Saturday, January 26, 2013


Tamales get labeled under "Bold" as they aren't particularly beautiful or bright compared to the other stuff I cook. I made them over Christmas and had a blast!

For those who don't know, I grew up in Tucson Arizona on four acres of raw desert. We played our pants off most days - throwing cactus around like it was no big deal, catching lizards, and getting scared by spiders. Most years at Christmas we'd visit a neighborhood called "Winter Haven" and drove around looking at all the Christmas lights on palm tree's and cactuses that adorned peoples front yards. Additionally, this time of year is when my paternal grandmother pulled out all the stops and stuffed us full of tamales. She'd lay out everything assembly line style, line us up, and we'd crank out tamales like nobody's business. Also, as I think about it, I realized she's Southern Bell by birth, so I'm not really sure when Christmas Tamales started in our family. However - they're delicious either way, and I hope you enjoy them if you embark on making them!

Because tamales are a little bit difficult if you've never made them, I've posted this in a picture tutorial type post. Recently I hosted a tamale making party where my friend Mandi was kind enough to take pictures.

We made beef, pork, and sweet (dried figs and almonds).

Savory Tamales 

Carne Mix
3.5 lb meat (pork, beef, chicken)
5 cloves garlic
1 med onion, cut into hunks

Slow cook meat with garlic and onion. Shred, and add salsa. 


1 can chipotle chilies in adobe sauce
6 cloves garlic
1/2 medium onion
1 T ground cumin
1 T chili powder
2 T salt
2 T Olive Oil

2 cups broth

Pulverize in a food processor. Taste.

TASTE!!!! If you don't taste your salsa, and pour it over your meat, you run the risk of ruining all that beautiful meat. So taste your salsa at every. step. of. the. way. Make sure you like it, and it's strong. 

Mix broth into pepper puree, taste again.

Pour over shredded meat, and refrigerate overnight. 

3/4 c lard or crisco (room temp)
6 c broth
6 c masa harina (corn flour)
1 1/2 t baking powder
3+ T salt (likely you'll add more)
Corn husks

Soak corn husks in hot water (ziplock bags work best). Rinse and separate. 

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl (harina, salt, backing powered); add lard and broth.  Mix until combine - add water or flour as needed until the consistency is like a soft Play-Dough. It should not be runny or overly sticky. 

Taste - add salt as needed. 

Spread about 3 T masa on corn husk, fill with meat, and fold corn husk to form the tamale. Leave about 1/2 inches as the top, and 4 inches at the bottom to allow expansions and proper folding/sealing, respectively. (This image is a good reference:

Because there are various steps in the process, figure out a system that works for you. I typically lean my steaming basket on it's edge, and keep everything within reach. From left to right - masa, husks, meat, basket.

Stack tamales, seam side down in steaming basket.

Bring water to a boil*, add tamale basket, turn down to a simmer, and steam for about 50-60 mins. 

We tried wrapping some in parchment paper. The one of the left is the original corn husk, and you can see the traditional texturing that are halmarks of tamales.  Parchment paper doesn't change the way they taste, just how they look. 

Served well with refried black beans, topped with sour cream or fresh salsa, and lime

Served with a little extra carne on top, cilantro and a wedge of lime. Amazingly delicious! 

Sweet Tamales:

2 c water
2 c masa harina
1/3  c lard
1/2 t baking powder
1 c sugar
dried fruit and nuts as desired

We used chopped dried figs and pecans, pictured below. Rasins and walnuts are amazing also.

Mix everything together. Place 3 T masa mixture into small corn husk, wrap, and steam. These traditionally do not have filling, but have the dried fruit and nuts mixed in with the masa.

Steam 20-30 mins.

*Penny Trick - place a penny at the bottom of your pot. When the water starts to boil you'll hear it rattle. If you don't keep water in the bottom of the pot, you'll burn your tamales, so the penny allows you to know if you need to add more water. If it's rattling - you're good. If it starts to slow - check water levels. If it stops - act quickly!! Get some water in that sucker and save the tamales! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Prosciutto, Fig, and Goat Cheese with Truffle Oil

 Isn't this freaking beautiful!?!? My heart literally skips a beat when I see these - but maybe that's due to the fact that every time I eat something with truffle oil on it I'm surprised at how unique it is - and therefore my heart skips a beat. At this moment in life, I really don't have words in my vocabulary to describe it. By the time I do have those precious words to describe what truffle oil is like, I will be sure to post another creation here to practice my new found skills.

For now - I give you my most recent love story:
Prosciutto, Fig, and Goat Cheese with Truffle Oil Appetizers

 This was inspired by several loves of mine. Figs are amazing with good cheese. I had goat cheese. Prosciutto just sounded like a good idea all around. So, this little sucker (and several carbon copies) was created.

Fig Butter/Fig Jam (Trader Joes is a great place to look)
8 slices - Crostini bread - Cut into thin slices
4 oz - Goat Cheese, room temp
4 slices - Prosciutto, cut in half
Truffle Oil

Lightly toast the bread.

On each bread slice:

Spread on ~1/2 oz (1 Tablespoon)
Dollap 1 teaspoon fig butter

LIGHTLY drizzle with Truffle Oil - a little goes a very long way. FYI. You've been warned. It's fantastic, but goes into overkill zone faster than a teenager trying to get away from an embarrassing parent.

Crinkle prosciutto and press into jam/cheese. Insert basil leaf.

Stand back and admire your beautiful masterpiece and praises from your audience.

Short Hand:

Toast Bread.

Layer cheese, jam, oil, prosciutto, basil. 

Serve and be admired.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I should be doing homework right now, but......

...but, instead I rushed home from work to sear a chunky hunky beef roast so I could slap it into the slow cooker asap so Forrest and I could eat by 10pm tonight.

The thing is, yesterday, I also saw the "Specials" table at Barnes & Noble was stocked full of cook books. So naturally I squealed like a girl and beelined my way over to it. I found one (*cough cough* several) that I liked, and bought it (yes, I only bought one - I dream/create on a budget).

When got home I of course had several homework assignments due, so I naturally sat down, promptly opened up my new cook book and went through all 365 recipes, making notes as needed for the ones I would try and how I would change them.

I eventually got the homework done, but I realized, I have a passion for food. I don't eat a ton, or shop only at farmer markets, or snub my nose at an occasional bowl of Krafts Mac&Cheese or Ramen. I love the colors, textures, flavors, scents, and feelings that foods have to offer us. Some of the most beautiful things I've seen in life have been food related.

Today, much like yesterday, I hurried home to tinker around in the kitchen. I call it tinker because I just put a beef roast in the slow cooker, then ate 1/2 a baby watermelon (no, I'm not pregnant), and tried the Eggcado concept, which I'm eating right now, along with a new coating for a grilled goat cheese ball.

The watermelon was stunning, tantalizing  and out of the ordinary. Why? Because I drizzled bite size chunks of it with a balsamic vinegar reduction glaze on an appetizer plate. Fan-freaking-tastic!

Why was the goat cheese thingy so cool? Because the first time I experienced one I was on a girl date at a night club that opened for lunch in order to show off it's menu and garner more customers. By recreating it, I recreated a sliver of that great memory with my friend Betty.

Granted, some things are gross. Like microwaved feta cheese on a tortilla (try it if you dare - it smells like someone threw up in the microwave and turned it on high for 20 minutes). However, most food, when puzzled together in the right way is fantastic, taking it's partaker on a small adventure and home again.

Life has gotten the better of me in the past few months, but I've still be cooking up some pretty sweet storms, all of which I will post soon.


To Sear or not to Sear, that is the question:

Searing is the art of quickly cooking the outside of a food, usually of a meat. It actually causes a bunch of cook chemical reactions - which I won't go into. It's super easy too, and results in great food.

The goal of searing is not to cook the inside of the food - rather it's to cook and brown the outside. This is because the food either does not need to be cooked through all the way or will be brought up to the appropriate temperature another way.

How to sear (generally speaking):

Heat a pan on medium high to high heat. Using tongs, gently place the food in the pan. It will likely be very smoky/steamy. Turn food, and sear remaining sides.

Photo courtesy of  My iPhone picture antics just weren't cutting it on Searing Day. 

Yup - that's it. Here is a link to what it looks like, as well as some myth debunking.