The theme for our second cooking night was Mexican. I decided to try to make tamales for the first time. I missed this class during my Mexican cooking course, so I was just relying on the recipes we received at the end of the course. I had to start the night before cooking the meat and making the sauces.
I made a red and a green salsa, and had to roast fresh tomatillos and a variety of dried and fresh peppers. Here's a tip: do not attempt to roast jalapenos on your range unless you have a hood and vent. Lazy me, I thought I'd save time and do them on a cast iron skillet on the burner instead of in the oven... five minutes later, I could barely breathe -- my eyes were watering, nose running, coughing -- and I had to open windows in the dead of winter! The tomatillos I did right on the open flame of the gas burner and that seemed to work fine. Once roasted, you peel and dice the tomatillos, and de-stem and de-seed the peppers. Then into the blender -- red salsa was 4 guajillo peppers, 2 tomatillos and 2 cloves garlic; green was 2 tomatillos, 4 jalapenos, 2 cloves garlic, and cilantro.
Then the meat. So based on our teachers calculations, I cooked 3 pounds of meat for 30 tamales. But then the next night, only made masa for 16 tamales... so yep, I had a ton of shredded chicken and pork left over. At any rate, the meat is brought to a boil then slowly simmered over low heat with just some onion, garlic, and whole peppercorns. Then after the simmering, you just let the meat cool in its own broth. I cooked the 1 lb of chicken for about 20 minutes, but I ended up forgetting all about the 2 lbs of pork for about 2 hours, when a friend of mine dropped by. It was supposed to be 40 minutes, but I think it was alright - the meat just fell apart really easily when it came time to pull it apart.
That just left mixing the masa and constructing the tamales for the night of the party. I soaked the corn husks in water, while making the masa dough, mixing 2 cups of the broth from the cooked meat, with 2 cups of the coarser maseca for tamales, and 1 cup of oil.
For each corn husk, hold in your hand narrow end down, spread 2 tablespoons of masa dough in the middle, top with some meat and sauce and then fold the sides in first, then top and bottom. I used the green salsa with the chicken, and the red salsa with the pork. Still operating on the mistaken assumption that my recipe made 30 rather than 16 tamales, I probably made mine on the small side, as I ended up in the middle with 23 tamales total. I still think I made way too much meat, even for 30...
I put all the folded tamales in a double-decker steamer and then set it to steam for 40 minutes. In the meantime, brownie arrived with her incredible looking and smelling chicken mole!
The rest of the meal was equally delicious -- Kim had made guacamole and salsa, Danielle made a beautiful watercress tomato salad with this amazing creamy garlicky shallot dressing (see above), and Marian topped everything off with a wonderful flan.
Funnily falling into patterns here, I think Marian's becoming the dessert queen, while I seem to like making things that involve stuffing and wrapping... We'll see what's in store for next time... Italian? Indian? Vietnamese?