Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Tamales

I love making tamales but it has been several years since I've made them.  I used to go all out and make three different fillings, but I didn't have time this year and so I made my favorite filling of Potato, Cheese, Olives and Raisins.  Tamales are really easy to make but if you plan to make a lot of them or several types, you should start a day in advance making the fillings and sauces. The hardest part about making tamales is soaking and sorting through the corn husks.  The rolling is the easy part.  Also, tamales can be enjoyed anytime during the year, but I prefer making and eating them on Christmas Day.   

Think of the tamale as a vessel--kind of like a burrito or taco--you can fill it with whatever you like.  Some fillings that I've used before are leftover 3-bean chili, cheddar and roasted poblano mashed potatoes, or cheddar with caramelized cinnamon apples (yes tamales can be sweet as well as savory)


For my filling I used onion, garlic, fingerling potatoes, Spanish olives, raisins, Swiss chard, Daiya cheddar style cheese, and soy-chorizo crumbles (hubby wanted the chorizo), but it would of been just as delicious without it!  I made a quick enchilada sauce and made my own masa dough.  The dough was super simple to make--I used 1 lb of instant masa flour, 2 tbsp mild chili powder, 1-1/2 tbsp cumin powder, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 cup safflower oil, 4 cups vegetable stock and kosher salt to taste.  Place the flour in a large bowl and add the spices and mix well.  Next add the oil and mix to combine and then add the vegetable stock one cup at a time.  The filling should be easy to spread but sticky like peanut butter.  This recipe makes 24 tamales.


Now for the fun part--stuffing and rolling the corn husks.  But before you can do this you need to plan ahead and soak the corn husks in hot water for 2-3 hours, sort through them and drain in a colander.  I just fill up my kitchen sink with hot water and let them soak.  When sorting, I remove any that are torn or moldy and I try to use the same size husks.  Spread about 1/3-1/2 cup of masa dough on the widest end of the husk, leaving a 1/2" border at the top and about a 2" boarder on the other side.  Add about 1 heaping tbsp of filling, 1 tbsp of sauce and top with cheese.  Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the tamale like a cigar all the way to the end and then fold up the tapered bottom of the tamale to create a packet.  Place on a sheet tray and continue rolling until all the masa dough is used up.


Once you finish rolling all the tamales, fill a stock pot with about 3 inches of water and place a steamer basket in the bottom.  Stack your tamales standing upright in the steamer pot with the sealed bottom facing down.  Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and steam for about 2 hours until masa dough is done.  You'll need to add water to the steamer on a regular basis to keep it from scorching.  Also, check the tamales for doneness after about 1-1/2 hours by removing a tamale and letting it cool for a couple of minutes.

Now for the best part--eating the tamales!  I served mine with a chopped Mexican salad made with chopped romaine, shaved red cabbage, sliced radishes, minced jalapeno, diced avocado, diced tomato, minced cilantro and a chipotle vinaigrette...yummy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Roasted Wild Mushroom Chowder

Wow, it has been really cold here.  Yesterday it was in the mid 40's and raining.  When it's this cold I could eat soup everyday, especially a soup like chowder.  Wild mushroom chowder is one of my favorites--earthy, creamy and comforting, but I rarely ever make it because my husband is not a big fan of mushrooms.  It's a texture thing.  Oh well...he survived...the flavor of this chowder is incredible!  Next time I'll just rough chop the mushrooms and he will never know the difference!


1-1/2 lbs assorted mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, oyster, and chanterelle)
1 cup leeks, small diced (about 1 leek)
1 cup carrots, small diced
1 cup celery, small diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup pale dry sherry (divided)
2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Louisiana Hot Sauce or Tabasco
8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 
2 cups baby red potatoes, small diced
1-1/2 cups cashew cream (see recipe below)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped chives for garnish

  • Prep mushrooms for roastingCremini: wash, remove very bottom of stem and slice thinly; Shiitake: remove woody stem and slice thinly; Oyster: tear into thin strips; and Chanterelle: remove any dirt with a damp towel, remove the very bottom of the stem and tear into strips.  Note:  Chanterelle mushrooms are very expensive about $19 per pound!  You can use any combination of mushrooms you like, or just use cremini alone.  I just wouldn't use white button mushrooms because they lack in flavor.
  • I pan roasted the mushrooms in a large skillet with some olive oil and salt and pepper, but you can toss in olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 degrees for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
  • Heat a large dutch oven on medium heat, add a little olive oil, leeks and saute for about five minutes until leeks soften.
  • Add fresh thyme, garlic, carrots and celery and deglaze with 1/4 cup of dry sherry and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  • Next add vegetable stock, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes.  Then add roasted mushrooms and potatoes and cook for another 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender.
  • Temper the cashew cream into the soup (remove some soup and place into a bowl, stir in the desired amount of cashew cream and add the mixture back into the soup).  Add the remaining dry sherry and heat soup through.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with chopped chives.  
Cashew Cream:

1 cup cashews (soaked for about 4 hours if you have time)
Water to blend

  • Drain and rinse cashews and place in a blender.  Add enough water to cover cashews and blend on high until creamy.  You may need to strain the mixture if you are not using a high-powdered blender.