Brad Nierenberg Gets a Lesson in Tamale Making

Brad Nierenberg Gets a Lesson in Tamale Making

What a treat! A dear friend from Honduras called and invited me to come over for the day to make Tamales with her and her mom who was visiting from Honduras. I jumped at the chance and man oh man am I happy I did!

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I think most people are familiar with Mexican Tamales. But according to my friend most Spanish-speaking countries have their own version of the savory treat. In Honduras they are typically prepared for Christmas. That’s probably because they really do take an entire day to make.

Rather than listing all the ingredients and then instructions, it will be easier for you to follow along if I break the steps up into sections. I apologize in advance for not listing specific measurements. My friend and her mom did not have a written recipe, nor did we measure anything. After generations of Tamale-making, it’s just one of those recipes they know by “feel” and “taste.”

Step One – Preparing the Pork
Start with a 3-5 pound piece of pork. We used a boneless tenderloin, but a bone-in piece is fine. Cut the meat into chunks about 2”x2”. Brown the pieces of pork in some chopped onion, crushed garlic, and oil.

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Puree 4 roma tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 green pepper, 4 cloves of garlic, adobo seasoning, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pour over meat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add a small can of tomato paste and continue to simmer until tender. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Sidenote: I was super surprised they used Worcestershire sauce in their cooking. My friends actually referred to it as sauce of the English. Ha, ha!

Step Two – Brown the Rice and Potatoes
Peel and cube 1-2 potatoes into 1” sized pieces or smaller. (Not too tiny or they will fall apart in the Tamale.) In a frying pan brown 1-1/2 cups rice and the potato cubes together in butter, oil, or a bit of each until the potatoes are softened.

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Step Three – Cook the Cornmeal
Pour a small bag (or half of a larger bag) of cornmeal into a large pot. In the blender, puree 4 roma tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 green pepper, 4 cloves garlic, adobo seasoning, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour it into the pot of cornmeal. Add all the juice from one jar Spanish olives and all the juice from one jar of capers. Add about 1 cup of water and 1 cup oil. Add 1-2 packets of achiote (also called annatto) powder for color. Mix by hand. Keep adding small amounts of water until it mixes more easily, but is not too soupy or runny. You may want to add another 1/2 to 1 cup of oil. This will keep it from lumping while cooking.

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Taste for seasoning and adjust. It should be flavorful and not too bland.

Cook on medium heat while constantly stirring until thickened and with a slight sheen.

Step Four – Cut the Banana Leaves
Unravel a package of banana leaves and rinse them well in clean water. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut each leaf into 6-8” sections. Tear pieces of aluminum foil into 8-9” sections. Stack the leaves and foil together so that each piece of banana leaf rests on a sheet of foil. Make sure the shiny side of the leaf is against the foil.

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Step Five – Line up the Filling
Pour into separate bowls a jar of olives, a jar of capers, a cup of green peas, and a cup of raisins. You’ll also need your pan of rice and potatoes as well as the pot of meat and the cornmeal mixture.

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Step Six – Assemble the Tamales
Lay one banana leaf segment on its foil in front of you. Spoon about 1/2 cup of cornmeal into the center of the leaf and flatten it slightly with a spoon (or fingers). Place a small chunk of pork and some of the sauce onto the cornmeal. Add a spoonful of the rice/potato mixture, 2 olives, a few raisins, and a few capers and peas. Starting from one corner, roll the Tamale into a tight cylinder. The foil should keep it closed.

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Sidenote: In Honduras they don’t use the layer of foil. There is another part of the banana plant used as string to tie the rolled banana leaves up into a tight little packet. I guess you could also use string, but the foil worked great.

Step Seven – Cook the Foil Packets
Tightly pack the foil packets vertically into the bottom of a large pot. Pour boiling water into the pot. It should come up to the top of the foil ends. Bring the pot up to a boil, lower heat and cook covered for about one hour. After an hour, open and test the inside of one Tamale for doneness. The rice should be cooked. Hopefully you will end up with so many Tamales, you’ll need to cook them up in 2-3 batches! That’s what we did.

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Step Eight – The Best Step – Eating Tamales!
You can either serve your hot Tamales right away, or save them for later. I reheated mine by placing several in a baking dish and baking at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes (or until hot). They are better the next day after all the flavors have had a chance to love on one another!

We made about 40 Tamales.

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My friend was right….making Tamales took us all day! But as a group activity it was a blast. We used the boiling time to eat lunch and we laughed and talked the entire time. I don’t speak a word of Spanish, but since cooking is an international language, her mom and I had no trouble communicating!

I hope you give Honduran Tamales a try. If you make a different version, feel free to share your recipe below!

Next on my bucket list is to meet up with a few friends from El Salvador and learn how to prepare pupusas!

All the best!
Brad

Chicken Kabobs for Father’s Day – Pass the Meat!

Chicken Kabobs for Father’s Day – Pass the Meat!

When I last blogged, it was to share pictures from a delightful Crepe Cake I prepared for a Mother’s Day gift. Yesterday, I invited a few father friends over to burn meat and relax over a few beers.

Kabobs are a great option when serving a group. A little meat goes a long way! And I was able to gather up a variety of veggies and grill them up for a colorful and delicious meal. Another things I really like about kabobs is that you don’t have to prepare a lot of side dishes because everything you need is on the skewer! All I added yesterday was watermelon and a side of baked beans. They guys were happy!

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Chicken Kabobs the Easy Way!

If you’ve read any of my past posts, you know I am hooked on Aldi’s for most of my shopping. It saves a ton of money and they carry a lot of neat things not found at most grocery stores. I think that’s because they originated in Europe, so the selection of some German food stuffs is pretty darned good.

To make a long story short, I purchased at Aldi’s two packages of marinated cilantro-lime boneless chicken breasts and cubed them up for the meat. Easy, right?!?!

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Veggies

I basically dug through my fridge to grab everything else added to the kabobs.

Sliced golden potatoes
Shallots
Baby rainbow bell peppers
1 orange bell pepper
Zucchini
Yellow summer squash

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Directions

Skewer the cubed meat and vegetables in any order. Lay onto a preheated grill and turn regularly until the chicken is cooked and the veggies have a nice char. Serve hot.

Happy belated Father’s Day mates! I hope you enjoyed your afternoon.

If you have any favorite kabob marinades or kabob recipes, send me the link below. I’d love to try them!

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Buon appetito!

Diet Detox – Cinnamon Rolls and Cupcakes

Diet Detox – Cinnamon Rolls and Cupcakes

I’ve had to dial back my love of home cooking for a couple of months. I need to take off about 10 pounds and so am avoiding time in the kitchen until mission accomplished. I’m trying to cook and eat healthy options, but so far am uninspired to share anything of note. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for some great looking and tasting dinners and hope to be back to my culinary roots soon!

But, as you can see by the title, I took a vacay from dieting yesterday to celebrate a friend’s birthday and thought I would share some pics and tips. After all, if you are going to fall of the dieter’s wagon, you may as well fall hard!

The morning started out with some cinnamon rolls. I confess I kind of cheated. They were a last minute idea and I used what I had in the freezer, frozen bread dough, which had been tucked away as forbidden food for the past few weeks.

I thawed two loaves overnight in the refrigerator, then got to work in the morning. No recipe is required. This is one of those “wing it” recipes!

Ingredients
2 loaves frozen bread dough
4 ish tablespoons softened butter
Cinnamon
Brown sugar

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Directions

Roll out softened bread dough into two rectangles. Spread with softened butter, leaving about 1/2-1/4″ border all around edges. Spring liberally with brown sugar and cinnamon while retaining the same clean border. Roll and seal the ends. Slice and place in a buttered baking dish.

Cover with a clean dish towel and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minute. Please in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until done. (I use the “touch with finger for doneness” test).

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Eat while warm. That’s it!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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There is no hidden secret to these delicious cupcakes. I just wanted to share a couple of photos. I used a boxed chocolate cake mix and Ina Garten’s peanut butter frosting. Her frosting recipe is one of my favorites. It is so creamy and delicious and always gets loads of  compliments.

All 24 cupcakes were eaten in a flash. Thank goodness, because today I am back on the bandwagon.

Bon appetito!

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

I’ve shared my method for making risotto in an earlier post. I love that risotto is a blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to add. All you need is time, patience, and arborio rice!

This time I decided to pair two of my favorite flavors, squash and pancetta. Butternut, acorn, delicata, or whatever variety you prefer will work just fine in risotto. I chose butternut this time.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
Nutmeg
1 package diced pancetta
Fresh sage, chopped
Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Directions

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Peel and cube squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg on a baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven until golden, or to desired doneness. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

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While squash is roasting, render out the diced pancetta on the stovetop until crispy. I tossed in a small handful of fresh chopped sage too. Drain off fat and save for later.

Pour stock into pan and warm it up.

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In a separate pan sauté diced shallot or onion in some olive oil and butter. Add rice and toast slightly.

Slowly add stock one ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing each ladle to absorb before adding the next.

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After the rice starts to puff up and look creamy, taste a few kernels for doneness. It should have a slight bite in the center. If it is still too raw, keep adding stock until it reaches desired doneness. Do not overcook it, unless of course you prefer mushy risotto!

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Once the rice is done, fold in the roasted squash, pancetta, a splash of heavy cream (this is optional), and a tablespoon of butter (also optional). Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

I briefly touched upon this cheery cheesecake recipe in an earlier post highlighting my favorite Thanksgiving desserts, but thought if was worthy of its own mention since I recently made one for a friend. This no-bake version is my aunt’s recipe and it is always devoured. Friends cannot believe how easy it is to make considering how delicious it is. It is perfect for dinner parties since you quite literally whip it up the night before.

No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake

Ingredients
24 graham cracker squares
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 T sugar

8 ounces softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 pint heavy cream (also called whipping cream)
1 can cherry pie filling, chilled

Directions

graham cracker crust
Graham cracker crust (Combine 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers, 1/3 cup melted butter, 3 T sugar and press into pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool.)

whipped cheesecake filling

Beat softened cream cheese until smooth.
Add sugar and vanilla and beat some more.
Slowly pour in heavy heavy cream and beat until the mixture is thick and fluffy.

no bake cheesecake

Pour/scrape into cooled pie crust.

Chill 24 hours.

Brad Nierenberg's Cheesecake

Top with canned cherries.

This is a regular request for birthdays and special occasions. I know you are thinking that it can’t possibly be that good if it is so simple to make…but it is!

Buon appetito!
Brad

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Fluff

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Fluff

Have you ever been pressed for time to throw together a dish to pass and panicked? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t think of anything to bring! I was worrying about a get together I was attending a couple of weeks ago, and this cake popped into my brain. I used my favorite fruit dip as a frosting rather than a dip. The outcome was delicious!

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Esmé, over at The Recipe Hunter, was gracious enough to include my cake recipe on her food blog. I hope you’ll visit her blog and give it a try!

 

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

I learned a few things about pasta when in Italy. First, the pasta is the star so don’t drown it. Second, never overcook it. Third, salt the water well. Fourth, finish it off in the pan with your toppings. Fifth, you can make a pasta dish out of just about anything. I even had penne tossed with fresh strawberries, olive oil, and parmesan cheese served to me once. For the record, it was delicious!

When faced with a crap load of fresh tomatoes, I’ve had to find multiple ways to use them up. One can only slice and eat so many tomato sandwiches! Since I love BLTs, I decided to try something similar as a pasta dish. Like I said, you can mix just about anything with pasta! Sorry there are no measurements. This is one of those thrown together deals!

Ingredients
Fresh tomatoes, sliced
Garlic cloves, sliced
Olive oil
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil, chiffonade cut
Pasta, I used cavatappi, but any shape would work. FYI: My favorite brand of pasta is DeCecco!
Bacon

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

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Layer sliced tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast to desired doneness. I roasted this batch for about an hour. The longer they roast, the sweeter they get.

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Cook bacon until crispy and drain well. Crumble.

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Prepare your pasta. Cut the fresh basil into thin slices (chiffonade).
Toss hot pasta, more olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted tomatoes, and bacon together. Serve warm with parmesan cheese. And of course, hot pasta is always delicious with warm home baked bread!

Buon appetito!