Pati's Mexican Table
BLACKBERRY AND PECAN TAMALES
Tamales de Zarzamora y Nuez
Makes about 20 tamales
25 dried corn husks
1 cup vegetable shortening or good quality lard
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp baking powder
1 lb instant corn masa mixfor tamales, or about 3 1/4 cups, such as Maseca
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
12 oz blackberries, rinsed
To make masa for tamales:
Place the vegetable shortening or lard with 1 tablespoon of cold water in a mixer and beat, until very light and spongy, about 1 minute. Add the baking powder and salt, and then take turns adding the instant corn masa mix and the water. Continue beating until the dough is homogeneous and fluffy.
Mix in the sugar and cinnamon and continue beating until everything is well mixed. You may also do it by hand.
You know the tamal masa is ready if:
1. When you lift a big spoon with masa, drop it into the dough it falls “de golpe” or heavy.
2. It has the consistency of a medium thick cake batter.
3. If you place 1/2 teaspoon of masa in a cup of cold water and it floats.
To prepare the steamer:
Place water in the pan of a steamer and bring it to a simmer. Line the steamer with one or two layers of corn husks. Use the dough to form about 20 corn husk wrapped tamales.
To make tamales:
Soak the dried corn husks in hot water for a couple of minutes, until they are pliable and drain. Lay out a corn husk with the tapered ends facing towards you. Spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the masa into a 2 to 3 inch square, the layer should be about 1/4 inch, leaving a boarder of at least 1/2 inch on the sides. Place 1 to 2 blackberries in the middle of the masa filling and sprinkle about a teaspoon of the pecans on top.
Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together, causing the masa to surround the berries and pecans and fold them to one side, rolling them in the same direction around the tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk with the tapering end, from the bottom up. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open.
Prepare the tamales and then place them vertically in a container. When you have them all ready, place them as vertically as you can in the prepared steamer, with the open end on top. If there is space left in the steamer, tuck in more corn husks so the tamales will not dance around. Cover with more corn husks and steam, covered for 50 minutes to an hour over medium heat. You know the tamales are ready when the tamales come easily free from the husks.
Finished tamales will stay warm for about 1 to 2 hours in the steamer. They can be made ahead several days before and stored in the refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in the steamer. For refrigerated tamales it will take about 15 minutes, and for frozen tamales about 45 minutes.
Mexicans have been wrapping and cooking food in leaves for a long time, and this episode will look at the reasons why. It will also share three scrumptious dishes you can make in your own kitchen with the wrapping method and with three different kids of wrappers! We’ll also look at some shortcuts and tips for cooking wrapped foods in your own kitchen, as opposed to the traditional method of digging a pit or steaming them in an enormous pot.
Vanilla only comes in a bottle, right? Oh, it’s a bean!? Where on earth do I find vanilla beans and then how do I cook with them? Do I crack them open? Wait, vanilla comes from Veracruz, Mexico–not Madagascar!? This episode will explain all of that, plus share a few amazing vanilla-infused recipes, including:
TORITOS: PEANUT AND VANILLA APERTIF
Torito: Bebida de Cacahuate y Vainilla
2 12 oz cans evaporated milk
1 14 oz can La Lechera sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup cane liquor (aguardiente de caña), or rum, more or less to taste
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (or espresso if you want to make it coffee flavored)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ice, to taste
Place the cane liquor, evaporated milk, condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla extract in the blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Alternatively, you may also pour directly over ice cubes or add some ice cubes to your blender and make it a Frappé! In any case, serve very cold.
NOTE: There are different Torito flavors. To make coffee Toritos, substitute peanut butter for a cup of strong coffee and add more sugar to taste. To make fruit Toritos, substitute peanut butter for about 2 cups of guaba or mango (or any fruit of your choice) pulp, and sugar to taste.
GRANDMA LALI’S FLOATING ISLANDS
Las Islas Flotantes de Vainilla de mi Abuela Lali
For the Floating Islands
12 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
For the Caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
For the Vanilla Sauce
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 inch piece vanilla bean
10 strawberries optional for garnish, sliced, or any other fruit of your choice
To make the caramel:
Place sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the sugar melts, moving the pan so it will not burn, until it has a caramel consistency. Turn off the heat and pour the caramel quickly into individual flan or custard molds as you tilt them, so the caramel covers the bottom of each mold. The caramel will quickly cool and set.
To make the floating islands:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place egg whites in a mixer with the salt and cream of tarter and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Add in the extracts and the sugar and mix until combined. Then top each of the molds with the egg white mixture.
Place molds in a large baking pan. Pour about an inch of boiling water into the pan to create a water bath. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. The top of the islands will look browned and crispy. Turn the oven off, open the door oven slightly and let the islands cool inside of the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven.
To make the vanilla sauce:
In a saucepan, lightly beat the egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of all purpose flour.
In another saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean (make a slit on its side and free the seeds into the milk). Let it heat until very hot but not boiling. Slowly, in a very thin stream, add the hot milk into the yolk mixture, emulsifying with a whisk until it is all incorporated. Place over low heat and stir until the sauce almost reaches a boil, and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Turn the heat off and keep on whisking slowly, for about a minute or so. The sauce can be served hot, warm or cold. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month once cooled.
Once the molds have cooled to room temperature, you can unmold them. Use a knife to go around the edge of the molds and carefully turn them onto a plate. Drizzle the caramel from the bottom of the molds on top of the islands. Add a couple tablespoons of the vanilla sauce on top. You may garnish with strawberries or any other fruit of your liking.
Islands can be refrigerated in their molds, covered, for up to 5 days.
GRILLED SHRIMP & PINEAPPLE SALAD WITH VANILLA & CHILE DE ARBOL VINAIGRETTE
Ensalada de Camarón y Piña a la Parrilla con Vinagreta de Chile de Arbol y Vainilla
For the Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 vanilla bean (or about a 2″ piece), chopped
1 to 2 chiles de arbol, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup safflower or corn oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
Ground black pepper, optional
1/4 tsp sugar, or more to taste
For the Salad
4 fresh pineapple slices(about 1/2″ thick), peeled
Safflower or corn oil to brush the pan or grill
1 lb large or extra large shrimp, fresh or thawed from frozen, rinsed, peeled, deveined
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
kosher or sea salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
12 oz mixed spring salad(or your choice of mixed baby lettuces)
1/2 cup red onion, slivered
For the vinaigrette:
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over medium heat, until hot but not smoking. Add garlic clove, vanilla bean and chiles, and cook about 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Be careful not to let them burn, remove the pan from the heat and pour its contents into a mixing bowl to cool.
Combine the safflower oil, red wine vinegar, salt pepper, allspice and sugar into the same bowl. Pour all the mix in the blender, puree until smooth, and reserve. The vinaigrette will be textured as the vanilla bean will not let itself be entirely pureed. But that makes it even more delicious! If you will not use the vinaigrette in the next couple of hours, cover it and refrigerate. It will keep for a week, but re-emulsify or thoroughly mix, before using.
For the grilled pineapple:
Heat a grill pan, a grill or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and lightly coat with safflower or corn oil. Place the pineapple slices and cook for about 4 minutes per side until they are slightly charred. Remove from heat. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut in half, remove the core and cut into strips along the grain. Reserve.
For the shrimp:
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan over high heat. Once the butter sizzles, add the shrimp, you may need to do it in batches so they they don’t overlap, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side. They should have plumped up and changed color on both sides, but be careful not to overcook them. Remove and reserve.
To assemble the salad:
Place the greens in a salad bowl. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette and toss, so that they are lightly coated but not soaked. Assemble on individual salad plates. Divide the shrimp, pineapple and red onion on top of each plate. You may drizzle a bit more of the vinaigrette on top and serve.
CAFE DE OLLA
Cafe de Olla con Canela y Piloncillo
Heat the water in a pot set over medium heat (using a clay pot is the traditional way to prepare it and it gives it a very unique flavor, but it isn’t necessary). When the water comes to a boil, lower the heat and add the coffee, piloncillo, and a cinnamon stick.
Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring until the piloncillo dissolves. Remove from the heat, let it stand covered for 5 to 10 minutes and strain before serving. Alternatively, you may remove the cinnamon and use a French press to strain the coffee as well.
WHITE RICE WITH TOASTED ANGEL HAIR PASTA
Arroz Blanco con Fideos
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups white rice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 lb or about 1 cup angel hair pasta, broken into pieces
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
4 cups water or chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lime juice, optional
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Soak the white rice in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. In a cooking pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the angel hair and fry for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. It should be browned but not burnt.
Incorporate the drained rice, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice achieves a milky white color and it feels and sounds heavier when you move it.
Add the chopped onion and garlic, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour the water or broth over the rice, add the salt and lime juice, and once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with the lid, and cook for about 20 minutes.
The rice is ready when the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender and cooked. Turn off the heat and keep it covered for at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Immigrants from Lebanon, Syria and Israel have left a tasty influence on Mexican cuisine over the years; this show will look at how they came to such a far-flung (but fascinating) country and what kind of legacy they’ve contributed–other than Frida Kahlo and Salma Hayek, of course.
CHICKEN WITH TAMARIND, APRICOTS AND CHIPOTLE SAUCE
Pollo con Salsa de Tamarindo, Chabacano y Chipotle
4 chicken quarters, or 8 chicken pieces of your choice with skin and bones
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 cups water
1/2 lb, about 3/4 cup, dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp apricot preserve
3/4 cup tamarind concentrate, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)
2 tbsp sauce from chipotles in adobo, or more to taste
Thoroughly rinse chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer, and slowly brown the chicken pieces for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn them over occasionally, so they will brown evenly on all sides. Pour water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high to bring to a simmer.
Incorporate apricots, apricot preserve, tamarind concentrate, chipotle sauce, salt, stir, and keep it at a medium simmer for 35 minutes until the sauce has thickened to a thick syrup consistency and can coat the back of a wooden spoon. You may need to reduce the heat.
Taste for salt and heat and adjust to your liking.
HOMEMADE TAMARIND CONCENTRATE
Concentrado de Tamarindo
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 lb dried tamarind pods with their shell
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Remove the outer pod from the tamarinds, discard, and place the pulp in a bowl. Cover them with 2 cups boiling water and let them sit anywhere from 2 to 24 hours.
With your hands, clean then tamarinds of the large seeds and strains/threads. Strain in a colander, pressing with your hands or a spoon to get as much pulp as possible.
Place the resulting tamarind juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the sugar, and let it simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. The juice should have thickened considerably, to a thick syrup consistency.
Squeeze in the fresh lime juice, let it simmer for a couple more minutes and let it cool. Refrigerate and store in a tight lid container. The concentrate will keep for months.