All righty, my darlings, that time of the month is upon us again. No not THAT time of the month, it’s the yummy time, when bloggers around the blogosphere try their hands at the monthly smackdown. And this time “sphere” is absolutely the correct word because Leah challenged us this month to, in fact, come up with something delicious in a spherical shape. Just when I thought she couldn’t get more off the wall than a corned beef and cabbage pizza, she did! Some huevos that lady has, for sure.
And speaking of huevos, that was one of the first things that crossed my mind when I started thinking about what I wanted to create for this month’s challenge. First I thought, naturally, of meatballs. Totally too pedestrian. Then I thought about Scotch eggs, but again, just too common. But after giving both items futher thought and adding in a dash of regional color AND considering an ingredient that I had been wanting to work with but was intimidated by, I had it! Herewith my entry for Battle Spherical Food: Grumpy Granny’s Inside-Out Tamales!
If you’re at all familiar with Mexican (and other Latino) cooking, you know tamales are delicious little packets of masa harina (corn flour) stuffed with meat (usually pork) and steamed in dried corn husks. The secret to a great tamale is the masa–too heavy or too much and it’s like eating brick mortar. As with all ethnic recipes, there are as many ways to make tamales and masa as there are people who eat them. I’ve been trying for years to get someone around here to show me how to make tamales to no avail. So, for this particular idea, I was on my own. As always, I first gathered my ingredients:
I was happy to find a rather smallish bag of masa, some masa seasoning in the Hispanic section, some good queso fresco (sort of a Mexican ricotta) and locally made chorizo sausage. My idea was to have spheres within spheres within spheres, so I grabbed some grape tomatoes and green olives as well. Then I grabbed my Rick Bayless cookbooks and started reading. Of course, he didn’t have anything similar to what I was going to do, but I got great hints on my masa. So, here goes for the recipe:
1 C instant masa harina
1 tsp masa seasoning
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 stick butter (traditional tamales call for lard, but I didn’t have any)
chicken stock (about a cup)
1/4 C queso fresco
Beat the butter in a bowl until fluffy. Mix the masa seasoning into the masa along with the queso fresco. Alternating by halves, add the masa and the stock until you get a dough that is about the consistency of sugar cookie dough:
Now comes the fun part. Take a small amount of masa, flatten it and then add the tomatoes and olives until you have a plate full of lovely stuffed spheres:
Because this was completely an experiment, I didn’t want to make too many which is why I only used a cup of masa. The above took all of it, so I was happy. Now, tamales are cooked by steaming and I knew I had to cook these before I went on to the next big step, so I whipped out my trusty silicone steamer and got them going:
I learned a couple things here: First, if I do this again, I’ll probably wrap each of these in a square of cheesecloth to keep them from touching and to keep the dough from cracking. However, after about 20-30 mins in the steamer, they were done:
About this time, a friend stopped over and she and G sampled a couple of the steamed masa balls and went about crazy over them. I have to say, the masa was done through and quite light and fluffy, something I was worried about. So, just these little bites alone would make some great and interesting hors d’oeuvres, if you just wanted to do that. But I wasn’t done, oh no.
After my little masa bites cooled enough, I then took my chorizo and proceeded to wrap that around the tamale dough. See? “Inside out”.
I like this chorizo as it wasn’t super spicy. After I got everything all formed, into the skillet they went for browning:
And then into the oven to finish:
That’s parchment paper they’re on. After taking them out to drain, I was really happy by the way the looked:
But, looks can be decieving, so on to the plating and tasting. I had some home made salsa that a friend had given me, and happened to have some sour cream and an avocado. A little more queso fresco and it all came together so well:
And, holy moly, people, were they good!! The sausage was perfect after draining, not greasy at all. The masa was still fluffy and tender inside, and the little treat in the middle made the whole dish:
I managed to save two of them to give to my daughter and she went crazy over them. The rest was gone in no time. They were damn good, let me tell you. Not overly greasy, not too filling and with the accompaniment of the salsa, avocado and sour cream, a great little mini-meal. I would NEVER have thought of this were it not for Leah’s challenge, so I want to give her a big slice of the credit here for getting me to think WAY outside the box on this challenge. It was tons o’ fun and delicious, too. Can’t beat that with a stick! Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the players come up with!