Christmas Dinner

Merry Christmas Everyone! Over the weekend Chris and I cooked a small meal: using spare pork shoulder from the tamales to make Braised Pork Shoulder, accompanied by mashed potatoes and the family's specialty: oyster stuffing. The Pork was braised in a Brown Ale, so we poured our own to pair with the meal, and finished it up with pecan pie.

I'll be in Jordan for the next 15 days--so stay tuned for one or two special travel editions of LCC. Have a great New Year--and be safe!


Christmas Tamales...
Day Two

Click here to go back to Tamales Day One

Final Tamale ready to eat!
The Tamales are made! I was kind of dreading the assembly, so I put it off until this morning, but this was actually the fun part. I pulled in Chris to help with the assembly, so it went by pretty quickly (we made 27 tamales in about 30 minutes). I spread out the masa on the corn husks, and Chris added the filling and rolled them up.

Here's a video of Chris showing you how to assemble the tamale:

I was a little shocked at how quickly we went through both the masa and filling--I was hoping to make at least 3-4 dozen, and we barely went over two. The recipe below is adjusted from what I did to give you a larger yield--because if you're going to go through the trouble to make your own tamales, you definitely want to end up with way too many than not enough. Luckily, 27 should just get us through the party we're throwing next weekend.

Christmas Tamales
- Chilies, masa, and corn husks can all be found at an ethnic grocery store.
- I doubled the filling recipe to bring the yield up to around 50, but you can also consider making two varieties of tamales.

Pulled Pork Filling
Original recipe
6 lb. Pork Shoulder, trimmed of most fat
Water--enough to cover meat, plus 3"
2 medium onions, quartered
6 garlic gloves, peeled
6 sprigs cilantro
2 T. salt
  1. Trim fat from pork shoulder, chop into fist-sized pieces and place in a large dutch oven. Add enough water to cover meat, plus 2-3 inches. Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Skim off fat every few minutes until stock is clear.
  2. Once at a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 2.4-3 hours, until meat is tender and cooked through. Remove meat and discard onions, garlic, and cilantro. Strain broth into a separate container, and allow to cool.
  3. Using two forks, shred the pork and set aside for chili paste.
Sauce Filling
From Martha Stewart Living
6 plum tomatoes, halfed lengthwise
8 dried New Mexico and/or ancho chilies
1 c. broth, reserved from above
2 chipotle chlies (in adobo sauce) one can will have a few whole chilies, just pull out two.
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 c. cilantro leaves
2 T. lard or veggie shortening
Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. As the pork is cooking, half the tomatoes and preheat your broiler. Broil on a cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes, flipping once, until skin is starting to blacken. Place aside.
  2. De-seed and de-vein the dried chilies. Heat chilies in a skillet 1-2 minutes until you can smell their aroma. Pour in enough hot water to cover chilies, and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain water and set aside.
  3. In food processor or blender (I used an emulsion blender, but it got messy) puree chilies with 1 c. of reserved pork broth until smooth. Add in tomatoes and remaining ingredients (not lard or seasonings) and puree until smooth.
  4. In large skillet, heat the lard on a medium-high heat and add in the chili paste and cook 5-7 minutes until thick. Season with salt/pepper. Add in shredded pork, and cook an additional 15 minutes until meat is tender.
Masa Dough
From Homesick Texan
2 c. lard or vegetable shortening
8 c. masa harina
4 c. broth, reserved from above
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2-3 t. salt
  1. Beat lard with mixer until fluffy. Add in cayenne, salt, 2 c. masa harina,  and 1 c. broth and beat until smooth. Continue adding remaining masa and broth until final dough is soft, but still holding it's shape. Refrigerate at least one hour.
I split up the tamale making into two days, as this first part took the most of an evening. If you get an early start, this can be a one day process, but splitting up the work was a nice way to not be overwhelmed by too much cooking.

Tamale Assembly
1 large bag dried corn husks (at least 50--but you will want to pick out the larger ones)
A flicker slide show of the steps:
  1. Cover the corn husks in water (holding down with weight) and let soak for at least 1 hour. As you assemble the tamales, look for wider, taller husks to use. Drain tamale husks and pat each one dry with a towel before using.
  2. With the wide end of the tamale facing you, take about 1/4 c. of the masa dough and spread it over the lower right corner of the corn husk. You should leave around 2-3" at the short end, and 2-3" at one wide end. Make sure the dough covers the edge of that corner.
  3. Taking 1 T. of filling, spread out lengthwise in the center of the masa.
  4. To Roll the tamale, take the masa-side of the tamale and roll over to meet the other masa edge (that is in the center of the husk). Tuck in that side under the dough slightly, fold the top, short-end of the tamale over, and finish rolling the tamale up like a cigar. 
  5. In a large colander (that will fit into a steamer) begin stacking the tamales vertically with the fold-side down. Once you have them all packed in tight, fill the base with 2-3" of water and steam tamales for around 2 hours. You will need to keep an eye on the tamales and add in water as needed. You will know they are done when the husk rolls cleanly away from the tamale.
  6. Refrigerate for a few days, or freeze for up to a month.


Christmas Tamales...
Day One

Since I'm not going home for Christmas, I really wanted to bring some element of a San Antonio Christmas to myself in DC. Nothing really says the holidays like Mexican tamales, and unfortunately, I haven't found the right kind up here in this area. Normally we order a few dozen from a lady at church, pick up a selection of pork, cheese, and venison from her garage, and then feast on them from Christmas Eve through New Years.

Of course because I'm slightly crazy, I decided making them from scratch would be a better use of my time (and oh, how much time it's taking) than picking up some frozen Salvadorean ones from the market. I'm throwing a holiday party next Saturday, and spent today prepping the items for this recipe for pork tamales I found on Martha Stewart.

While the recipe only called for 1 lb of pork shoulder, I could only buy a 6 lb. hunk of meat. So I tripled the first part of the recipe—reserving the extra meat and broth for future meals—and froze back half of the shoulder for another day (any good recipes for pork shoulder?)
Pork Broth simmering in my LC
The tamales almost didn't happen, as it's insanely hard to find dried corn husks at a typical grocery store. I finally hit pay dirt at El Eden in Alexandria--and was really impressed with their spice and chili selection as well.

Dried chilies soaking
I'll post the recipe tomorrow (I'm pulling elements from two different ones) but spent the evening making the pork filling and tamale dough. The filling is a wonderful mixture of pork cubes, with New Mexico, ancho, and chipotle chilies pulverized together with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. (I found this handy glossary of chili types too!) Tune in tomorrow to see how the assembly goes!

All the ingredients, pre-emulsion blender

Click here to go to Tamales Day Two


Gooey Pumpkin Awesomeness

Gooey Pumpkin....Year Two
If you ever see a pile of baking pumpkins at a grocery store..STOP. Buy immediately. Pick up some cheddar and Emmenthal cheeses too (yes I know, you are suppose to throw Gruyere in there but YUCK.) I first heard this recipe described on NPR, and it reminded me of the cheesy deliciousness I made last year based on a Gourmet recipe:
2009 Attempt
More an assault on my stomach..too much cheese!

This recipe was a much better attempt--instead of just cheese, bread, and pumpkin, this recipe had chives, thyme, and BACON. The porportions worked out a lot better, and the finished product is less of a stomach ache and more of WOW, amazing...and it's gone.
Some tips:
- Use fancy cheese. It makes a difference in flavor and you will thank me when you taste the first bite.
- Original recipe calls for Guyere, which you can include if you like it, but keep the total cheese weight the same.

    Baked Pumpkin Fondue
    Original by Dorie Greenspan 

    • 1 pumpkin, about 4 pounds
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 c. stuffing cubes (or stale bread, no seasoning!)
    • .25 lbs Emmenthal cheese- cut into small cubes
    • .25 lbs Cheddar (I used a sharp, gourmet white New Zeland cheddar)
    • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    • 4 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and chopped
    • 1/4 c. green onions (or scallions, chives)
    • 1 T. minced fresh thyme
    • 1/3 c. heavy cream
    • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    Read the recipe for some really good tips on prep, serving, and additions. But if you want the quick and dirty directions:
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, cook the bacon, prep the rest of the ingredients and add everything together in a bowl (except the cream and nutmeg). 
    2. Cut the top off the pumpkin (KEEP IT--it cooks with the lid on) scoop out the innards and season liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff the dry ingredients inside until almost full, then add the nutmeg-cream mixture. Finish stuffing the pumpkin until over-full. Add the lid back on, and bake for 2 hours.
    3. The pumpkin is done when you can easily poke the skin with a knife, and the inside is bubbly with cooked cheese. Cut slices of pumpkin with stuffing and serve. 

    Served by the fire


    Cayenne Chicken

    The avocado salsa really matches the spicy cayenne rub nicely
    Not really sure what to make tonight, I did a quick troll of Everyday Food's website (why don't I have a subscription yet!) and found this recipe for a Cayenne-rubbed Chicken with avocado salsa. The prep was super easy--10 minutes, and I liked the versatility of the meat. We ate the breasts whole, but you could easily shred the meat and make some tasty tacos as well. The kick from the spice was a perfect pairing with both the bland chicken flavor and the citrus avocado salsa. This is a must-make recipe.

    Cayenne Chicken
    Everyday Food

    • 2 chicken breasts
    • 1 t. salt
    • 1/4 t. pepper
    • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
    • olive oil for pan
    • 1/2 small red onion
    • 1 haas avocado
    • 1 lime
    1. Mix the salt, pepper, and cayenne together and rub over the chicken. 
    2. Heat a pan with oil and add chicken. Cook on a medium heat for 5-8 minutes on each side, until the outer skin is crispy and brown, and the meat is puffed out (resist slicing into the meat because you'll let the juices escape). Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes.
    3. As meat is cooking, thinly dice onion and squeeze lime juice on top of the pieces. Right before you serve, cube the avocado and add to the onion mixture.
    Again--this recipe took 20 minutes tops---and the entire meal was under $15. And we've never devoured anything so quickly. (well, maybe honey mustard chicken) Try it!