I had to try tamales, it would be pretty bad if I didn’t right? If you haven’t heard of tamales they are essentially a ground corn batter and filled with meats, herbs, and vegetables wrapped traditionally in corn husks. The word tamale comes from the Náhuatl word tamilli meaning wrapped. This meal is another dish with ancient roots that was believed first be made by the Aztecs. Originally they were cooked over the hot coals, but when the Spanish conquistadors came to Mexico they brought pots and other cook wear which lead to steaming the tamales. Tamales were sometimes prepared for religious ceremonies and offered to the gods. To recreate this iconic dish I used a modern approach- the crock pot (found here).
If you have come this far and are interested in making these just be warned it takes FOREVER. Even with a slow cooker recipe there is a lot of prep work that was spread out over two days. I started with the corn husks then while those were boiling I started on the filling. I chose the ground beef, carrots, and potato filling. For anyone who has made these before you can see the struggle can’t you?
Once I got them wrapped and felt satisfied with my work I broke out the tin foil and made a “rack” for my tamales to sit on.
I stood the tamales upright with another layer of foil beneath to protect them from getting wet. The kinda look legit right? 🙃
So there is a reason why I didn’t have pictures of the tamales in their final form unwrapped and exposed- they were pretty ugly. Ian decided to jazz it up the plate with lime wedges and a dish of salsa. Unfortunately these finishing touches did not save the tamales.
Cooper who stayed with us for the weekend didn’t even think they were appetizing.. I don’t know where I went wrong but the texture was rubbery, the flavor was mild, and it did not stay together in one piece. I have never had a true tamale before so I was not sure to what to compare it to, but my fiancé has had the real deal on the border of Mexico and this was NOT it. We rated it 5/10 😔
At least you can enjoy a picture of Cooper being a good boy.
Mexico is home to the most diverse corn in the world with a total of 64 varieties found throughout the country. This crop was first domesticated in Honduras (6600 BCE – 3500 BCE) and eventually made its way up to Mexico where it was used greatly by the indigenous people. Today we will be honoring that staple by making elotes or as most know it Mexican street corn! Elote was born in Mexico City and quickly spread throughout the Americas. It became popular because it was portable and tasty! Restaurants sometimes will serve this up as a side dish, but tonight it is the dish! Recipes can vary and include an array of toppings but I decided to go the classic route.
First you start by cooking the corn. Traditionally you would grill them, but I chose to boil them. While the corn is preparing combine the remaining ingredients to make your sauce. If you are unfamiliar with cotija cheese it reminds me of feta with a similar texture.
Once your corn is cooked just slather the sauce on evenly and garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Be warned a little sauce goes a long ways! If you want a kick you can add a little chili powder (not pictured).
Ian was a bit overwhelmed by the sauce and found it tasty but very heavy, I on the other hand thought it was heavenly. I think if you are able to grill the corn it would have elevated the dish. We made up some chicken to go with the meal but it honestly is so filling it could have been eaten alone. We rated it 7/10!
Happy New Year! May this year bring you tasty food and flavorful experiences!
Our 93rd country brings us to MEXICO!! Ian is super excited because Mexican food is his favorite cuisine and he is hoping I can dish up something new and amazing (no pressure..)
Mexico is part of North America making up the southern portion and land bridge to Central America. It borders three bodies of water; The Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. Mexico is home to 68 indigenous languages apart from Spanish. This country is also home to several volcanos making up 75% of the world’s and is located along the Ring of Fire. Another unique natural feature of Mexico is its vast underwater cave system which is the largest in the world! Mayan tradition says that these underwater pathways serve as the entrance to the underworld. Dead of the Dead or Día de los Muertos is a holiday that originated back in Aztec times where they used actual skulls to honor their past loved ones.
Mexican cuisine is well loved around the world (and in this household) and was named by UNESCO part of the Immaterial World Cultural Heritage. Spanish and indigenous influence blend together in today’s Mexican cuisine. The dish I started our Mexican journey on is carnitas! Carnitas translates to “little meats” and is a simmered/braised pork in fat (traditionally lard) that is then shredded once cooked fully. Carnitas is thought to have originated in Michoacán, Mexico however the topic is still disputed today. The flavors and other elements of true Mexican carnitas differs on where you go. Authentic Michoacán carnitas use bay leaves, thyme, and marjoram to flavor the meat. The cut of meat typically used is pork butt or shoulder. I used this recipe which uses different flavor ingredients.
Man oh man was I excited to get going on this one, but once I got the meat out of the package I quickly noticed the nightmare I was going to face. The pork shoulder (with bone) took a good 45 minutes to remove all of the meat. This hefty cut of meat was awkward to maneuver and required a lot of elbow grease to cut through. Maybe I did something very wrong here, but I will definitely not underestimate a big cut of meat again.
The rest of the cooking and prepping was simple, just time consuming with a healthy amount of cursing. Poor Ian didn’t know what to do. 😅 It didn’t help that we were serving this to guests as well so you know extra stress.. I used butter instead of lard to cook the pork (partially because I didn’t know where to get lard).
Luckily all the hard work paid off and everyone enjoyed the meal. The pork was juicy and sweet from the butter with cinnamon and orange notes. The saltiness of the cotija cheese balanced the sweetness well. I made sure to have a good line up of toppings which all worked out well together. I had extra homemade salsa on hand which is important for any Mexican meal. Fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice is a must! We rated the dish 7.75/10.