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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Much Needed Home Time, Georgia

Welcome blog friends!
I'm hailing y'all from the house, just to let you know the gypsy gourmet doesn't always cook on the road.. I noticed that there were so many pictures on my IPhone that weren't necessarily from the road that I have to give a little love to the home kitchen. I am well pleased to be home after 5 weeks of grueling work out on the road. Many changes have taken place, i.e. I'm no longer based out of Richmond, VA for dispatch, we're now based directly out of Atlanta. I have also just finished up a photo shoot and interview with CNN chronicling my journey as the gypsy gourmet, and my career in the trucking industry. It will also introduce you to the love of my life and the light of my world, Chris.

The weather is starting to get a little colder, and I am all about some comfort food. Here's a few pictures of some homemade pork carnitas that I made into tamales that turned out absolutely amazing. The recipes and instructions will follow. I just was missing the warm Arizona weather, it was super chilly when I got to the house, and I was ready for a challenge. I miss having all of the really great conveniences of my kitchen at home, when I'm on the road. Like running water, a dishwasher, and a lovely assistant, who just simply makes my world brighter with her happy chatter, goofy faces, winning smile, and energy.(Are all 16 year olds like this? I'm thinking I'm just lucky.) So without further embarrassment to her(ily brat), here's what we came up with.

Pork Carnitas
2 1/2 - 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cubed into 1 1/2" pieces
1/2 each yellow, red, and orange peppers, rough chop
1 lg sweet onion, rough chop
1 jalapeno sliced 1/4 in thick with seeds
3-4 lg whole garlic cloves
1 pkg Sazon Goya
1T. Cumin
1 1/2 t. Paprika (Spanish or Hungarian)
1 1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 T Tony Chachere seasoning
1-2 T. Mexican Oregano
1-2 t. dark red chili powder
8 oz prepared chicken stock (Swansons is okay, or Better Than Bouillon)
I prepped the vegetables as indicated above, tossed the meat and vegetables in the spices, put it all in a 13x9 glass baking dish, added the prepared chicken stock, and covered it in aluminum foil. I figured low and slow was best, so I popped it in a 300 degree oven for about an hour and a half. Remember, that all ovens are different. Mine is electric and pretty close to right on temperature, but ovens will vary. The end result you're looking for is tender, pull-apart pork that can be shredded. All the vegetables will just fall apart along with your meat and broth. The easiest way I've found to accomplish this is by leting the mixture cool some and using the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid mixer. You can do it with a large fork or your fingers too, but I'm at home and want to be done, thus my method.
If you're in a hurry, this meat mixture, some toasted corn or flour tortillas, and a little pico de gallo make a fast no muss dinner. I, however, was looking for the challenge of making something I'd only seen made once on television, Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Albuquerque, NM. Crazy that I've never attempted this before, after spending five years in Arizona, but true. I enlisted Annalysa, Chris's 16 yr old to help, as she had assembled them before with friends, and the following is what you'll need for the final product.
Masa mixture:
16-24 dried corn husks
2 c Maseca corn meal for tamales
2c lukewarm chicken stock
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1T Paprika
1 tomate con pollo bouillon cube dissolved in the chicken stock
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2/3 c. lard (lard is best, but if you prefer use vegetable shortening)
The first order of business is soaking the dried corn husks in warm water. We found that a half sink full of hot tap water worked well, as long as we weighted the cornhusks down with a dinner plate. You can let these soak for up to a few hours, but we didn't. We let them soak for a little over an hour plus as long as it took to shred the meat, and prepare the masa. They were plenty pliable, and we didn't have any issues with them cracking. Next to prepare the masa. In a regular bowl, combine the masa, baking powder, salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper, mixing well. Dissolve bouillon cube in warm chicken stock, and add to masa mix, working it in with your fingers to make a soft, moist dough. In your mixer, beat lard until light and fluffy, add masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture. Now you're ready to assemble.

The cornhusks are going to be triangular in shape, you want the pointed end toward you. With a large tablespoon from your flatware, take a generous scoop of the masa mix, plop it in the middle of the husk and use the back of your spoon to smear it evenly outward toward the flat end of the husk. Take a teaspoon from the same drawer, get a generous scoop of the meat mixture and plop it in the center of the husk. Fold the pointed end up to the middle, and roll from right to left or vice versa. until you come up with the tamale shape. (Who knew this was going to be such a pain to describe? I need a crayon sketch!) Repeat until all the tamales are assembled.

Now, I believe that the easiest way to cook these would be to have a full size 6" deep hotel pan with a 4" preforated insert. The idea is to steam them, so a big huge steamer basket in a stock pot, or whatever fancy gadget you have available to you will work. I had none of these fancy schmancy tools at hand, so found my deepest rectangular aluminum baking dish(13x9 about 4" deep) and rigged a cooling rack with handles into it with two 2" ramekin bowls on the bottom. I then stacked an even layer of tamales across for weight, and added water to the halfway point up the bottom of the baking dish. At this point, I added as many tamales as was reasonable(to the top) and covered this invention with aluminum foil. I had to rig two of these devices, because this recipe makes quite a few tamales. I put them in a 400 degree oven for about an hour and a half to two hours. The easiest way to detect if they're done is to pull one apart and check. The dough will be firm and solid to the touch. I served them with a corn salsa, guacamole, and doctored prepared refried beans with cheese.

I have to say this latest experiment was a huge success. It was a labor of love, but I got to spend quality time with my girl, saw looks of ecstasy on the faces of those I love the most eating them, and warmed up my belly and my soul. These are the reasons I do what I do. It's all about the love, folks. Until next time, eat well, laugh often, drive safe, and love like it's your last.

gypsy gourmet

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