Friday, December 31, 2010

Goldrush Cafe

I may be a little biased considering my family owns the place, but I can still swear up and down that the Goldrush Cafe has some of the best hangover cures in town. And with all the partying you'll be doing tonight, you're gonna need one. We beat the crowd this morning to feast on three of my favorites:

The John Wayne: this dish has been touted as THE hangover cure for, well, since before I was old enough to know what a hangover was. Its a delicious pile of breakfast: a warm flour tortilla is topped with crispy golden hashbrowns, then 2 fried eggs, the house salsa roja and a sprinkling of cheese. And its served with sausage, bacon, veggie sausage, or for those of us who want to go whole hog, chorizo. Order a cup of black coffee just like the Duke would, and give that hangover a kick in the arse.

Viva Goldrush: The Viva Goldrush never receives quite the same amount of attention as the infamous John Wayne, but its a great hangover cure just as well. Its the classic steak and eggs, served a la Goldrush (topped with the house salsa), with beans and flour tortillas. Forget about the pancakes or heart healthy bowl of oats, you need steak. With beans. And eggs. For breakfast. Its the right thing to do.

Huevos Rancheros: If I could have beans, chorizo, and flour tortillas every day for breakfast I would. Half the time I forget about the eggs, although they are cooked any style and topped with green salsa (delicious), I just love to make little chorizo tacos and sip coffee to my heart's content. No hangover required.

Have a safe and happy New Year's everyone! Stop by the Goldrush once you roll out of bed tomorrow, you'll be thankful you did.

Goldrush Cafe
1913 Skillman
Dallas, TX

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black Eyed Peas & Southern Skillet Cornbread

I almost decided to make Texas Caviar this year, but put it off. Somehow cold, slightly tangy peas don't sound as appealing as a warm bowl of black eyed peas swimming with salt pork and jalapenos. So there's that. And there's the fact that I've been dying to have some cornbread. Cornbread, as I'm sure you know, pairs wonderfully with soupy black eyed peas.

Now I'll be honest, 75% of the time I use Jiffy. It comes in a nostalgic looking box, you add exactly 1 egg and about 1/3 c milk and, well, its ready in a Jiffy. Its delicious and exactly the flavor I remember from my childhood. And each little box of mix? Usually 39 cents at the grocery store- awesome. But every so often I get the hankerin' for good ole fashioned southern-style skillet cornbread made with bacon drippings (yum) and baked in a cast iron skillet for the perfect crunch along the bottom (double-yum). So this New Year's I thought I'd share my simple recipes for black eyed peas, for luck, and skillet cornbread, because you need this cornbread in your life.

Black Eyed Peas
(printable recipe)

1/2 lb. dried black eyed peas
6 oz. salt pork, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 large jalapeno, sliced
1/2 tsp. ham base
salt & pepper to taste

Sort through the peas, removing any debris. Pour water over them to cover by about 3 inches. Cover and boil 15 minutes. Drain the peas and set aside. In the same pot add the salt pork and a little oil. Fry on all sides until it gets a little color. Add the onion and jalapeno, continue cooking until the onion is translucent.
Add the black eyed peas and 5 cups of water or chicken stock. Simmer until tender, season to taste and serve with cornbread.

Southern Skillet Cornbread
(printable recipe)

1 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 c bacon grease

Place a greased cast iron skillet in the oven. Set to 400 degrees to preheat. Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, egg, and bacon grease. Add wet to dry mixture, mix well. Carefully remove the preheated skillet from the oven and pour in the batter. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before removing, it will come away from the pan easier. Cut with a sharp knife and run knife along the edge to loosen.

Pairs well with black eyed peas or ham & bean soup!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Texas Holy Sheet! Cake

Ah, Texas Sheet Cake. Perfectly moist, chocolate-y, rich, and sweet. Its the epitome of Texas hospitality and decadence. Texas Sheet Cake is quick to make, requiring only a good mixing bowl and a spoon, and will delight host and guest alike with its ease of preparation and amazing taste. And it will have everyone who tries it saying "Holy sheet, this is good!"

With New Year's upon us its great to have a cake like this at the ready for unexpected guests or casual get togethers. Read on for the recipe.

Texas Holy Sheet! Cake
(printable recipe)

for the cake:
2 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder*
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 sticks butter, melted and brought to room temp.
1/2 c buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c water
1/4 c black coffee

for the frosting:
6 tbsp. milk
1/4 c cocoa powder*
1 stick butter
3 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c chopped pecans

*just for sheets and giggles I substituted 1 tbsp. of Hershey's special dark cocoa powder for 1 tbsp. of regular. Use whatever you have on hand, but dark chocolate and I? We have a thing.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together. Add the sugar and mix well.
In a separate bowl beat the eggs until foamy. Add the melted butter, buttermilk, water, coffee, and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until smooth.
Pour the batter into a greased 10"x15" pan, spread evenly. The pan will be very full, place come foil underneath to catch any drips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

While the cake is baking make the frosting. Toast the pecans and set aside.
Combine the milk, cocoa powder, and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in half the pecans and pour over the warm cake. Gently spread the frosting to cover the entire cake. Sprinkle with remaining pecans.

I know this is hard to resist.
But you must be patient. Allow the cake to cool for at least 30 minutes. Go do the dishes, read a book, take a walk.

Just stop gazing across the room.

Ok enough already, finally slice a heapin' helping and dig in.

Here's my piece, you can have that smaller one on the plate.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

South Dallas Cafe

South Dallas Cafe has been on my radar for a few years since moving from East Dallas to Oak Cliff. I'd originally heard about it on the Willis Johnson show (Soul 73 radio) and soon made the trip down Hampton Rd. to 67 to give it a try.

In all my visits South Dallas Cafe is never one to disappoint. Straight up southern soul food is featured on the daily menu, everything from smothered pork chops (a personal favorite), meatloaf, and turkey wings, to oxtails, chitterlings, catfish and even enchiladas (which I have yet to try). There's also a delicious assortment of sides, greens are in abundance every day of the week, along with macaroni and cheese, yams, and okra gumbo.

And then there's the cornbread. Hot. Water. Cornbread.
Correct me if I'm wrong but they're the only place in Dallas that serves it. I don't even know what the other bread option is, I always always get the cornbread. You should too.

I feel like I'm doing the desserts an injustice, but I have yet to try them. They always beckon, but then I look down at my tray and see the several pounds of food in front of me and swear I'll try one next time. South Dallas Cafe claims the best peach cobbler in Dallas- I have no doubts to its greatness, judging by everything else I've had there.

Our most recent visit was for late lunch on Sunday. We arrived with the church crowd which was a fun group and even enjoyed a few Christmas carols sung by members of their choir. The line was long (did I mention its cafeteria style?) but well worth the wait. The service was, as always, fast and friendly. I devoured some bbq ribs, macaroni and cheese, greens, and okra and my husband got a special fried smothered pork chop with macaroni and cheese, greens, and mashed potatoes. A delicious lunch was had and suffice it to say, we didn't need to eat dinner that night... but we may have picked at our cold leftovers, they were that good.

South Dallas Cafe
7035 Marvin D. Love Freeway
Dallas, TX

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ham & Bean Soup

I hope you had ham for Christmas, and I hope you have a little left and saved the bone. You'll be so glad you did.

I love this soup, it is seriously comfort in a bowl. It's rich, creamy, and full of ham flavor. It makes an amazing Monday night supper when the temperature drops and there's nothing to do but curl up and keep warm.

This past Thanksgiving I begged my mom to make her out out of this world apricot ham. We devoured it and I took home the prize- I mean the ham bone, along with some leftover sliced ham and lots of other odds and ends. I think we had a few plates of leftovers before I decided the ham had to go. I couldn't tolerate another ham headache*, and froze the slices that were left along with the ham bone.

*does anyone else get these? Headaches from eating ham? My grandmother has them too apparently.

A few weeks later I was craving ham again and pulled out the bone and leftover meat and set it in the fridge to thaw. The next day I whipped up this fantastic soup, its one I look forward to each winter.

Ham & Bean Soup
(printable recipe)

1 leftover ham bone, about 2 1/2 lbs
leftover sliced ham, cubed
4 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 c cooked beans, I had a mix of cannellini, great northern, and butter beans
(1 19oz. can cannellini, 2 15oz. cans great northern, and 2 15oz. cans butter beans, drained)
1 29oz. can cream of celery soup
2 c milk
1 tsp. ham base*
pepper to taste

*I have not been able to find this in grocery stores, my uncle kindly ordered me a huge jar from the restaurant supplier they use, its wonderful! You may try Amazon for a similar product, but they do not have the brand I was given.

Take the ham bone and remove as much of the meat at possible, mine had a few cupfuls left clinging to the bone. Cube the ham and set aside, you will need about 4-5 cups.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil to a large stock pot on a medium heat. Add the ham bone and turn a few times to brown the remaining fat on the bone. Toss in the celery, onion, and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add 6 cups of water, cover with a lid and boil for 20 minutes to make a quick stock.

Add the cubed ham, beans, soup, milk, ham base, and pepper to taste. You will likely not need any salt. Simmer over medium low heat about 30 minutes. Remove the ham bone, serve with crusty bread, crackers, or skillet cornbread.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and best dishes in the New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I have no formal training in the culinary field, (or photography for that matter) and I don't speak Spanish fluently. So from time to time I come across something perplexing. It gets under my skin until I figure it out for myself and make sense of it. Take these cookies, for example.

I've always known these as Ojarascas, (although I also call them sand cookies) and you can find them at Hispanic markets and any panaderia by that name. My mom and I love them, and we'd often pick up a bag along with our pan dulce.

Recently there's been some talk of Mexican Wedding Cookies, which I have had once in my lifetime, and Polvorones which are common in panaderias. Now all three of these are pretty similar, they all have a shortbread kind of consistency and a very basic list of ingredients. My dilemma was trying to figure out what the subtle differences were, how is that wedding cookie like (or not like) my ojarasca? So I did some research, compared recipes, and translated some Spanish. Here's what I've come to conclude, please add your insights in the comments!

Mexican Wedding Cookies - made with butter and powdered sugar, ground nuts are often added to the dough, cookies are dusted with powdered sugar. Melt-away texture.

Polvorones - can be any variation of shortbread cookie. The name comes from the word Polvo, which translates to dust (describing the texture of these treats). I have always known Polvorones to come in different colors, yellow, pink, white, brown and resemble a large sugar cookie. They are also sometimes flavored- orange, chocolate, vanilla, almond.

Ojarascas - made with manteca (pork lard) and granulated sugar, cookies are dusted with cinnamon sugar. Crumbly texture.

Out of the three the Ojarascas are my favorite. I assume the manteca is what sets them apart- Ojarascas are not overly sweet and the cinnamon sugar gives them a delicious flavor. Ojarascas are a great treat anytime but I especially like to make them at Christmas- perfect with coffee or Mexican hot chocolate and they make a wonderful addition to any cookie tray.

(printable recipe)

6 c flour
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/8 c vegetable shortening
1 1/8 c manteca (lard)
1/2 c water

for cinnamon-sugar:
1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

Combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Whip the shortening and lard until fluffy. Slowly add the dry mixture. Once half has been added add the remaining in all at once with the water. Knead until the dough begins to come together. Roll out to 1/2" thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a small round cutter, place on parchment and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. The cookies will still look pale. Remove them from the pan immediately and roll in cinnamon sugar to coat the entire surface.

Makes 4 dozen, feel free to halve the recipe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mas Tamales

Hank and I have really gotten bitten by the tamale-making bug this year. We've spread and rolled over 300 (I lost count a while ago) and have been giving them away left and right and also hoarding some for our Christmas Eve party. I thought I'd share ideas and recipes for a few other variations besides the traditional pork.

Chicken Tamales - make these just like Pork Tamales. We cooked 2 whole chickens in the crockpot for about 4 hours, deboned, shredded and seasoned with a puree of ancho and pasilla chiles, garlic, onion, and jalapeños.

Sweet Tamales - I had to try a sweet variety this year. I mixed up a special sweet masa and filled each tamal with plain caramel candies. The candy oozed out a bit but they were still really tasty. Next time I may try a rum-raisin sort of filling. Here's the masa I used if you'd like to try these.

Sweet Masa
(printable recipe)

2 1/2 c masa preparada para tamales*
1/3 c manteca (lard)
1/2 c evaporated milk
1/8 c sugar

*this is a wet dough, usually found in the meat or refrigerated section at Hispanic markets

Whip the lard and gradually add the masa and milk. This may be done in a mixer or the traditional mix-by hand method. Add the sugar and mix well. Taste the masa for sweetness, adding more if necessary.

Spicy Black Bean Tamales - I think I like bean more than pork tamales. Especially if they're bean and cheese. I had a few handfuls of shredded cheddar in our fridge that needed using, and into the tamales it went. Lesson: Anytime you have cheese, add it.

Spicy Black Bean Filling
(printable recipe)

1 lb. dried black beans
1/2 onion, diced
2 jalapeños, minced
1 serrano, minced
1 tbsp comino
salt & pepper to taste

Sort through the beans and place them in a large stockpot. Cover with water (at least 2" over the beans), put the lid on and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes. Carefully drain the water, add fresh water to cover along with a dribble of oil. Cook until tender.
Meanwhile saute the onion, jalapeños, and serrano until cooked through. Spoon the cooked beans into the skillet with the sauteed onion and peppers, mash little by little until all of the beans are incorporated and smooth. Add a little of the cooking liquid if it seems dry. Season with comino, salt, and pepper. Fill tamales, adding cheese if desired.

Chorizo Tamales - I may be in love with these. How can you go wrong with chorizo? And I made use of all that excess grease by adding it to the masa- super tasty. Bonus for being resourceful! The only thing that could possibly be better? Chorizo and bean.

I apologize that these ideas aren't very precise, but tamale making isn't really easy to exact. There's such a large quantity of everything, you really just have to cook and season to taste. It is useful to have a basic masa recipe to expound upon though, just substitute different fat, broth (or water or milk) and spices. Then the filling can be just about anything!

Basic Masa para Tamales
(printable recipe)

5 lb. masa preparada para tamales*
1 1/2 c manteca (lard)
2 c broth
1 tbsp. paprika
3-4 tbsp. chili powder, (try ancho or cascabel)
2-4 tbsp. salt (to taste)

*this is a wet dough, usually found in the meat or refrigerated section at Hispanic markets

Whip the lard and gradually add the masa and 2 c of warm broth. This may be done in a mixer (my KitchenAid will just barely hold it all) or the traditional mix-by hand method. Add the spices and mix well. Taste the masa for seasoning, adding more if necessary.

A lot of our tamale making has been in the evening. By the time we get off of work and get everything ready to roll its already pretty late. Our most recent batch is pictured above, and the aftermath is below.

Beer helps with the cleanup. For serious.

Also, do you see all that leftover masa? It happens. Good news though, it freezes really well. And having it already prepared makes the next batch that much easier.

If you've missed my previous tamale related posts please see below for further info:

Hosting a Tamalada - a few tips and a list of everything you need to have a tamale making party
Pork Tamales - the basics of making tamales, a recipe for traditional pork tamales and visual guide for spreading, filling, and rolling tamales.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate & Champurrado

I never heard of Champurrado growing up, as far as I knew the only thing we had was just plain Mexican hot chocolate, sometimes spiced with a bit of cinnamon. And it was always always served on Christmas Eve, steaming hot from the stove with piles of sweet buñuelos.

Champurrado is basically Mexican hot chocolate that is thickened with masa, but it is still plenty thin enough to pour and sip. It's so satisfying and will fill you up in a jiffy- great for cold mornings when you need something soothing.

Even though I hadn't heard of Champurrado as a kid I know its something my family has made. Just this past weekend my mom and I were talking a little about Christmas traditions and hot chocolate came up. Mom told the story of how, after her grandmother's passing, her grandfather had wanted to make a big pot of hot chocolate. He added an egg in what I assume was an attempt to thicken the drink, but of course the egg scrambled in the hot liquid, and suffice it to say he never added an egg again!

After hearing that I figured our family's Champurrado recipe may have been lost with my great grandmother so I devised my own version of this popular drink, hopefully it comes close to what she would have made and served to the family. Read on for how to make both variations of this delicious Christmas drink.

Mexican Hot Chocolate
(printable recipe)

1 oz. mexican chocolate (Ibarra or Abuelita brand)
1 c whole milk
cinnamon stick

Bring the milk and cinnamon stick to a low simmer, add the chocolate and stir until melted.
Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and froth with a molinillo. (you can also shake individual portions in a jar with a tight fitting lid to froth the chocolate). Serve hot with an extra dash of cinnamon if you like.

(printable recipe)

1/4 c masa harina
2 c milk
scant 1/4 c dark brown sugar or an equal amount piloncillo
1 cinnamon stick
3.5 oz mexican chocolate (Ibarra or Abuelita brand)

Whisk the masa with 1 c water over low heat until blended. Turn the heat up to medium and continue whisking to remove any lumps. Add the milk, sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to come to a low simmer. Reduce the heat and continue to stir and simmer until the chocolate is thoroughly blended and the mixture is thick. Add milk to thin if necessary.
Remove the cinnamon stick and froth with a molinillo. (you can also shake individual portions in a jar with a tight fitting lid to froth the chocolate). Serve hot with an extra dash of cinnamon if you like.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cinnamon Rum Pecans

These pecans have become a recent Christmas-time must have in our family. My mom requests them each year and her and my dad have been known to hoard them, keeping their stash from my little brother and sister. It's no wonder, these Cinnamon Rum Pecans are wildly addictive, crisp and sweet with warm notes of cinnamon and spiced rum; the perfect seasonal treat. I think I ate 15- or fifty, while I snapped this photo. This year I plan on making a quadruple batch, plenty to munch on (I've been known to hoard them too!) and give to friends and family alike.

Cinnamon Rum Pecans
(printable recipe)

4 c pecan halves
1 egg white
1 tbsp. spiced rum (I like Sailor Jerry)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp.cinnamon

Beat the egg white until foamy. Add the rum and stir well. Toss the pecans and in the egg white mixture to ensure they are evenly coated.
Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the pecans and toss to coat. Spread the pecans on a lightly greased baking sheet in an even layer. Bake at 250 degrees for about an hour, check periodically and stir to make sure they don't stick or become scorched.

Looking for other gift worthy treat ideas? Here are a few that may make it into my holiday goodie bags:

Eggnog Fudge
Chewy Pecan Pralines
Peanut Brittle
Gingerbread Caramels
Bigger in Texas Pillow Cookies

Hopefully I'll have time to share a few more before the end of the week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ponche de Navidad

Here's a deliciously seasonal punch for your holiday celebrations, Ponche de Navidad.

Commonly made in Mexico at Christmas, Ponche de Navidad is a heavenly combination of aromatic fruits and spices spiked with brandy or rum. It's beautiful deep red hue gives it a dramatic, festive appearance. Its the perfect excuse to bust out the fancy punch bowl and dive right in to the spirit of the season.

Ponche de Navidad
(printable recipe)
adapted from Cocina de la Familia

1/2 lb. tamarind pods
2 cones piloncillo (or 2 c sugar)
2 ft. sugar cane, peeled and broken into strips
1/2 c raisins
2 cinnamon sticks
10 guavas, blossom end removed and cut in half
1 orange studded with 12 cloves
2 c tecojotes in syrup, drained*
1 c dried hibiscus flowers
1 pear, diced
1-2 apples sliced in rings
juice from 2 oranges
rum or brandy to taste

Remove the brittle shell and fibers from the tamarind pods. Cover with 2 cups boiling water and soak for 1-2 hours. Press the water and pulp through a sieve.

Cover the piloncillo with 4 quarts cups of water. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes. Add the tamarind water, sugarcane, raisins,cinnamon, guavas, clove studded orange, and 1 c of peeled de-seeded tecojotes. Simmer for 1 hour.

While this is simmering away boil 6 cups of water, add the hibiscus. Turn of the heat and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add to punch. Mix well and add the pear, sliced apple, orange juice and 1 c whole tecojotes. Continue to simmer until the fruit has softened.
Ladle the hot punch into cups with some of the fruit. Add brandy or rum to taste.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Keller's Hamburgers

I know, I know, we've been hitting the drive in's lately. I can't resist them, I love to eat in the car- makes me feel like I'm traveling or on vacation. And I allow myself to eat things I normally wouldn't: chili covered anything, fries, tots, milkshakes, soft serve cones. They're all just part of the experience.

Enter Keller's Drive In. I think my folks have been going here since before I was born. Keller's is an East Dallas staple, and has been around since the 50's. Conveniently located off of Northwest highway and Abrams you'll find this place hoppin' at lunch and dinnertime and full of hot rods on the weekends.

Hank and I stopped in Saturday for lunch, Keller's was busy but the service was fast and friendly. I chowed down on the chili cheese hotdog, which was great but needed mustard. I suppose I could have asked for it. Hank's burger was also really good. I stole a big bite- I forgot they have poppy seed buns, love those.

We caught a glimpse of a few bikes and this beauty as I was trying to snap a shot of the menu.

Speaking of Keller's menu it has all the drive in treats you might expect- hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, fries, tots, and corn dogs. The menu itself looks as old as the building with prices to match, well almost...I think we spent $10 and change. Overall a great stop for a quick lunch or a casual night out. And did I mention they serve beer? Bonus.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pork Tamales

I'll admit, these may seem like a lot of work; and if you're making tamales by yourself, then yes you have your work cut out for you. The best way to make tamales (and the most fun) is to have a Tamalada, invite your friends and family and have everyone take part in the process. Set up an assembly line and start cranking 'em out! You'll have dozens of tamales finished in no time and have fun in the process.

This year Hank and I tackled making the traditional pork tamales way in advance (they freeze extremely well) so it was just the two of us and a very messy kitchen. We may do some other varieties as it gets closer to Christmas.

I started prepping on Friday night by cooking the pork. I don't actually use the pig's head, I prefer to use the pork picnic (shoulder) instead. It fits neatly in my crockpot, yields an impressive amount of meat, and makes its own lard. The next morning I removed the perfectly cooked meat and let the remaining fat and bones simmer for several hours. Everything was refrigerated and waiting to be put together the next day. Sunday I prepared the masa using the lard and broth from the pork, then shredded and seasoned the meat, soaked the husks, and brought Hank in to help roll. Read on for the recipe and how to.

Pork Tamales
(printable recipe)

7 lb. pork picnic, skin on is preferable*
1 onion quartered
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
8 ancho chiles
corn husks
5 lb. bag masa preparada para tamales**
1 tbsp. paprika

*if skinless add 1 lb. grasa de puerco - cuts of pork fat
**this is a wet dough, usually found in the meat or refrigerated section at Hispanic markets

Begin by cooking the pork in a crockpot overnight. Place the pork (and grasa if needed) in the crockpot and cover with water. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and turn on low, cook for 8 hours. I do this right before bed and wake up to a house full of pork smell, flip on the ventihood if you're lucky enough to have one (I don't) or crack a window.

The next morning pick through and remove the meat. Refrigerate until ready to use. Keep the crockpot on low and let the remaining fat and bones cook another 4 hours. Strain and refrigerate. The lard will rise to the top and the rich broth will be left below.

When you're ready to finish the filling set a pot of water to boil. Put the ancho chiles in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over. Cover and allow to cool. Reserve the soaking liquid and remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Puree in a food processor with enough of the soaking water to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the finely shredded pork, season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Add a little liquid if it seems dry, I added 1/2 c of the chile soaking liquid and 1/2 c broth.

Soak the husks in water for 30 minutes, add a heavy pot on top to keep them submerged.

To make the masa skim the lard from the chilled broth and measure, you will need 1 1/2 c of lard (can substitute any extra needed with commercial lard). Whip the lard and gradually add the masa and 2 c of warm broth. This may be done in a mixer (my KitchenAid will just barely hold it all) or the traditional mix-by hand method. Add the salt and paprika and mix well. Taste the masa for seasoning, adding more if necessary.

Towel dry the husks and begin spreading, filling and rolling.

Thinly spread the masa with the backside of a spoon on the smooth side of the husk. You can either lay the husk flat on the table or hold it in your palm, whichever works for you.

Don't spread the masa too far, you'll need enough room to be able to fold the end over to close the tamal. I spread this one to about 5" x 4".

Add about 2 tablespoons of pork to the center, roll and fold the end over. If you like tie a spare strip of husk around each tamal to keep it closed. Tying becomes a bit tedious and its not really necessary, but do what you like. I stopped tying after this one.

Now, spread, fill, roll, and repeat. Like 100 times. No really.

Don't forget to roll one that's all masa. That's the trick one, hahaha. I like to put a little dab of meat on the end to really disguise it :)

Place the tamales (open end up) in your biggest steamer.
Cover and place the steamer on the largest burner at the highest heat setting. Steam for about 2 hours until the masa is firm and cooked through. Test for doneness by removing the largest tamal and unrolling slightly. It should be cooked through and easily separated from the husk.

Remove the tamales and eat immediately or freeze dozens or half dozens in foil. Serve with chili con carne, tomato sauce, or salsa. Makes 100 tamales.

Extra tips!
  • Have plenty of newspaper handy. Your masa spreading area will get messy and need fresh paper from time to time.
  • Protect your table. Hank refinishes furniture, and so I must tell you if you're setting up assembly on your wood table lay a plastic table cover over the top and then several sheets of newspaper. A shower curtain liner works too.
  • That steamer is going to get heavy. Place it in a sturdy chair at the end of the table as you assemble and fill it up. Also go ahead and fill it with water now, or be sure to leave a space where you can fill it once its on the stove.
  • My great-grandmother always used paprika in her masa for color, you could also reserve some of the ancho paste to add to the masa instead.
  • Another great-grandmother tip (via my mom): Gross as it sounds you must taste the raw masa. If its bland raw it'll be bland when its steamed.
  • Aim for consistency. Its a good idea to have only one person doling out the meat. Their responsibility is to make sure the meat to masa ratio is perfect, and to make sure there's enough meat filling to go around.
  • Get the whole family involved. As a kid for years I was tasked with drying the husks, then eventually allowed to spread masa. Masa spreading can be slow work so several people should be spreading while one person fills. Kids can get it on the fun by drying husks or tying up finished tamales.
  • If the husk is too big simply tear away the excess. If its too small put it together with another small husk to make it the right size. Just overlap them about 1/2" and use masa to help hold it together.
Share your tamale making tips in the comments!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hosting a Tamalada

Tamalada by Carmen Lomas Garza

When I was growing up every Christmas Eve we would gather at my great grandfather's house in the morning to make tamales. It was a lot of work and took the whole family's effort to get such a large quantity made. We would make dozens of tamales that would steam during the day and later be enjoyed at our Christmas Eve party that night.

Now that I'm older it's harder to get the family together to carry on this tradition; even so Hank and I make a big batch of tamales every year and this December is no exception. I plan on doing the traditional pork, and branching out a little with chicken/jalapeño, bean, and a sweet variety. Recipes and how to's will follow.

Thinking of hosting your own Tamalada this year? Here's everything you need for a fun (and productive!) tamale making party.

Basic tamale making supplies
large bowls for masa and fillings
spoons or other spreaders
large tamale steamer
newspaper (to spread out on your table)
corn husks
prepared masa
prepared fillings

It's great to have some good eats on hand while you're spreading and rolling tamales. Tamale making always makes me hungry, and since they take awhile to steam there's no instant gratification. Here are a few suggestions for a Tamalada menu:

Mexican Hot Chocolate, Coffee
Atole de Arroz
Pan dulce
Tortilla Soup
Beer, Micheladas

Hope this helps you plan a little, look out for recipes in the coming days!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pinto Bean Pie

I know, weird right? Strange though it may be this Pinto Bean Pie has been tempting me for months. I'd stumbled upon a few variations in different mother's association cookbooks, even one from Hank's hometown of Breckenridge, TX, and finally decided it was time to give it a try. The recipes I found seemed like they would be overly sweet and needed some adjustment, so I ran with my ideas and came up with this lightly sweetened pinto bean filling, baked it up and used the leftover egg whites to make a simple meringue for the top. I had planned to surprise my folks and have them guess what kind of pie this was, but Hank spilled the beans (ha!) before I had the chance.

Pinto Bean Pie
(printable recipe)

1 unbaked pie crust
2 c cooked pinto beans (if using canned beans drain well)
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c milk
2 tbsp. molasses (optional)*
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. vanilla
3 egg yolks

for the meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. sugar

*the molasses does impart a strong flavor. If you particularly like molasses by all means add it, if not leave it out.

Mash the pinto beans thoroughly with the melted butter. Add the sugar, milk, molasses and spices. Separate the eggs and lightly beat the yolks, add to the bean mixture. Mix well and pour into an unbaked pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. You may need to cover the crust to prevent it from burning.

While the pie is baking make the meringue. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until stiff peaks form. Once the filling has set spoon the meringue on top and brown in the oven.

In doing some research I found that the origins of this pie are a bit hazy. I had assumed it was dreamed up in Texas... where else would a pinto bean be so revered as to make it into a pie? Anyways, I like to think Pinto Bean Pie was a good solution in the old days, when winter reared it's ugly head and fruit was scarce, the dried pinto bean was plentiful. It certainly makes a delicious (and economical!) pie.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Buñuelos have always been a staple at our family Christmas Eve gathering. Among all the treats on the table they were always my favorite - perfectly crispy and dusted with cinnamon sugar. Delicious with a cup of coffee or Mexican hot chocolate.

There are two ways to make buñuelos, one is kind of cheating and the other is really the proper way to do it. Both are good although doing things the hard way does have an edge where taste is concerned.

The shortcut is to take pre-made flour tortillas and fry them in hot oil, they will puff slightly and turn golden brown. Immediately remove from the oil and dust with cinnamon sugar. These are good, really easy, and quick (also a great way to use up leftover tortillas). I like to use these "quick buñuelos" as a garnish for an easy ice cream sundae.

The other method involves making a sweetened tortilla dough from scratch, rolling them out, and frying in oil. These taste a lot fresher and have a much better texture and flavor. Try these for Christmas or anytime you need a tasty treat with your coffee.

(printable recipe)
adapted from La Paloma White Wings Brand

1 egg
1/3 c milk
2 c harina preparada*
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. butter, melted
oil for frying

for cinnamon sugar:
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Beat egg well and stir in milk. Gradually add the harina preparada and sugar. Add butter, turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (3-5 minutes). Divide the dough in half, then in half again, then make 3 balls of dough out of each piece, for a total of 12. Roll out to 6" in diameter. Brush off any excess flour (this will keep your oil as clean as possible). Fry in at least 1" of oil heated to 375 degrees until browned on both sides. Remove from the hot oil and drain on paper towels, dust immediately with cinnamon sugar.

*if you can't find harina preparada use 2c flour, 3/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt instead

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Queso Flameado

The first time we tried Queso Flameado was at Tejano Restaurant in Oak Cliff. It was also our first time there, Hank and I spied it on the menu and wondered how we had never had it before. Chorizo and gooey cheese served with fresh tortillas? Yes, please, and thank you.
But upon tasting it, it was just ok. Our cheese cooled off quickly and the chorizo was far too greasy, making for quite a mess. I knew it could be made better at home.

First adjustment- cast iron skillet. Cast iron has great heat retention, keeping your cheese nice and melt-y. (you could also use a hot plate) Next- the chorizo, buy the best quality store brand you can find, or make your own. And finally lets add some peppers, I like topping it with sauteed poblano, jalapeño, and onion for extra flavor. Queso flameado makes a great snack or simple dinner with a side of rice and beans.

Queso Flameado
(printable recipe)

12 oz. chorizo (or an equal amount of homemade)
1/4 c diced onion
1 poblano, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1-2 c grated asadero, queso quesadilla, or monterrey jack cheese

Cook the chorizo in a cast iron skillet until done. Remove the chorizo and set aside, remove any excess grease from the pan. Sautee the onion, garlic, poblano, and jalapeño in the leftover grease until softened and fragrant. Remove half of the pepper mixture and set aside.
Stir the chorizo in with the remaining pepper mixture. Top with shredded cheese and reserved peppers.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes until heated through and bubbling. Serve with fresh tortillas (or very sturdy chips).

If you need this to feed a crowd, or are just running low on ingredients spread a layer of refried beans on the bottom, it will absorb all the flavor and make the dish go even further.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Roy's Bakery

An assortment of delicious pan dulce from Roy's Bakery in Oak Cliff.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mexican Chocolate-Ancho Paletas

Even though Christmas is drawing closer and the weather is turning colder every day, I still crave ice cream. I know I should be baking cookies, pies, and gingerbread but instead I've been experimenting with other things.

This is the time of year that I indulge in Mexican hot chocolate, so I figured why not turn this treat into a different dessert? I decided to use Mexican chocolate and ancho chili powder for a new twist on the standard chocolate popsicle. These paletas are lightly spiced with cinnamon and dusted with extra chili powder for a supremely delicious treat that is full of seasonal flavor but still satisfies my need for ice cream.

Mexican Chocolate-Ancho Paletas
(printable recipe)

1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/2 c whole milk
5-6 oz. mexican chocolate, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. ancho chili powder

Bring the heavy cream and milk to a low simmer. Add the cinnamon stick and chocolate and stir until melted, about 5 minutes. Taste for sweetness. Depending on the variety of chocolate you use it may need a little sugar or none at all. I used Ibarra brand which was plenty sweet for my tastes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the ancho chili powder and mix well. Cool to room temperature and pour into molds. Cover the mold tightly with plastic wrap. Cut a small slit in the wrap over each popsicle and insert a cinnamon stick. Chill overnight in the freezer. Unmold by running under water briefly then gently sliding the paletas out. Dust each with ancho chili powder on both sides.