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?
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.
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.
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