Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trying Tamales

Funny that after all these years of living in California and loving Mexican food as I do, I had never tried tamales. My friend the Mad Meat Genius decided I needed to remedy that so he brought me six lovely tamales made by a wonderful Mexican lady he knows.

We met at Catahoula for a cup of coffee and the tamale exchange even though he had been sick for a week and was still feeling pretty shaky. He is a good man.

He said that all I needed to do was to heat them briefly in the microwave and serve them with a little hot sauce. He even provided the hot sauce, about which I will write tomorrow.

Then, he learned that I had never had homemade frijoles refritos (refried beans) and the look on his face was one of classic disbelief. Never?? So, he gave me a quick rundown of his recipe, pointed me toward a tiny Salvadorean market up the street where I could purchase the traditional pinto beans, made me promise faithfully to try them, and retired to his bed to rest up for his next Meat Adventure.

I snagged the last package of pintos from the little market and took my loot home. The beans need to soak for several hours so I covered them with water and went off to do other things, returning in the late afternoon to drain, then simmer them for an hour or so, until they were very soft. I also decided to make some Mexican rice to accompany the rest, which turned out to be a stellar idea. I had no recipe for the rice, so I winged it, just trying to duplicate the flavors I find when we eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I wasn't totally successful at copying but the rice I made was - dare I say? - even better.

The tamales were pure Mexican cielo - tender pork with green chilies, wrapped with corn masa and steamed inside the corn husks. We unwrapped the husks to find the masa imprinted with the texture of the wrapping, gently lifted out the tamales and dove in. No wonder Chilebrown wanted me to try these! Fantástico! We are deeply, deeply in his debt.

Mexican Rice

1 cup brown rice
1 Tbs butter
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 Tbs. chopped tomatoes, plus juice from the can (about 3 Tbs? of juice)
2 small minced sweet peppers, about 1/2 cup
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder

Melt the butter in a medium sized pot and sauté the onions in it for a few minutes. Add rice and toss in the oniony butter until coated and cook until the grains turn opaque, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Add the chicken stock and the rest of the ingredients, stirring to mix thoroughly, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and keep covered. Brown rice takes a little longer to cook - about an hour.

Homemade Frijoles from Chilebrown's Directions

1/2 lb pinto beans
2 Tbs bacon fat
4 cups water
garlic salt to taste
about 1 cup water in which beans were cooked

Soak the beans for several hours, or overnight (Chilebrown doesn't soak his beans). Drain and place in a pot with water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to a simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are very soft and ready to be mashed. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking water.

Melt bacon fat in a wide frying pan (cast iron works well). Toss the drained beans in the bacon fat until well coated. With a potato masher, mash the beans, adding enough cooking liquid to achieve the desired consistency and continuing to mash and add liquid - the beans will absorb a surprising amount of the liquid. Sprinkle with garlic salt (Chilebrown just mentioned salt, but I got a nifty new garlic salt grinder for Christmas so I strayed into unknown territory here) to taste and mix it in. My refritos had more texture than I'm used to seeing in Mexican restaurants, more "rustic," but we actually liked that better. Serve hot. If had thought to include some sprigs of cilantro, this would have been a prettier picture.

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Blogger Kailyn said...

Glad to hear you have finally tasted tamales. We had them at my job on December 24 -- both the sweet and the savory -- as they are a traditional thing during the holiday season. And now you've reminded me that I was going to sign up for a class on making tamales later this month.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

I am glad you liked the tamales. You will now have to make some of your own. I do not soak my beans. There is a theory that if you soak them and discard the soaking water, the beans will produce less gas. Everybody has their own method.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Blogger Debra Doherty said...

Thanks so much for the refried beans recipe. I think my husband will want to marry me all over again when I make these for him. He's obsessed with them!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Blogger Rev. Biggles said...

I nearly jumped out of my skull when I saw the tamal on your plate. Congratulations!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kailyn, I gather that making them is a labor of love. Good luck!

Chilebrown, I changed the blog to reflect your method. You are my guru for refritos.

Debra, loved your paintings! Happy beaning!

Rev. Biggles, all thanks due to Chilebrown.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

That picture is making me hungry. Congratulations, Z, on handling the side dishes yourself. And if you look at one of Chilebrown's posts, he makes homemade tamales look very easy indeed.
Welcome to California! ;-)

Chilebrown: I cook my beans in the soaking water. When you eat enough beans regularly in your diet, poots are not a problem.
Get well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Zoomie, I see what you mean by your last comment - ugly but good!
Cookie Poots! *giggles*

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Cookiecrumb and Chilebrown, next time, I won't bother to drain the beans after soaking. Thanks!

Morgan, man, that ugly stuff was good! (I like the poots, too).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  
Anonymous Nora said...

Hi every one!!! If you want to see some recipes about tamales 100% mexicanos go to my authentic mexican home made food blog.


We never serve tamales with rice. Only with fried beans and salsa mexicana

Saturday, February 06, 2010  

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