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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waste Not Want Not

I throw nothing away.  I know I can always find a use for anything and everything. At this very moment, my freezer is packed with shrimp shells, chicken backs, chicken necks, frozen parsely stems, fish stock, chicken stock, scratch made berbere sauce, squid, and on and on and on. Michael won't allow me the luxury of a big deep freezer because I would fill it to the gills. Point taken.  I'll get along just fine, thank you very much.  Good luck finding the ice cubes.  They might be under the frozen rendered duck fat.

I had a few bites of leftover short ribs from our dinner the other night. We could have enjoyed the fabulous braised short ribs, climbed onto our white horses with full stomachs, ridden off  into the sunset, called it a day, and thrown the short ribs away.  We could have, but didn't. Nope. No siree. There was just enough succulent rib meat to use for something.

 A few months ago, we had the most wonderful fresh tamales at La Azteca's Mexican Restaurant in downtown Louisville prior to one of our Broadway Series shows.  We fell in love the lightness and freshness of those tamales. We haven't had them since that day and I have longed for them.

Hmm. Tamales.

I took stock of the pantry and decided tamales would be the perfect vehicle to transport our leftover meat to another level.  I shaved the meat off the ribs, sliced it into strips, set it to aside,  and scraped the long braised jellied meat juice  from the bottom of the storage container.  Fat = flavor! To change the flavor profile of the meat for the tamales, I sauteed the sliced rib meat in olive oil, garlic, onion, celery, green pepper, cilantro, chile pepper, cumin, and achiote.  I simmered it on low to reduce,  concentrate,  and tighten up.

While the filling simmered away, I prepared the tamale dough by mixing 2 cups of masa flour, 3/4 cups combined vegetable shortening and bacon fat, 1 teaspoon salt, dried mexican oregano, garlic powder, and 2 cups of chicken stock.  To punch up the corn factor, I pureed 2 ears of late season starchy farmers market corn and added it to the masa dough.  After a short wine break, I kneaded the masa until it was the consistency of cookie dough, spread it over pre-soaked corn husks, topped the dough with  glistening rib meat , rolled the husks tightly, tied the ends with strips of husks, and placed them pointed up in a colander inside a covered steaming stock pot  to steam for 2 hours. 

I took leftover pinto beans from the refrigerator, mashed them into a sticky bean pulp and pan fried them in bacon fat before adding garlic, onion, and minced chorizo.  Once the insane re-fried beans concoction was hot and incorporated, I tossed it in the oven to keep warm.  Crazy.

Two leisurely hours later after several glasses of wine, it was time to plate for dinner.

I tossed thinly sliced lettuce with diced tomatoes and  avocados in fresh squeezed lime as a crisp side for a palate cleanser.  After spooning the re-fried chorizo beans onto our plates, I perched the hot tamales atop  the beans, slit open the tamales, and squished them like enormous fluffy baked potatoes.

Steam exploded from the tightly rolled tamales.. Heavenly aromatic steam.  While they were still blazing hot, I drizzled enchilada sauce into the cavities, dolloped Mexicana crema over the tops, and showered them with crumbly cojita cheese.  I let fresh cut cilantro fall where it may from my finger tips.

There was so much going on.  The deep rich meaty filling encased inside the pureed corn-infused steamed masa tamale dough was intense.  Very intense.  The airy highly seasoned masa managed to tame the intensity with subtle softness. Edible beef-filled corn masa  pillows. The enchilada sauce provided spiced wetness while the crumbly cojita cheese exploded like tangy mouth daggers. Think Pop Rocks.  Cheesy tangy Pop Rocks.  Oh. My.

Oh yeah, fresh cilantro added freshness and fresh sqeezed lime juice added brightness.

The chorizo flecked re-fried beans? Unbelievable.  The combination was relentless.

Were our tamales as good as Los Azteca's?  Probably not. But, it was home cooking....and pretty damn stellar.

Waste not want not.
I need a bigger freezer.

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