Friday, September 26, 2008

Hugo's Tamales

Claire Inwood's Recipe for Slow Grappa

This recipe is from Hugh O'Neill of Hugh's New American Bistro, Denver, where I used to work. Hugh is a wonderful Irishman with a passion for Mexican food!
Some variations we would make were shrimp and peanut (for a Colorado wedding feast) and goat cheese, pumpkin and oregano.
Mexican traditional cheeses such as queso blanco or asadero would normally be used.
Traditionally tamales are made with fresh or dried corn husks. I save the husks off fresh corn in the summer for this use. Corn husks make a pattern of lovely ridges in the masa as it cooks. Fresh or frozen banana leaves work well and some Asian stores sell frozen banana leaves (try the Tofu Shop, Pioneer Plaza, Henderson).

1/2 cup milk
1 3/4 cup roasted fresh corn raw, canned or frozen [raw is fine and canned or frozen is suitable out of season]
1 cup masa meal (lime treated cornmeal, available at Wah Lee's, Hobson Street, and East West Organics, Glen Eden)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp soft butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh green chilli chopped finely OR a few dried chilli flakes added to taste
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Coarsely chopped fresh coriander to taste
2 spring onions finely sliced

Simmer milk and corn, strain milk and keep 1 cup of corn aside.
Purée remaining corn with milk, add to masa and mix well.
In a separate bowl whip butter, baking powder and salt till fluffy.
Add masa mixture little by little mixing between additions.
Fold in green chilli, remaining corn, cheese, coriander and spring onion
Lay corn husks or cut banana leaves 12 to 15 cm flat.
If using corn husks place the mixture vertically in the husk following the lines in the leaf, this makes folding easier.
Place 1 tablespoon or 2 of mixture (depending on size of leaf) in the centre of the leaf, fold in the sides and tuck in ends so that no mixture can escape.
Lay rolled tamales flat in a steamer basket, can double up layers. Steam for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot. Great with a good fresh tomato and lime salsa. Leftover tamales are fine re-steamed.

Any seasonal vegetables can be added, or herbs of your choice, but best to keep with the Mexican theme. Tamales usually feature lard instead of butter, and pork. Good with BBQ chicken or pork added.
You may like to try chipolotles, smoked jalapenos, for a distinct flavour, available from Wah Lee's. Very hot! Use sparingly.
Sweet tamales are also made, using sugar instead of salt, variations on pineapple, banana, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and coconut


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