Thursday, September 8, 2011

Color Swatch Thursday: Peppers

Happy belated, Labor Day!  Rather I should say, Happy BBQ Day then Four Day Work Week!  Does anyone really know what Labor Day is about anymore?

Every Labor Day for the past few years our family has joined with our neighbors in making a giant batch of delicious Green Corn Tamales.  Not exactly a rest from our labors now that I think about it.  I know, I know, you are going to ask for the recipe.  I'll try to tell you how in a minute.

Today, it's time for another of our regularly scheduled blog features!  Every Thursday, I'll be posting a color swatch palette from a photo that inspired me. 

Today's color swatch is inspired by:  Peppers

I took this photo at the mexican market Food City in Tucson, AZ last Monday while I was on the hunt for corn for tamales.  The colors of the peppers just screamed at me! 

Okay you want the Tamale Recipe.  I understand, who wouldn't? I wish I could help you, really I do.  But I'm more of the laborer than the master tamale maker.  Here, I'll give you a general idea of what happened on Monday.

The Gringo's Guide to Tamale Making
To make Green Corn Tamales, you basically follow these steps:
  1. Search all over southern Arizona for the right kind of corn. You want Mexican June Corn, a white field corn that is not sweet at all.  Regular old sweet corn just won't do.  This is {not surprisingly} the hardest part of the whole process.
  2. When you can't find that kind of corn you might finally settle on store bought masa.  Not the greatest option I'll say {'cuz you know I'm an expert}.  Better to buy the lime-soaked corn kernels than use 100% of the masa dough itself.  We tried that one year and they were yucky.
  3. You might finally settle on a combination of masa dough, lime-soaked corn kernels, and white corn from the grocery store that you suspect might be too sweet but ends up working out just fine.  It's a gamble, truly.  You want to end up with about 8 dozen ears worth of corn.  Or a boat-load, which ever comes first.
  4. The easier things to buy are Hatch or Anaheim Peppers {a few dozen), a bell pepper or two, shreeded cheese of some kind, lard {shudder... you can use shortening or corn oil instead}, and corn husks.
  5. Get everyone together and start cutting the corn off the cobs.  Get as much as you can off the cob without cutting off the cob itself... or your fingers for that matter.  Save those corn cobs for later, I'll try to remember to explain why.
  6. Grind up all the corn you managed to gather in a meat grinder {the Kitchenaid one rocks} into one or more ginormous bowls.  Throw in {some} green bell pepper while you are grinding.  Don't ask me how much, just until it looks right.  Oh, and throw in {some} salt after you grind it. Hahahaha! 
  7. Dang, I almost forgot about the lard/shortening/oil!  You would have been mad at me if you actually tried this.  Melt the lard or shortening in a pot on the stove.  Then mix it into the masa.  I really haven't a clue how much other than it was added until the masa was about the consistency of.... trying to think of what it was like... coming up blank... sorry.  Maybe a bit thicker than brownie batter?  It held it's shape but didn't stick to the spoon at all.  Like a thick cornbread batter.  Yeah, that's it. {After reading this, my neighbor Heather says you need an Arlo - her husband - to come over and say, "Yeah, that's about right."  He's the expert.}
  8. While you are doing all that, throw your peppers on the grill or under the broiler.  Turn them occasionally until they are blistered.  Let them cool a little.  Then peel off the skins and remove the tops and seeds.  Tear them into long strips of pepper.
  9. Oh, and while you are doing that soak your corn husks in a tub of water.  You can use the fresh ones off the corn if you managed to actually find the right corn.  You don't need to soak fresh husks.  Hey, do I sound like I know what I'm doing yet?
  10. Assemble all your ingredients and gather all your neighbors around a big table.  You should have big bowls of masa, pepper strips, shredded cheese, soaked or fresh corn husks, and several willing laborers {who are really just there to steal the cheese out of the bowl}.  Hey, that's me!
  11. Step 10??  Sure you are still reading? Okay, time for assembling.  Did you know an assembly line works well for assembling things?  Well it does. 
  12. One person plops a big spoonful of masa in the middle of a corn husk.  How much?  Why are you asking {me}?  I'm just here for the cheese.
  13. Then another person throws on some pepper strips.
  14. Pass it to the cheese person...  no comment... they throw some cheese on top.  I was informed that the pepper and the cheese person could be the same person, but don't believe them.
  15. Now it's time for the folding.  I stink at this part.  Basically, you wrap the masa in the corn husk like a cozy robe.  Squish the filling up towards the top and fold the bottom up.  That's what they tell me, anyway.
  16. Remember I said to save the corn cobs?  I remembered why!  Throw a single layer of them inside a ginormous pot {a canning pot works good for this}. Line the pot with aluminum foil.  The corn cobs are to keep the tamales from coming into contact with the bottom of the pot during cooking.  You could throw some canning rings or a wire rack down there if you didn't end up with corn cobs.
  17. Lay the tamales inside the pot with their folded ends down.  You can squish about 50 tamales in a big canning pot.  You might need two pots if you are doing a big batch.  It helps if you can tip the pot on it's side and prop it up with a rolled up towel while you are filling it up.
  18. Before you pop your pots onto the stove, pour a few of cups of water into the bottom of the pot.  Don't pour the water directly on the tamales, but pull the foil up on a side and pour it behind the foil.  How much water exactly?  I can't believe you are still reading, let along asking me questions about this.
  19. Okay, you've got your tamales in the pot with some water in it.  Now you can put it on the stove and bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Put the lid on the pot.  You want the tamales to steam cook for about two or maybe even three hours.  Keep checking everyone once in a while to make sure there is still water in the pot.  Dry pot + hot stove + tamales = bad juju.
  20. After a couple of hours the tamales should have set up.  You can test by taking one out of the middle.  Let it cool until you can handle it.  Open it up and taste it.  It shouldn't be soft or juicy at all.  And it shouldn't taste dough-y at all, either.  I'm an expert at the tasting part.
  21. Take the tamales out of the pot {BBQ tongs are good for not burning your fingers} and lay them on cookie sheets to cool.
  22. Store them in the fridge or freezer in zipper bags.
  23. To reheat, lay 4-6 tamales on a microwave plate and cover with wet paper towels.  Microwave until hot in the middle.  I have no idea if that's an officially approved tamale heating method, but it works for me.
Oh, are you still here?  Here's what they looked like.  Nom-time!

Time to get crafty, people!


Caroline said...

Hysterical read! no idea what you are describing, never even heard of tamales in Australia.... but I did enjoy your recipe a lot! Enjoy the fruits of your labours LOL cheers, caz

TonyaKaye said...

Yummmmm...I'll be over for dinner ..'nuff said!

Lisa said...

What a riot! I'd love to watch you in action sometime. Thanks for writing it up.

bbubbles said...

I'm a cheese girl too :-) good thing you don't warn us about when you usually do this, or we would all be down (and fighting for your cheese spot in the assembly line!

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