Saturday, April 22, 2006

New Mexico, Pineapple Tamales and stuff

Can't believe it's already April! Just got back from a wonderful (and W-A-Y too short) week in New Mexico.

Let's see - we sorta played 'tourist' for part of the time - went to Carlsbad Caverns which was SOO cool, and visited the Alien Museum in the tacky-tourist town of Roswell (home of rumored alien landings) and of course spent time in Albuquerque.
Of course, we had several cooking adventures while there, one of my favorite was the tamales. I'd made them a couple times at home, but this time, we made a really good variation - PINEAPPLE tamales. Emril made some on Food Network a while back that intrigued me, but they had raisins in them. We left those out. We also subbed coconut oil for the lard. Obviously!

OK, so they turned out pretty yummy, though maybe a wee bit bland. I think I'd like to try them again, and maybe spice them up - put a little cilantro and jalapeno in just for the heck of it...who knows...
We froze the extra ones, there was no way we could eat all of what the recipe made - it says it makes 24. 24 by whose measurement, I'd like to know - I swear it made about 50!
Pineapple Tamales

1 8-ounce package dried cornhusks
1 medium-size fresh ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into rough cubes
8 ounces (1 cup) coconut oil, slightly softened but not at all runny
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 pounds (about 4 cups) fresh coarse-ground corn masa for tamales
OR 3 1/2 cups dried masa harina for tamales mixed with 2 1/4 cups hot water

1. Cover the husks with very hot water, weight with a plate to keep them submerged, and let stand for a couple of hours until the husks are pliable.
For forming the tamales, separate out 24 of the largest and most pliable husks—ones that are at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 or 7 inches long. If you can’t find enough good ones, overlap some of the large ones to give wide, sturdy surfaces to spread the batter on. Pat the chosen husks dry with a towel.

2. Prepare the batter. In a food processor or blender, coarsely puree the pineapple. Measure out 2 cups puree. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the coconut oil with the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and the baking powder until light and fluffy in texture, about 3 minutes. Continue beating as you add the masa (fresh or reconstituted) in three additions. Reduce the speed to medium-low, then add the 2 cups pineapple puree. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light).
Beat in a little additional water if needed to give the mixture the consistency of soft (not runny) cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon.
For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so, then rebeat, adding enough additional water to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before.
3. Set up the steamer. Steaming 24 husk-wrapped tamales can be done in batches in a collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan. (I use my rice cooker/steamer) To steam them all at once, you need something like the kettle-size tamal steamers used in Mexico or Asian stack steamers, or you can improvise by setting a wire rack on 4 coffee or custard cups in a large kettle.
It is best to line the rack or upper part of the steamer with leftover cornhusks to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor. Make sure to leave tiny spaces between the husks so condensing steam can drain off.
4. Form the tamales.
(OK, I admit - I borrowed this paragraph from a tamale-making website)
Cut twenty-four 8 or 10-inch pieces of string or thin strips of cornhusks. One at a time, form the tamales: Lay out one of your chosen cornhusks with the tapering end toward you. Spread about 1/4 cup of the batter into a 4-inch square, leaving at least a 1 1/2-inch border on the side toward you and a 3/4-inch border along the other sides (with large husks, the borders will be much bigger). Pick up the two long sides of the cornhusk and bring them together. If the uncovered borders of the two long sides you’re holding are narrow, tuck one side under the other; if wide, then roll both sides in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is small, you may feel more comfortable wrapping the tamal in a second husk.) Finally, fold up the empty 1 1/2-inch section of the husk (to form a tightly closed "bottom," leaving the top open), and secure it in place by loosely tying one of the strings or strips of husk around the tamal. As they’re made, stand the tamales on their folded bottoms in the prepared steamer. Don’t tie the tamales too tightly or pack them too closely in the steamer. They need room to expand.
5. When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover them with a layer of leftover cornhusks; if your husk-wrapped tamales don’t take up the entire steamer, fill in the open spaces with loosely wadded aluminum foil (to keep the tamales from falling down). Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 1/4 hours.
Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary.
Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up. For the best textured tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through.


Dori said...

Hi! Followed a link to you from another blog. I've been eanting to try some tamales and I just found the recipe I am going to start with. I like the looks of your chik'n sticks above... my favorite!