Tag Archives: Appetizers

Tamale Time

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tamales to steam

I make a big batch of tamales several times a year. Yesterday I made a batch of pork and green chile tamales. They are not at all difficult to make and they freeze really well. They are also easy to re-steam. Here is the recipe, but keep in mind the filling can be any number of things, from chiles and cheese to chicken, pork, crab, beef etc. Once you get the rolling technique down you will be able to make them with anything. I often triple this recipe. This recipe makes about 20 good sized tamales. You can make them smaller if you are using them as an appetizer.

filling and husks
You will need: 

Cornhusks or banana leaves for wrappers

String

4 cups of Masa para tamales (this can be found in the Hispanic aisle of most large grocery stores.

1 1/2 cups of home rendered lard (see here how to do it and why) or butter

4 cups of good stock (I used duck stock, but turkey chicken or veal stock works great)

2 tablespoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

A large pot fitted for steaming. You need a lot of water for this, so raise your steaming basket to allow for a lot of water. This has to boil for 40-60 minutes.

filling

Filling: 

2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
2 cups of well seasoned shredded pork shoulder (see my recipe here for making smoked braised pork shoulder Latin style).

1 onion finely chopped

6-8 roasted poblano chiles seeded, skinned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (or in a pinch you can use canned green chiles)

8 cloves of garlic finely minced

1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar

1 teaspoon of smoked salt (I make my own, but you can buy it here)

2 tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder

1/2 cup of stock

queso

2 cups of Queso para Quesedillas, para papusas or Jack cheese grated. Any good melting cheese is fine for this.

sauce

Sauce:

4 tablespoons of masa para tamales

4 tablespoons of house rendered lard or butter

1 cup of New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder

3 cups of good stock

Method

Cut lengths of string long enough to wrap the tamales. There are different ways of folding and wrapping the tamales, but this is my favorite way to do it. You can also tie just the ends or you can fold it so there is one side open and don’t even use strings. If you do this, you must place them upright in your steamer. Some people use parchment paper instead of corn husks or banana leaves.

Soak the corn husks in hot water, weight them down so they are immersed. Just before making the tamales, pour out the water. If you are using banana leaves they need to be heated to soften. I blanch them and place them on a wet towel.

In a stand mixer (or bowl with a beater) whip the cold lard for about 3 minutes on high speed till it is fluffy

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Fold that and the stock into the lard. Mix until a very moist (but not sticky) dough forms. Chill for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

masa

In a large skillet melt the lard and add onions. Stir and cook till the onions are translucent, add garlic in a hot spot and stir, then add the chiles and spices and finally deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to simmer till the stock is absorbed, then cool.

Set up a station on a table or counter top. You will need the masa, the cheese, the filling, the string and a platter to stack the finished tamales on.

tamale ready to fold

Start with about 1/2 cup of masa on a corn husk. Fold the sides of the husk where you will want the ends of the tamales to be and spread the masa with the folded husk. Do the same thing with the top and bottom of the husk so that the dough is spread out and you end up with a square of dough about 4″ X 4″. You will need to select the husks that are large enough to accommodate this size of tamale. You should have at least an inch of exposed husk on all sides. Place the filling in the center of the masa and lightly push down on it. Then take the bottom end of the husk and roll it forward to meet the end of the dough. Pull the dough forward making the two ends of dough meet. Then fold in the sides and roll the tamale. Place the string under the tamale and tie like a package. Repeat till you have used all of the dough or filling.

tamale folded

In a steam pot, place the tamales on a rack, cover and boil vigorously for 40-50 minutes. While you are steaming make the sauce.

Chile Sauce:

You can use New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder for this. I used red this time, but my next batch of corn, cheese and chile tamales I am making green sauce.

Make a roux of the masa and lard, stir till slightly brown. Add the chile powder and stir, then whisk in the stock. Allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Keep warm till ready to serve.

To serve, open the husks and remove the tamales to a plate. The masa should be soft and supple, yet firm enough to hold together. Spoon the sauce over and add additional cheese, crema and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

tamales steamed

tamales plated 2

 

 

 

 

New Years Fun Food: Collard Green Empanadas

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empanadas with sauce

I had a New Years Day dinner party and decided to have a Hispanic theme. I usually make my Chiles en Nogada for Christmas, but I was busy working on Christmas Eve and decided to postpone that tradition till New Years. I have done a lot of regional Mexican and South American cooking, spent a great deal of time in Latin America from a young age and went to cooking school in Mexico.  Since moving to the Low Country, I have been interested in the spin that my friend Sandra A. Gutierrez has put on some of the traditional Latino recipes and ingredients in her book The New Southern-Latino Table. I decided to incorporate a few of her recipes into my menu for New Years and the first one  was Collard Green Empanadas. In the south it is a tradition to eat two things on New Years, greens  which represent folded money and black eyed peas which represent good luck. Sandra had recipes using both ingredients, so I made them her way with a few twists of my own.

New Southern2

Here is the recipe for the empanadas. She suggested frying  store bought empanada dough or baking pastry dough. and I wanted to bake, so I used store bought pie pastry & baked them because of the time and mess crunch with all of the other parts of the meal I was doing. But you can make them with your favorite pastry dough too. I have filling leftover and plan on doing that next weekend.

Heat oven to 375

Ingredients: 

  • 2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped in a a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 bag of chopped frozen collard greens
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chopped bacon (I bake my bacon with Sweet Onion Sugar on it)
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cojita or fresco cheese (optional) these cheeses can be found at Hispanic markets or most grocery stores now days.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 egg whisked
  • Raw sugar for topping
  • 16 empanada disks or 1 package of Pillsbury pie dough.

Method:

Empanadas

  • In a large skillet heat the oil/drippings and cook the onions till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about 20 seconds, then add the drained collard greens. Saute for a few minutes and remove from the heat, cool for 20 minutes. Add cheeses and spices.
  • On a floured surface roll out the pie dough to an increase of about 25%. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter or glass. *you can make them bigger if you have a larger cutter, using more filling.
  • Put a teaspoon of filling on each disk and brush the egg wash around the edges. Close and seal, using a fork to crimp the edges. Use the remaining egg was on top of the empanadas. Sprinkle with the flavored sugar. Top with Habenero Sugar. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with salsa.

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Candied Bacon, Beyond Delicious

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bacon candy

File this one under DELICIOUS! This recipe could not be easier, especially if you have access to the flavored sugars mentioned. But you can also make your own by adding chile powder to raw sugar. The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston is part of a larger company with many franchise stores around the US. They also sell everything on their corporate website. I have provided links for the sugars in case you would like to order them. You can also play around with other flavors, but this is a terrific combination.

1 package of bacon, I used thick cut black pepper bacon

3 tablespoons of Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar

1 tablespoon of Spice and Tea Exchange Habanero Sugar

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  • Place the bacon strips close together on a broiler pan
  • Sprinkle the bacon with the sugars and fresh ground black pepper
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy

You may want to double this recipe… it is impossible to resist eating these.

All of the grease will go down to the bottom pan and after you pour that out clean up is easy.

 

Beer Braised Horseradish Meatballs

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Inspired by a post on my friend’s blog:He Cooks She Cooks about their meatballs, I developed this tweak using some twists of my own and some ingredients from the Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston, where I work. I have provided links for these ingredients but you can make substitutions for them if you need to. These meatballs are made with the traditional meatloaf mix of beef, veal and pork, but you can use just beef and pork if you cannot find veal, or you can substitute ground turkey for the veal. They are mixed with lots of aromatics and interesting flavors and then braised in beer and chicken stock which also has lemon and hot peppers floating about. The sauce is a rich sour cream based horseradish sauce. It is easy to put together and I had a large container of meatballs left for another use. I made mine about 1 1/2 inches in size so that I can use the leftovers for appetizers.

Beer Braised Horseradish Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 2 pounds of meatball mix using beef, pork and veal or just beef and pork
  • 1/3 cup extra strong horseradish
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup extra fine panko or bread crumbs
  • 1 cup finely diced onion (I used a purple onion)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried shallots reconstituted and strained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill weed
  • 4 Tablespoons Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Feta Cheese Powder
  • 1/4 cup Vic’s Garlic Fix (you can substitute minced garlic)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup of butter and 1/8 cup of olive oil for browning

Braising Liquid

  • 1 bottle of beer (I used a light amber)
  • 1 1/2 cups of good chicken stock
  • juice and peel of one lemon
  • 4 hot peppers (serrano)
  • one bay leaf

Sauce

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup braising liquid
  • 1/4 cup horseradish
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • lemon  pepper to taste
  • salt to taste

Method: 

  • In a large bowl, mix all of the meatball ingredients together till they are finely blended
  • Make into golf ball sized meatballs
  • Place on a tray on parchment paper and chill for one hour
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Make braising liquid and simmer in a Dutch oven
  • In a large skillet, melt butter and olive oil and brown the meatballs in batches. When they are all browned place in the hot braising liquid, cover and braise in the oven for 30 minutes

When the meatballs are finished, remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Make the sauce, in a frying pan and add the warmed meatballs. Serve over noodles or rice or put toothpicks on them and serve the sauce on the side.

 

Ham Haystack

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This is a delicious way to use leftover ham, or an excuse to buy a ham just for the leftovers. The recipe originates from Mareen Priviet, a South African friend of mine who presented this very tasty appetizer at a dinner party in Chicago many years ago. Because of the ingredients I suspect that it comes from the 1950’s. I have always loved the interesting taste, the surprise of crunch and the fact that almost everyone who tastes this loves it. This makes enough to serve to 20 people, so if you have leftovers you can stir it all together to make a deviled ham sort of sandwich spread. I added a few things to the basic recipe, but it is so very good just the way it is. The original recipe calls for Miracle Whip, something I have never been able to stomach, so I use good mayo with some Meyer lemon juice.  The most important flavor profile comes from Branston Pickle, a chutney like pickle from the UK. You can find it on the mainland in some stores that have a British food section. You can also order it online. The taste is extremely unique and I would not attempt this recipe until you have your hands on a jar of the REAL Branston Pickle. Branston Pickle is made from a variety of diced vegetables, including swede, carrots, onions, cauliflower and gherkins pickled in a sauce made from vinegar, tomato, apple and dates with spices such as mustard,coriander, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and cayenne pepper with sugar. Having said all of that, you really must get some Branston Pickle and go for it. Here is a recipe to make your own Branston Pickle, but it is not that difficult to find the original. The finished product resembles a haystack, hence the name. I promise you, EVERYONE loves this and will ask you for the recipe!

Ham Haystack

Ingredients: 

6  cups ham, in medium chunnks                        two 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese

1 1/3 cups mayonaise                                              3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (you can use other lemons, I just love Meyers)

2/3 cup sliced green onion                                    1/4 cup finely chopped mint

1 jar of Branston pickle relish                                1 cup blanched, slivered almonds

Method: 

  • Toast the slivered almonds on a silpat at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes watching closely, till golden brown.
  • Stir the lemon juice into the mayonnaise
  • Chop the ham in a food processor till it is finely chopped
  • Combine ham with 8oz. of the cream cheese, 2/3 cup of the mayonaise, 1/2 cup slivered almonds (chop before adding), onion, mint & pickle relish.  Mix well.  Chill.
  • Shape into a cone-shaped mound.
  • Combine remaining mayonaise & remaining cream cheese and mix well (i used a food processor)
  • Frost mound with this mixture.
  • Chill slightly.
  • Cover with toasted, slivered almonds.
  • Serve with crackers or party rye bread.

Remember if there are leftovers, you can stir it all together and make a ham salad sandwich with the rest!

You may even get to see a cute bunny if you make this at Easter

Spanakopita

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Spanakopita! Fun little hand pies filled with nutritious spinach and feta.

Ingredients

  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, I squeeze out the excess juice using a potato ricer.
  • 1 cup Greek or Bulgarian feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen phyllo pastry, thawed1/2 cup butter melted

Method

  1. Combine first 9 ingredients, stir well and allow to rest
  2. Unfold phyllo, and cut into 4″ strips width wise, cover with damp cloth towels to prevent drying out
  3. Using a pastry bush apply a thin coating of butter to a strip and repeat with 3 more strips. Add a dollop of the filling in one corner and fold over and over in triangle shape.
  4. Place on a Silpat sheet and brush with a tiny bit more butter
  5. Repeat this process until you run out of filling or phyllo.

Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

*note: These are best served fresh while the phyllo is still crispy. If you have leftovers, heat them in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes to crisp up before serving. These go great with my Greek Lemon, Egg and Rice Soup 

Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Golden Beets and Corn)

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Empanadas de Betabel 

I love roasted beets. When I was doing research for an Oaxacan Dinner Party I had on Saturday, I found saw a recipe in Susana Trilling’s great Oaxacan cookbook Seasons of My Heart.  Her recipe for Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Beets) stood out to me. The recipe also incorporated fresh corn which I had also planned to use for the party. Her method was to boil the beets  I roasted mine. In her recipe the empanadas were cooked on a camal. I did them on a camal for the dinner party, but last night I had some oil in a pan because I was making enchiladas, so I fried them and I think they actually came out better fried. On the night of the party I also paired them with home made Mole Verde, last night I just squiggled on a little crema and tossed on some cilantro. I used golden beets because that is what was available grown locally. I am sure red beets would change the color of the filling significantly. These can be made with or without cheese… but I really love cheese. I added a few things to her original inspiration and lessened the cooking time for the filling.

For the filling:

 1 pound of fresh beets (I used golden because that is what was locally available)

1 medium white onion, finely chopped (I like to use red onions, but white onions are used in Mexico most of the time)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons garlic finely minced

Corn cut from 3 fresh ears of corn, about 2 cups (In a pinch you could use frozen)

¼ cup fresh roasted green chiles diced (you could use canned, but fresh is so much better)

1 teaspoon smoked salt (sea salt is fine, I make smoked salt and love the flavor)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ cup fresh epazote leaves chopped (you can substitute cilantro or parsley if you cannot find fresh epazote, but the flavor will be different)

12 ounces quesillo shredded (if you cannot find quesillo, any good white melting cheese works, such as Jack, Gouda or Manchego)

For the masa:

3 cups masa harina

2 cups chicken stock

¼ teaspoon of salt

A pinch of chili powder

METHOD FOR THE FILLING:

Wrap the beets in heavy duty foil with a few garlic cloves and drizzle on some olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pull or cut off the skin. Then dice into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.

In an 8 inch frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the oil and butter till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the corn kernels & chiles and cook for another 3-5 minutes more.  Add the seasonings, beets, salt, pepper and epazote. Cook for a few minutes just to blend flavors. Put the filling in a bowl and cool slightly till you can put the mixture in your hands.

Have the shredded cheese available in a second bowl.

METHOD FOR THE MASA:

Pre-heat a comal or griddle over medium heat

Mix the stock and seasonings into the masa. You want a soft slightly wet dough, wetter than for tortillas. Knead for about 1 minute. Divide the dough into 10 balls, slightly larger than a golf ball. Using a tortilla press, put a piece of a plastic shopping bag on the bottom of the press and then place the ball of dough and top with a second piece of plastic. Press down wiggling the handle a bit to flatten the dough. Pick the circle (looks just like a tortilla at this point) up in your hand and while cradling it fill it with about 3 tablespoons of cheese, then 2 tablespoons of the beet and corn filling. Seal the edges with water and pinch all the way around.

To cook the empanadas; place on a hot comal and allow to brown on each side for about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately or keep warm in a warming oven. I served these with green mole and crema.


Alternative;  have about 1 inch of oil in a small frying pan at medium heat and fry the empanadas, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with a drizzle of crema and fresh chopped cilantro.