Paper Chef #19: Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales
Paper Chef, July Independence Edition
- Ground Coriander
- Pine Nuts
- And (from Kevin at Seriously Good): The wild card for this event is Independence Day. Whether you’re American, Ethiopian, Chilean, or Thai, create a recipe that celebrates your nation’s emancipation from its previous rulers or form of government or whatever other thing celebrated to honor nationhood.
So, because we’re contrary sorts, we’ve got two entries into this month’s Paper Chef and neither of them have anything to do with July 4th.
Oh sure, we had a billion Independence Day ideas: Grit Cakes with Boston Harbor Tea (pre-dumping, of course), Firecracker Popcorn, The Most Frightening Apple Pie Ever, Pine Nut and Coriander Encrusted Corn Dogs, but truthfully, I think the onslaught of holiday tourists to our tiny island was just too much for us to bear, and by midweek we were ready to step out into the middle of Spring Street with a bull horn and direct all traffic off the docks and into the harbor.
In short, we are over the whole 4th of July celebration thing. So very, very over it.
So, for our first entry, we declare ourselves Citizens of the World (or at least of North America), and as such we are celebrating El Grito de Independencia, Mexican Independence Day.
Which is not, some may be surprised to learn, Cinco de Mayo!
El Grito de Independencia (the cry of independence) is a festival that begins on the night of September 16th with a reenactment by Mexico’s current president of the famous Grito de Dolores of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the priest who, in 1810, changed the course of Mexican history with a ring of his village church bell and a cry to his countrymen to rise up against Spanish rule. And though Hildalgo himself was captured and executed in 1811, the fight for independence continued and was eventually won in February of 1821.
Now, Chopper’s the lucky one. He’s been to Mexico, eaten the fabulous food (and no doubt consumed more tequila than he’d care to tell me). Someday soon, he hopes to return and bring me with him and we’ll take the tour, Rick Bayless style.
Meanwhile, for our El Grito de Independencia Paper Chef entry, we’ve got a list of Mexican ingredients a mile long, all worthy of the number 4 spot on our Paper Chef ingredient list, but in the spirit of competition, I’m going to pick the one that makes this Chopper invention unique: Nopales — prickly pear cactus pads.
Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales
For the masa
- 2 cups Masa Harina
- 3 cups Home made chicken stock, slightly warmed
- 1/2 cup Pine nuts, raw
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- Place masa harina in a large mixing bowl.
- Grind pine nuts in a food processor or mortar and pestle and add to the masa.
- Add stock and salt to the bowl, and mix thoroughly.
- Allow bowl to sit for about five minutes, or until the masa is a very soft dough.
For the filling
- 2 pounds Turkey hindquarter meat, roughly cubed
- 3 cups Home made chicken stock
- 2 2/3 tablespoons, Coriander seed, toasted
- 1 tablespoon Cumin seed, toasted
- 5 Chipotles marinated in adobo sauce
- To taste Salt and pepper
- Puree the chipotles and grind the toasted spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom.
- Add the turkey and brown evenly.
- Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.
- Add the chipotles and ground spices and cover tightly.
- Cook for 30-35 minutes or until turkey is fork tender, then remove the top and reduce away the liquid.
- Season with salt and pepper.
For the salsa
- 3 Medium tomatoes, diced small
- 1/2 Sweet onion, diced small
- 3 Serrano chiles, diced small
- 1 bunch Fresh cilantro, minced
- 2 Limes, juiced
- To taste Salt and pepper
- Combine ingredients in a non-reactive (i.e. non metal) bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat and oven to 375 F.
- Carefully split open eight nopales along their length and fill with a “pocket” of the masa.
- Place a layer of the turkey filling into the “pocket,” then cover with another layer of masa.
- Place the tamales in a roasting pan and coat with oil.
- Place pan in the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the masa turns golden brown and crunchy.
- Serve with refried black beans, a generous crumbling of queso fresco, and a huge spoonful of salsa.
What I love most about Chopper’s exploration of Mexican cuisine is the closer and closer he gets to the authentic, the further and further he moves from the horrid, cheese-laden Americanized crap we find at so many poor excuses for Mexican restaurants in these parts. Not that he ever cooked horrid, cheese-laden crap, mind you. I think of it more as an ongoing discovery on my part of just how good Mexican food can be. And, I should add, how good it can be for my poor, lactose-intolerant digestion! Swap out the quesa fresca with a little goat cheese and I’m set. Can’t get that sort of goodness at Chevy’s!
(In just a bit, I’ll post our second contribution to this month’s Paper Chef. It is, I promise, quite scholarly and historical in nature and entirely lacking in silly content involving a meal dressed as a pig. Okay, I lied about that last part.)