Thursday, November 10, 2011

Good Golly Miss Tamale!

Lately, I've had a hankering for ... food of a different color ... for lack of a better word. I like to go outside my comfort zone and venture into a different cuisine. I always learn something new and I'm rarely disappointed. I try to research the recipes as much as possible, using the cookbooks in my collection and the internet until I come up with something tailored to my tastes, but not veering too far away from the essence and authenticity of the original. I'm sure I insulted someone somewhere in Louisiana with Rosie's Shrimp Etouffee and being the pan-culturally offensive person that I am, today I'm tackling beef tamales. ARRIBA! Armed with Rick Bayliss, Diana Kennedy and the internet I intrepidly entered the kitchen ...
... and ended up with plump little corn husk packets encasing masa and beef with a deep smoky sauce.
Hey, I know. It's not all that much to look at. But it's masa so how much can you expect? Masa is Spanish for dough. What I have inside the corn husk is a dough made with masa or corn flour. Masa, or masa harina (dough flour), is typically used in making tortillas, tamales, pupusas, empanadas, gorditas, and sopes. Inside the dough is shredded beef which was seared, then slow-cooked, shredded, and bathed in a deep and smoky red sauce. This is all wrapped up inside the corn husk, tied, and steamed for two hours. I'm serving the tamale with Mr. Hawthorne's canned Salsa Verde and Salsa Ranchero and a side of his frijoles refritos.
The meat I'm using is a Denver cut since that's what in my freezer and I'm trying to clean it out in time for my Christmas baking. You could use a shoulder roast or chuck roast. I like the smaller cut since it's only the two of us now and I didn't want leftovers. Or moreovers for that matter.
I let the meat come to room temperature and seasoned it with freshly ground salt and pepper. Over medium high heat, sear each side in a tablespoon each butter and oil - butter for flavor, oil so the butter doesn't burn. About 2 minutes each side.
My beef is ready for a long bath.
Slice half an onion and 4 garlic cloves.
Add onions and garlic and water to cover beef. Turn heat to low, a bare simmer, cover and cook for 2-3 hours until the meat is fork-tender. I checked the water level after about an hour and added more water plus some beef base.
While the beef cooks,
I started on my red sauce.
 assorted dried peppers, seeded
I keep all different types of peppers and just grab out of the bag.
 1/2 onion
4 garlic cloves
1 TB cumin seeds
water to cover
Seed the peppers as best you can, discarding the tops. Everything goes into a pan.
Cover with water and boil for about 30 minutes until chilies have softened.
Let cool a bit before processing. Taste test and add salt as needed.
Pour through a sieve to remove any seeds or skins. Set aside.
Set the corn husks in a baking dish and soak in hot water for at least 30 minutes.
 Next, I'm making the masa.
1 cup masa
1 tsp baking powder
 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup beef broth
1/8 cup lard
1/8 cup vegetable shortening
 Combine dry ingredients.
 Pour broth in a little at a time.
Beat shortening and lard and add it to the masa
For the beef broth, I used the broth from the Denver cut.
Beat the shortening until fluffy.
Add broth into dry ingredients.
This is what the texture is like.
Add in beaten shortening and lard. Mix well.
Dough should be slightly spongy.
Here's my Denver cut after almost three hours.
Fork tender. Shred the meat.
I poured a little of the red sauce over the meat. Taste test.
Lay the corn husk with smooth side down and narrow end facing you. Spread a thin, even layer of masa over the surface of the husk using a spoon dipped in water or wet fingers.
Place the meat filling in the center. Note: Next time I'll put more meat filling in.
Fold the narrow end up to the center ...
... then fold both sides together to enclose the filling.
The sticky masa will form a seal.
I pinched the top closed and tied the bundles. Regardless of what it looks like on my pinkie, I do NOT have a gash on my finger. It's a deep whorl.
Ready for steaming.
Can you guess which one is Rosie's and which is Mr. Hawthorne's?
Meat and masa made 4 tamales. No leftovers!
Place in a steamer and steam for about 2 hours, checking every 20 minutes or so to be sure the water doesn't boil away. Add water as needed.
Here's my red sauce. Smoky, complex, rich flavors with some heat that creeps up on you.
Ready to unwrap. The steam smells wonderful.
OK, so it's not the prettiest looking thing in the world.
I'll try to prettify it a bit.
Ahh. That's a little better. A dollop of Salsa Ranchero here and a plop of Salsa Verde there. Mr. Hawthorne's refried beans which I will eat. I refuse to eat the crap that pours out of a can. A few slices of avocado. And a pool of the red sauce for dipping.
Remember, next time, more beef inside the masa. I have no idea what types of dried peppers I was using since I'd lost the wrappers, but they delivered wonderful flavors in the red sauce. Whenever I make sauces with dried peppers, I'm amazed at the flavors. There's nothing else like it.
This packs a punch - in both flavor and heartiness. You really owe it to yourself to go outside your comfort zone every once and a while and try making something you're not used to. It gives you an appreciation of another cuisine and it hones your cooking skills. And you always learn something.


southdrivein said...

Rosie , when you are doing this again make some pumpkin or sweet potato ones also

Rosie Hawthorne said...

South, I just happen to have a bushel of sweet 'taters.

south drivein said...

Canned chipolte peppers are good in sweet taters

Rosie Hawthorne said...

South, the chipotle peppers almost disturb me with the chocolately taste. Remember, I'm testing the waters.