Sunday, April 28, 2013

Deconstructed Pork Tamales for Face your Fear #SundaySupper


I'll never forget my High School Spanish Teacher, Mr. Ochi.  A short Japanese man, who wore a suit every day to class, made students tremble in their seats, as he called their name to conjugate the verb "to be," and had a contagious passion for the Spanish language.

It's the best language there is, he'd say.  The most logical of all languages.  And it's so romantic... as he'd trill his r's and make even the most basic phrases like "my name is," "where are you from?" and how are you today," in Spanish, sound like lines from a love song.
 
But it wasn't just the language that intrigued me, (and became my second language) but also the culture.  And living in Santa Barbara, I got a pretty accurate taste of it...

Mariachi Bands on Thursdays over Carnitas.  Streets filled with colorful confetti for weeks after our yearly Fiesta celebration, and the two women who came by our office every day at lunch selling freshly homemade tamales.

So, this week's #SundaySupper, hosted by Conni from The Foodie Army Wife, is all about facing your foodie fears, and trying something you've never tried before, so my first thought?

Tamalas.

I found all the traditional ingredients, and I spent weeks researching authentic preparation techniques.  I even watched Alton Brown's video on proper tamal (which is singular for tamales) assembly.
But even that, was no match for the tamal.

I pressed, I folded, I steamed... for hours.  And hours.  And hours.  And the result?  A sticky, gritty, and don't even get me started on the flop of a photograph, mess.

So instead of a traditional tamal, today I present you with a more creative approach.  Deconstructing the best ingredients from what I'd think of as a Tamales Special Plate- with the tamales and beans on the side into one lovely dish.


I wanted the bottom layer to be in between a soft polenta and a cornmeal crust, and found it to have a consistency very similar to that of a tamal.  Next a layer of beans, tomatoes, and corn topped with melted Mexican cheeses.  Then the traditional pork, with a few extra spices, and cooked in Mexican beer.  And finally an egg on top.  Perhaps the most non-traditional part of this deconstruction, but it sounded good, so I went with it.

The result?

One of the best Mexican dishes I've ever had.

Final thoughts on this experience?

Round 2 was so flavorful and far less time consuming.  And while I might try to make tamales again, it would only be with someone who knows what they're doing.  And only for a special occasion, like the Christmas Eve tradition.

Deconstructed Pork Tamales

For the pork:

Pork butt (mine was bone-in and around 6 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces Mexican beer
12 ounces water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 onion, cut into chunks

Trim pork of fat layer and place in crock pot.  Sprinkle on spices and rub into meat.  Add in the bay leafs, thyme, beer, water and orange juice.  Place onions around sides.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours or until meat is tender.  Remove pork and shred.

For the cornmeal:

2-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 can creamed corn
1 cup cornmeal (I used yellow plain cornmeal by House Autry)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Bring water, salt, oil and creamed corn to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in cornmeal.  Continue to stir for about 10 minutes until cooked through and thickened.  Remove pan from heat, cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Stir in fresh cilantro, and spread in a greased rimmed cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown.  It will still be soft, kind of in between a soft polenta and a cornmeal crust.


For the beans:

1 can diced tomatoes (I used the kind with seasoning.  If not, add some dried basil, rosemary, or whatever seasonings you like)
1 can black beans, drained well
1 can pinto beans, drained well
1 small red onion, diced
1 can corn, drained
1/2 small can chopped green chilies (use more if you want more heat- I used a bit less!)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Mexican style cheese

Mix all ingredients together besides the cheese in a greased 9x9 pan.  Top with cheese and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted.

Optional garnishes:

A fried egg
Green onions, chopped

To assemble:  Cut a square of the cornmeal base.  Top with beans and cheese, then pork, the fried egg and garnish with green onions.

Want to see what dishes that our other contributors have faced their foodie fears with?  I can't wait to read about all the adventures!

New Expeditions (Sides, Starters & Staples)

Homemade Corn Tortillas from Pescetarian Journal
Easy Oven Polenta from Shockingly Delicious
Homemade Spiced Flour Tortillas from Chocolate Moosey
Naan from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Homemade Tofu from Kimchi MOM
Indian Moong Beans from Magnolia Days
Baked Lemon Coconut Risotto from Soni’s Food
Homemade Peanut Butter from Home Cooking Memories
Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Webicurean
Portuguese Chorizo Bread from Family Foodie

Grand Quests (Main Dishes)

Traditional Pork Tamales from Gourmet Drizzles
Braised Lamb Brisket with Lemon Oregano Yogurt Sauce from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Rice Burger from The Urban Mrs.
Pan-fried Scallops with Garlic Chili Linguine from Food Lust People Love
Miso-Glazed Salmon from The Foodie Patootie
Penne with Mustard and Chives from My Other City By The Bay
Arepas Rellenas (Stuffed Arepas) from The Wimpy Vegetarian
Spanish Baked Scallops from Momma’s Meals
Black Beans and Cheese Empanadas from Basic N Delicious
Pork Dim Sum from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Venison Steak Gyros from Curious Cuisiniere
Baked Tilapia with Parmesan Basil Sauce from Growing Up Gabel
Vegetarian Hortobagyi Pancakes from Happy Baking Days
Caribou & Andouille Chili from The Foodie Army Wife

Escapades (Sweet Treats & Spirited Companions)

Vegan Chocolate Mousse from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Zebra Cake from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Multilayer Bars from What Smells So Good?
Rut-Busting Wines For New Cooking Adventures from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows from Vintage Kitchen
Strawberry Raspberry Fruit Leather from Juanita’s Cocina
Making Macarons – FAIL! from girlichef
Macaroons from Noshing With The Nolands
Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt from The Messy Baker
Bircher Muesli from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Hello Kitty Rice Krispies from The Ninja Baker
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls from In The Kitchen With KP
Dorie Greenspan’s Orange Almond Tart from Hip Foodie Mom
Ombre Mini Cakes from Daily Dish Recipes
Chocolate Dipped Madeleines from Big Bear’s Wife

44 comments:

  1. What a clever idea. I too have had zero success with tamales. I love that you found a way to get the taste without the hassle. :)

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    1. Thanks Laura! They were soooo much simpler ;-)

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  2. I love the idea of deconstructed tamales. These look wonderful!

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    1. Thanks so much Jennie, glad I was able to salvage my efforts ;-)

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  3. I love that you fixed your tamales and made a deconstructed version. I thought about making tamales this week. Now I'm kind of afraid! But your tamales look wonderful!!

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    1. Thank you!!! I think there were two main issues... the wrong masa, and I don't think I dried out the corn husks enough after soaking. Hope you give this version a try- so yummy!

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    1. Thank you so much Conni! What a challenging, yet fun theme this week!!! Thank you for hosting ;-)

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  5. Deconstructed or not, these are EXACTLY the things I want in my tamales!

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    1. Ahhh, thanks Jen!!! I bet you make some awesome tamales! I love all these flavors too ;-)

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  6. I completely agree with you... I love culture. I am in love with this recipe. Anything with an egg on top is just amazing!

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    1. Thanks Isabel! I agree with the egg on top... yum!!! Hope you give it a try, super easy and tons of leftovers!

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  7. Oh my heavens that looks like perfection on a plate for me!!!

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    1. Thank you so much Tara! Appreciate you stopping by!

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  8. i love Tamales and always eat them out. It sounds like you had you adventures in tamales but am so glad that you did not give up. Your deconstructed version looks amazing and it has all of my favorite flavors - Thank you for sharing! ~ Bea @ The Not So Cheesy Kitchen

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    1. ;-) Thanks Bea... it was quite an adventure, but luckily something fun and yummy came out of it!!!

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  9. I have tried tamales either for the same reason. They look so challenging. I do like your deconstructed version. Layers of goodness and I'm dreaming out it with that fried egg on top.

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    1. Thank you Renee!!! Something about eggs... it's my ultimate comfort food, and I needed it after that day of tamales trama ;-) It helped!

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  10. This really appeals to me, because even though I like tamales....I just don't think they're worth all of the work they require to do it the traditional way. I like your approach SO much more.

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    1. Thanks Lori! I hope you give them a try... eating the leftovers now, and oh yum!!! ;-)

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  11. This looks SO yummy. I love the bright, festive colors and just wish that I could dive in.

    We have a tamalada every year around Christmas (though not necessary Christmas eve)...usually between Christmas eve and New Year's Day. They are a lot of work, but once you find a great tamal base, it's so worth it!

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    1. Thanks so much Heather! Love that you've mastered these... in awe, actually ;-) Appreciate you stopping by ;-)

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  12. Your deconstructed version is brilliant! I've just added tamales to my culinary bucket list...

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    1. Thanks Amy!!! I will at some point give tamales another try... but for now, smiling at such a fun attempt ;-)

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  13. I love tamales but have been put off making them because it looks like such a hassle - this is a brilliant idea!

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    1. Thank you Katy! And believe me, after round one, I was exhausted, but this version was so simple. Hope you enjoy!

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  14. Great save regarding the recipe for your post. It's a stunning looking dish, so it looks like you created an even more awesome dish. Will you try the tamales again soon? I would love to see them in a future post. Your photographs are so amazing!

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    1. Ahh, thanks Alaiyo!!! And I'm sure I will, but I'm going to try to find some local and amazing person that is an expert to maybe interview and create them with... now that would be cool! Thanks for stopping by, and loved your post this week, as always ;-)

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  15. Your deconstructed tamales dish is divine, Diane. Your photos are right out of a gourmet magazine. Hope you are submitting this to Foodgawker.

    P.s. Funny that your Spanish teacher was Japanese. It is true that Spanish/Mexican people are able to pronounce Japanese words correctly. Believe it has something to do with the similarity of the vowels.

    P.s. 2 Thank you for being a part of #SundaySupper. I always enjoy reading your posts and gawking at your gorgeous dishes and desserts!

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    1. Hi Kim! You are so sweet, and I've loved reading your posts these last few months too... and Hello Kitty Rice Krispies Treats, today? Love it.

      And interesting on how Spanish/Mexican people can pronounce Japanese words correctly... heck, this valley girl can barely speak English, and now with my Southern drawl... all bets are off ;-)

      You are so dear, thanks for stopping by!!!

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  16. Your deconstructed tamales look wonderful! What a perfect way to make them!!! I'm pinning these to make too. And just like my arepas, this is easy to do for the vegetarian and omnivore at my table!

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    1. Thanks for pinning! And yes, I'm totally trying your arepas too... they looked and sounded outstanding!!!

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  17. Gorgeous! Time to put pork butt on my grocery list!

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    1. Thank you Liz!!! I hadn't made a pork butt in forever, and loving all the leftovers. ;-)

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  18. I never made tamales, and I don´t think I ever ate one either. And if I did it was such a long time ago I don´t remember. But I know they´re wonderful. And deconstructed sounds so much easier! That egg look so perfect btw! Funny, a japanese teaching spanish... made me laugh out loud.

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    1. Thanks Paula!! I hope you give it a try, it's so delicious!! And too funny on Mr. Ochi, he was so awesome, and yes... still cracks me up too ;-)

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  19. Love your deconstructed tamales. And I bet that egg on top adds a great dimension...you get creamy and spicy together. Looks great!

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    1. Thanks Martin! YES... what a perfect way to describe the addition of the egg!!! ;-)

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  20. Hi Diana!
    wow, I LOVE this!!! What an inventive idea! Initially, I thought those were waffles . . which might not be a bad idea? Anyway, yes, love slow cooked pork. . yummm!!! this is just fabulous!!

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    1. Hi Alice! Thank you so much... and interesting on the waffles- yum!!! Hope you give these a try, I think you'll love them ;-)

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  21. What a great idea! I can't get the husks to use for tamales so I have always done without, as much I'd like to try to make them. You have the perfect solution. Your tamales look beautiful and I am sure they were delicious! I especially love that you topped them with a perfectly cooked egg.

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    1. Thanks Stacy! I'm lucky as I can get the husks right at my local Food Lion. But not sure I'd ever go that route again, as this was so much easier, and delicious!!! ;-) Hope you enjoy it!

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  22. Love your take on Tamales which are on my bucket list since a long time :) These look so flavorful and gorgeous with the Egg on top!! Yummmm...

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    1. Thank you so much Soni! These were super good, but hope you give the traditional version a try so you can mark it off your list! ;-)

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Thank you for taking the time to comment! It makes me smile :-)