Tamales de puerco para Día de la Candelaria

It’s Día de la Candelaria and I have to confess: I’ve been so busy with non-bloggy things (you know…normal life, work, family obligations, Mr. H’s birthday, etc.) that I just haven’t had a chance to make my own tamales yet, let alone photograph and write up my recipe to share. But I promise I will soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a very special recipe from my friend Leslie that really touched me when I read it this morning. I immediately asked her if I could share it with all of you. Gracias, Leslie, for sharing this story and your abuela’s recipe, and for letting me borrow this photo to show everyone your beautiful tamales de puerco.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Limon

 

Head over to La Cocina de Leslie for her abuela’s recipe for tamales rojos con puerco; she’s provided an awesome step by step guide with photos to help you through the recipe—especially great if you’re making tamales for the first time ever. Bet you can’t guess her abuela’s secret ingredient!

  • What are your favorite kind of tamales?

Five steps for a successful tamalada

I adore tamales; they remind me of the holidays and various special occasions. When I smell them, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside that is hard to explain. No other food gives me the same exact feeling, actually.

There were tamales at my wedding shower in Mexico (called a despedida). There have always been tamales available for birthdays and Christmas and Día de La Candelaria. In fact, on Día de Los Reyes, I’ve had the luck to get the baby Jesus figurine in my piece of Rosca de Reyes several times in the past. As tradition goes, if you get the figurine, you’re responsible for bringing tamales for everyone on Día de La Candelaria. When José’s abuela passed away, everyone came back to the house after the prayer service to have tamales, like she would have wanted us to. They’re a staple and a symbol in Mexican cuisine.

So, it might surprise you to find out that I’ve never before hosted my own tamalada—a tamal-making party. Yes, it’s true. I’ve never hosted one, but I really want to in the coming year! My favorite savory tamales are usually tamales de pollo con salsa verde and when it comes to the sweet variety, un tamal de chocolate makes my mouth water and my heart skip a beat. I’ve made tamales on my own at home but never had a party and invited friends and family to help out and enjoy them with me afterward.

One reason a lot of people don’t make their own tamales at home is because it’s a bit labor intensive. There are several steps to successfully making them, and it’s time-consuming. To make it worthwhile, a tamalada is the perfect solution because everyone gathers together at one place and forms an assembly-line style workforce to get everything finished in less time. Then you can steam them in your tamalera. When they’re done, it’s party time! There’s nothing quite like a freshly-steamed tamal, whether it’s savory or sweet.

Here are the five basic steps for a successful tamalada, according to the advice I’ve received and what I’ve observed, and that I plan to follow when I host mine:

  • Ideally, as a hostess, you’ll have the masa ready in advance. I’m not suggesting you grind your corn from scratch and all that (unless you want to). But for a modern tamalada, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy pre-made masa at a tortillería or grocery store, or use Maseca instant masa without feeling guilty.
  • Every tamal needs a little grasa in the masa! If your tamal is lacking moisture, it might because you didn’t use any manteca. You don’t have to use a lot, but it helps with the consistency and flavor. The best tamales are the ones that have light and fluffy masa that isn’t dry.
  • Depending on which region your tamales come from, you’ll use either cornhusks or banana leaves to wrap them. Either way, they need to be pliable. Cornhusks need to be soaked in water well in advance so they won’t rip. Banana leaves can be heated and soaked, too.
  • You’re going to need a filling (or a few different fillings, depending on how many tamales you plan to made). You can use shredded meats stewed in salsa, vegetables such as rajas or even sweet fillings using fruit (my favorite is strawberry). Make sure your filling isn’t too wet when it comes time to spread it over the masa, or you’ll end up with weird, soggy tamales.
  • Learn how to wrap that tamal up! It’s really easy to learn how to properly fold the cornhusk. You can even find tons of advice on YouTube with how-to videos on the subject. I like to also use a small strip of cornhusk to tie a little bow around the middle to keep the flap closed for steaming. I find that closing it up completely gets the tamal uniformly steamed with no dry spots near the top.

Check out these recipes from Maseca for all kinds of different tamales.

  • Have you hosted a tamalada? Do you have any tips for me?

This is a sponsored post through a campaign with Maseca and Latina Bloggers Connect. Though I am being compensated for participating, all opinions, recipes and stories are my own.

Feliz Día de la Candelaria

Today marks the Catholic holiday of Día de la Candelaria, known as Candlemas in English.

In Mexico, whoever cuts the Rosca de Reyes on Día de Los Reyes and ends up with the baby Jesus figurine is responsible for bringing tamales for everyone on February 2. Several times I’ve gotten the figurine while celebrating Día de Los Reyes with our family in Mexico and always get teased that I’ll have to come back for a visit soon (with tamales in tow).

Today, we’re eating tamales de pollo con mole verde at our house to celebrate. I admit: I bought mine this year from my favorite tamalería, the Tamalli Space Charros. They’ve got a tamal truck and when they stopped near my house the other day, I just couldn’t resist and bought a few for the holiday.

It’s also common in Mexico to enjoy your tamales on Día de la Candelaria with an atole. You can check out my recipe for champurrado for a delicious chocolate atole.

We’re working on a great recipe for tamales in the test kitchen based on a recipe given to us by a friend who grew up along the Texas-Mexico border. Her mother owns a well-known restaurant and one of the cooks there was generous enough to share their recipe with us. We can’t wait to pass it on to you soon!

  • How does your family celebrate Día de la Candelaria? What are your favorite kind of tamales?

Mexique: Celebrating Mexican Cuisine with a French Twist

A few weeks ago I attended a dinner given by the Mexico Tourism Board and Chef Carlos Gaytan at his restaurant, Mexique, in honor of the recent UNESCO designation of Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Tourism Board over the last several weeks has hosted authentic Mexican dinners in a number of major North American cities to celebrate, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Miami, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, so I was thrilled to receive the invitation.

Did you know that French recipes and cooking techniques during the French occupation of Mexico in the 1860s became an important element in the evolution of modern Mexican gastronomy?

Gaytan’s concept behind Mexique is modern Mexican food with French influence. Hailing from Huitzuco, Guerrero, Gaytan’s love of food helped him rise from pantry cook to executive chef. He trained with French chef Dominique Tougne of Bistro 110 (Gold Coast) and has also spent time in the kitchens at Bistrot Margo (Old Town) and the Union League Club (Loop), all in Chicago. If you live in Chicago or are visiting, I highly recommend you visit Mexique for a meal.

One thing that left an impression on me at the dinner was when Carlos explained why he doesn’t serve mixed drinks in his restaurant: they take away from the palate and so instead, he serves wine and tequila. And God bless him for telling everyone in the dining room that tequila should be sipped. Someone at a table near me chimed in that “only heathens drink tequila shooters,” which caused an eruption of laughter at my table.

And I can’t end without showing you what we ate. It was a lovely four-course tasting meal with excellent wines and ended with tequila. I can’t wait to return to Mexique for another meal!

PRIMERO: Ceviche

Ahi tuna, avocado mousse, chipotle aioli, mango habanero galette… 

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Las Posadas Navideñas

Las posadas navideñas are the nine days of annual Christmas celebrations that culminate with a big celebration on Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, in Mexico. The nine days symbolize each of the months that Mary was pregnant, and that’s also why Christmas Eve is more celebrated in Mexico than Christmas Day like in many other countries.

The posadas often include traditional foods and drinks, especially things like tamales and ponche navideño. There are many different ways to make ponche, and each family does something different. Another holiday favorite of mine is rompope, an eggnog-like drink that comes from the famous nuns of Puebla,  located about two hours outside of Mexico City.

RELATED RECIPE: How to make ponche navideño

Watch this video to learn more about las posadas and how our family celebrates.

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