Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oxtail tamales with red chile sauce, lavender rose gelato

Oxtail was on sale the other day and I picked up about 2.5 pounds of really meaty pieces. I roasted them and a couple of carrots for an hour at 400 degrees, then put them into a pot and covered them with water. They simmered overnight and most of the rest day, because I was busy. Saved the broth and picked all of the meat, got about four cups as well as three quarts of broth. Put all away for tamale day.

I'd already made red chile sauce, recipe from Rick Bayless. No tomatoes, just dried red chiles, onion, and garlic with chicken broth. I needed almost two cups for this meal. Perfect, that's what was in the jar. (I think I'm going to make a really big batch of that and can it.)

Put the broth on to reduce by about a third with about 2 T salt, three sprigs thyme, and 2 t cumin. The meat goes into a heavy skillet with some heated olive oil. Fried the meat until it was starting to get crispy. Added about a half-cup of minced onion, 2 t of Goya adobo seasoning., 2 t cumin, 1 t ground guajillo chile, and about 6 T of the red chile sauce. Stirred and cooked that until it was fragrant, then adjusted seasoning. Ladled in about a cup of the broth, 1 T roasted peeled and minced jalapeno and 1/4 C roasted peeled minced poblano chile. Cooked until dry, set aside.

I buy paper "husks" made especially for wrapping tamales, and put 30 of them into hot water to soak for about ten minutes while making the masa.

For the masa, beat 2/3C lard in a stand mixer until fluffy. While it beats combine 2 C maseca for tamales, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t salt, and 2 C of the broth, which by now had reduced and cooled to lukewarm. Put this mixture in with the lard and beat it on medium speed until it is light. It should be about the consistency of cake frosting.

Prepare a steamer with about an inch of water in the bottom. A pasta pentola works well as long as the inner basket does not sit on the bottom of the pot. Bring the water to a simmer but don't put the basket in until you have filled it with tamales.


The husk is roughly triangle shaped. Put it on the counter in front of you with the point at the top. Using a teaspoon, put about 1/4 cup of the masa in the lower left corner of the husk, spreading it into a rectagle that runs about halfway up the left side of the husk and about halfway across the bottom. Spread it with the back of the teaspoon; if you start trying to spread it with your fingers you will not have much success. Spread lightly, getting a 1/8-1/4" layer. Don't worry if it isn't perfectly even or smooth -- it will swell during cooking and hide many "imperfections." Use about 1-1/2 T of the meat and arrange it in an even stripe top to bottom, with the right side at about the midpoint of the masa. It can go all the way to the top and bottom of the rectangle. Carefullylift the left side of the husk and fold it over to meet the other edge of the masa. Continue to roll the husk to the right, then lift the roll up gently and fold the "point" down against the loose end. Place the tamale in the steamer basket with the fold down. Yes, you leave the top open. This recipe makes 24-30 tamales. Once they are all standing in the basket, put the basket in the pot and cover it gently with a cloth. Cover the pan and bring the water up to a simmer. Steam the tamales for one hour, checking occasionally to see that the water level is okay and adding boiling water if needed.

The tamales are done when they pull away cleanly from the husk. These tamales are pretty delicate; they can in fact be kind of a lacy covering over the meat rather than a "masa bomb." If you want a sturdier tamale, you can make the masa layer thicker.

While the tamales cook, reheat your sauce. Serve the tamales over and under the warm sauce. This recipe makes a pretty mild tamale, as I like to be able to taste all of the components rather than battling heat. You can add more hot red or green chile to the meat filling, to the sauce, or even hot chile or chile sauce into the masa mixture.

Oh yes, the dessert. I got fresh lavender in the CSA basket this week (yea the farm season has started!) and a friend made the brilliant suggestion that I make ice cream. I still have lavender honey and Moroccan roses I got when we were in Nice and decided all of those things belonged together. I put 3-1/2 C whole milk, 1/4 C heavy cream, a pinch of salt, a 1/4 C each lavender honey and light corn syrup into a saucepan and brought it just to a simmer. Took it off of the heat and added 2 T fresh lavender flowers and three roses (crumbled). Use less of the lavender if you have dried, of course. Put a lid on the pot and set it aside for 30 minutes, then strained it into a container and chilled it for eight hours. Freeze according to your machine instructions. I was surprised how much I could taste the lavender honey, and pleased that the flavors were not overwhelming.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

NY strip "roast"

When I was at the store the other day I watched the butcher set out some massive NY strip loin steaks. They were about 2-1/2” thick. When I went closer to see if they were as good as they looked from a distance, I saw that not only did they look very good, they were on sale for $10.99/lb. Now that is a good price, especially for a well-marbled and trimmed NY. Even though that wasn’t in my meal plans for this week I picked one up – I never let a meal plan keep me from buying great ingredients :-) Since this piece of meat looked like a small roast, I decided to treat it that way. I’ve told you before how I like to brine chicken and pork before I cook it. Brining isn’t appropriate for beef – I can’t exactly tell you why, I really do need to go read up on that, but my instincts tell me that. And I trust my instincts when it comes to matters of culinary import. However, there is another way to seal in flavor with beef and that is by koshering it. All that really entails is coating it with kosher salt and letting it sit in a way that allows any juices that come out drain away. You end up with a nicely seasoned piece of meat. I don’t do it for religious reasons, but removing any blood from a cut of meat is good for flavor, too. I “drifted” some salt over the meat and set it on a rack in a quarter-sheet pan, then covered it loosely with plastic wrap. That went into the fridge for a few hours until I was ready to bring it to room temp before roasting. With a small piece of meat, you really need to have a hot oven so that there is an opportunity to get some browning before the meat is cooked. That meant 450 degrees, and I let it heat for another 15 minutes after it beeped ready. I rubbed the meat with a little olive oil and sprinkled it with ground green peppercorn. It went back on the rack/pan on its “side” so that it was taller than wide. The meat roasted for about 25 minutes, until the internal temp was about 122. Then I tented it with foil to let it rest and the internal temperature even out though the meat. I cut it in thin slices crosswise, so the pieces were about 2x2. Nicely medium-rare. We had a salad with a balsamic-Gorgonzola vinaigrette I whisked up, used a little Dijon mustard in it. Some aromatic popcorn rice and the rest of the whole braised mushrooms I talked about the other day. The juices were great drizzled over the meat. Tonight we are having pulled pork and salted cabbage. Sort of a Hawai’ian kalua pork and cabbage meal. I cooked the pork shoulder yesterday in a covered pot in the oven at 250 degrees for about six hours. Dave was kind enough to pick out all the fat and shred it for me. Of course, that was for him, too!