been to Mexico, I lived close as a child in LA.  I don't have any ancestry that is from Mexican/Spanish descent.  Yet, I find myself wanting to eat and learn to cook food from this region of the world.

This can be said for so many of the dishes that I make.  I love flavor, exotic spices and ingredients, new techniques, a challenge in the kitchen…I just love ALL facets of cooking, baking and eating it all. The fact that the world cooks so differently creates a challenge for me to learn.  

I never want to stop learning.  EVER!

In Denver, we had friends that would make tamales like they would never have them again.  When you make tamales for a huge family event, we are talking hundreds of handmade tamales.  Our friends would often invite us to such events and my mouth would drop when I saw the amount of food they would prepare.  Their food is a part of who they are.  It made a statement of where they came from.

I learned to make tamales from a lady that my husband worked with.  In their culture it would usually involve several women from different families.  The recipe I share today was made by me, single handily done.  I do believe that cooking in a kitchen filled with women and laughter would be a happier experience. 

 Invite your friends and family to help you make these tasty tamales.  Tell stories, laugh and share in the joy of working together in the kitchen.  It is a bit of work, but so worth it!

Recipe: Pork Tamales

4 thick boneless pork chops
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of Cumin
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 375.

I use a cast iron pan.  Lay the pork chops on the bottom and add the other ingredients (see picture below)

Cover pan with foil.  Bake for 1 hour at 375 and reduce temperature to 325 and cook for another hour.

When you unwrap the foil, using two forks, pull the meat apart.  You will notice that some of the water is still in the pan. Do not  pour this out.  The meat will absorb the liquid and make it very tender and moist.  At this point, you can set it aside until the tamales are ready to be made or you can recover and put in the fridge for a 1-2 days.

Recipe: Tamale Batter
Recipe adapted from The Dumpling, a Seasonal Guide by Wai Chu and Connie Lovatt

I doubled the below recipe and had a little bit left over for the meat recipe above.

1/3 cup of Crisco or lard at room temperature
1 cup  masa harina
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 chicken broth, lukewarm

In a medium size bowl, add your Crisco.  With a hand mixer, beat the Crisco until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

After being whipped.

Add the masa harina, baking powder and salt into to a large bowl.  Add the broth and mix until all of the liquid is gone.  Add lard a tablespoon at a time.

After the last bit of Crisco is added, beat on high for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.  This will last for one day in the fridge.

Time to pull it all together.  You will need the corn husk.  I like to go through the pile and pull out the best ones. I start with 20-24 and add them to a bowl with warm water.  This short bath makes the husk easier to bend and fold.  You will need some cooking twine to close the ends  I usually cut these about 6 inches in length.  You can use pieces of the husk, but for the sake of time…the string is easier.

This process does not need to be perfect.  You basically are wrapping the tamale batter around the pork.  SIMPLE.

Select a piece of corn husk and spread a golf ball size of batter in the middle of the husk…estimate about a 4X6 size.

Add the pork.  I usually estimate a 1/4 cup or less.

This picture below is showing you that the idea is to have the tamale batter go all around the pork.  So you can fold the corn husk in half so the sides can meet and then continue wrapping the corn husk to create a tube.  See picture below.  Use twine to secure the ends.

 Tada…you have a tamale.

I layer mine on a cookie sheet until I am ready to add them to the pot to be steamed.
I use a large stock pot with this steamer basket in the bottom.  I layer my tamales up to the top.  Make sure you add water to the bottom of the pan frequently.  You want the steam to cook your tamales.  I would suggest adding 1/2-1 cup of water every 20 minutes.  The tamales will take about 90 minutes.

The tamales will soften and cook down a bit.  The masa may appear soft, but once it is exposed to the air and has a chance to sit for 5 -8 minutes it firms right up.

We eat our tamales with ketchup but by all means use what dipping sauce you like or none at all.

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