Beef Tamales

Beef Tamales

Cooking food inside plant leaves is a practice made in many cuisines. Grapes, banana, and corn leaves (or husks) make for a fascinating cooking technique and charming presentation. Watch a video of these Beef Tamales in the works.

There are many versions of tamales throughout Latin America, and they don’t need to be done with only corn—although corn tamales are the most popular tamal. They can be done with yucca, beans or other vegetables. In fact, in Brazil, one very famous tamal is the Abará, made from black-eyed peas (feijão fradinho in Portuguese), seasoned with dried shrimp, onions, ginger, and palm oil. In Brazil, we use the name Pamonha instead of tamales.

Oh, can we talk grammar for a second? One tamal. Two tamales.

Tamales can be filled with various fillings, from chicken, beef, turkey, or fish. Tamales can be an appetizer, side dish, or a full meal, depending on the recipe. I like to garnish tamales with sauce, queso blanco, cilantro, and avocados. What sauce? I save some of the cooking liquid from the braised beef and use that as the sauce for the recipe below. You can also make chimichurri or tomato salsa as alternative sauces. Use your imagination and feel free to garnish with sour cream, grated cheese, etc.

Many cultures prepare tamales with fresh corn, while in Mexico, it’s more common to use corn flour or masa harina, which can be easily found in grocery stores on the Latin Island.

Masa Harina
Masa Harina

 

Making these beef tamales is a labor-intensive project; you have to prepare the filling, the dough, assemble the tamales and then steam them. The advantage is, you can make them up to one week ahead of time or freeze them if they are well wrapped.

 

Steaming X Boiling

In Brazil, we boil the pamonhas or tamales. In Mexico, we steam. Personally, I find that no matter how well wrapped or tied up, when boiling them directly in water, it always finds a way to get in touch with the tamales. For that reason, I prefer steaming.

 

Fresh Husks X Dry

In Brazil, we use fresh corn husks. In Mexico and Latin markets all over the U.S, it’s easy to find dry husks. If you soak them for 10 minutes in hot water, they’re OK to use.

 

Encasing the Beef Tamales

Some cuisines call for multiple leaves, wrapping each tamal and tying them with a string. Others simply fold the husk tight enough that the dough will stay inside. It’s up to you how to wrap them. There is no right or wrong. At the end of the “assembling party,” if you run out of husks but still have dough and filling, you can always use aluminum foil for the last ones. True, they don’t have a charming presentation, but it can be done.

 

Dough Thickness

It’s important to make a dough thin enough to allow the filling to shine but not so thin that the tamal becomes too fragile. About ¼-inch should be good. When using masa harina, it’s crucial to have a good proportion of corn flour, plus lard and broth to moisten the dough.

 

 

Beef Tamales

Makes about 25 Tamales

 

For the Beef Filling:

2½ lbs beef stew, cut into 1-inch cubes

5 garlic cloves

2 onions, peeled and quartered

1 dry guajillo chiles, seeds and stems removed

1 dry ancho chile, seeds and stems removed

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon ground cumin

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

 

For the Tamales Dough

¾ cup (130g) lard (or vegetable shortening or coconut oil)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cold water

1 teaspoon baking powder

3½ cups (530g) masa harina (instant corn masa flour)

3½ cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

 

To Assemble the Tamales:

25 dried corn husks, soaked in hot water

 

For Garnish:

Feta cheese

Avocado, cut into small cubes

Cilantro, chopped

Equipment: large pan and lid with steamer that fits inside

 

Prepare the Beef Filling: In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine all the ingredients except cayenne, chili powder and paprika. Add cold water, just enough to cover the entire food, cover the pan and bring to boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, reduce the heat, open the lid slightly to cover partially, and cook until the meat is very tender, between 1-2 hours, skimming off the foam occasionally.

Transfer the meat to a bowl and let it cool, then shred it with your fingers (I like to use kitchen gloves to do that). Discard the bay leaves and transfer the garlic, onion and chiles to a blender along with the cooking liquid. Blend until smooth. You will have a lot of sauce. Add just enough to make the beef nice and moist and save the rest of the sauce to serve with the tamales. Taste the meat and adjust the seasoning with the cayenne pepper, chili powder and paprika, salt and pepper if needed. Save the meat and sauce separately. You can prepare them up to a week ahead before assembling the tamales. You can also freeze for one month.

Prepare the Dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment place the lard,

salt and water and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Add the baking powder and then alternate adding the harina flour and chicken broth alternating a little at a time. Continue beating until the dough is homogeneous and as fluffy as can get.

For the Corn Husks: Soak the dried corn husks in hot water for at least 10 minutes or until they are pliable. Drain them in a colander.

Assemble the Tamales: Lay out a corn husk with the pointy end towards you. Spread about 3 to 4 tablespoons of the dough into an oval shape, about ¼-inch thick, leaving a border of at least ½-inch on the sides. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough.

Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together (you will see how the masa starts to swaddle the filling) and fold the sides to one side, rolling them in the same direction around the tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk, with the tapering end, from the bottom up. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open. Alternatively, you can also fold the top end and make a little package with the tamales. Some people like to wrap it in a string to secure the package.

Set a pan fitted with a steamer inside and fill with water. Line the steamer with one or two layers of soaked corn husks as protection. Assemble all the tamales and place them inside the steamer either with the open end on top or if you folded the top as well, lay them flat. You can pile them up. Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for 30-45 minutes. You know the tamales are ready when they come easily free from the husks. Remove all the tamales from the steamer. Serve with hot sauce saved from the meat and garnish with feta cheese, avocado and cilantro.

 

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Sonhos Portuguese Doughnuts

Sonhos (Portuguese Doughnuts)

Over the years, I’ve tried a myriad of Christmas desserts, from chocolate cakes to tiramisu, puddings, and pies. One treat I haven’t tried in a long time is Sonhos (Portuguese Doughnuts), from my native Brazil. You find a little fried doughnut, or something similar in most international cuisine, like Beignets in France, Bomboloni in Italy, Berliner in Germany, Churros in Mexico, and Sufganiyot in Israel.

The frying aspect makes for a crispy and satisfying pastry, a small bite of joy. You prepare what is essentially pate-a-choux, then employ the Sonhos trademark: little doughnuts that are light and airy on the inside, crispy and caramelized on the outside. See short video of these babies frying. These sonhos are a revelation when served with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, jam, or even plain, just coated in cinnamon sugar. The biggest challenge about making these? Not eating them as you do so.

Especially this time of the year, making Sonhos invokes a sense of nostalgia for a time when I used to eat them in Brazil at padarias (bakeries) where they’re sold. In fact, it’s hard to remember the last time I made Sonhos (Portuguese Doughnuts) from scratch. It was probably when I was still living in Brazil, exploring our baking repertoire.

The urge to make them hit me when a client asked me to teach them in a cooking class. She wanted to make them with her family with that in mind: bringing everybody together with fun kitchen projects over the holidays.

Days before printing the recipe, I went to the kitchen to test it out making them with water, with milk, with butter, sonhos without butter, with eggs, and fewer eggs. Man, I love my job.

Moments like these fill my heart with joy as I cook, bake, test, write, style, take photos and videos. Who knew that a whole progression of culinary production would unfold from those pastries? Yes, I take pictures, lots of them, as the art of photographing food and making videos gained a whole new meaning in today’s era of social media.

But the culmination of happiness happens when you cook with others and gather with family in the kitchen over Christmas, bonding over a meal prepared by many hands. This cooking class happened in person. The first since the start of the pandemic. We chopped, braised, assembled, fried, cooked, and cooked some more. Our class was a mix of beautiful recipes and family team collaboration.

Despite covid numbers rising, I’m so glad we did it. As I followed the news, I was afraid they would cancel the class. They were worried I was going to cancel as well. None of us did, which tells me that we all urge for this activity, and for togetherness.

The word Sonhos translates to dreams, the fuel for our souls. Welcome family, welcome memories, welcome friends, and welcome dreams! I don’t know what the future holds for us, for the world, or for the current Covid situation. Who knows what social media will be here 10 years now? All I can say is one thing I know for sure: I am a dreamer and, as long as I’m alive, I’ll keep on dreaming.

 

Sonhos Brazilian Recipe

 

Sonhos (Portuguese Doughnuts)

Makes about 20 doughnuts

 

Ingredients:

For the Batter:

1 cup water

1 stick (115g) unsalted butter

pinch salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs

 

For the Sugar Coating:

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ cup sugar

 

Canola Oil as needed for frying

 

Prepare the Batter: In a saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt, and sugar, and bring to a boil.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the flour, all at once.

Return the saucepan to the stove and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon for approximately 2 minutes over medium heat, to dry out the paste. (You dry it out by moving it from side to side, in the saucepot, with a wooden spoon.)

Pour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat at low speed, letting the steam escape.

Add the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is nice and smooth. Don’t overbeat it. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Coating: In a shallow bowl, mix cinnamon and sugar.

Fry the Sonhos: Fill a medium saucepan with oil to a depth of about 3 inches (about 3 cups) and heat the oil to 350˚F. Using a small ice scream scoop or a small spoon, scoop a few balls and drop them into the hot oil. Work in batches and don’t crowd the pan. Adjust the heat and temperature of the oil as needed. Cook until the sonhos as nicely golden brown all over, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sonhos directly from the oil to the sugar coating, rolling each in sugar all over. You want to roll them in the sugar while hot so the sugar sticks. Repeat with all the dough. Let them cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve them with chocolate sauce or caramel sauce.

 

 

I’m so happy that you visited today. Thanks for reading and browsing my site.

Make sure to share this story with someone who cares about this topic.

I’d love to know what you think about this article. Please send an e-mail.

You can buy my cookbooks on Amazon: Latin Superfoods is my latest cookbook, I’m also the author of The Brazilian Kitchen and My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook.

Visit my YouTube Chanel @LeticiaMoreinosSchwartz

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Leticia

Pumpkin Flan

Pumpkin Flan

Talk about flan to any Brazilian and we jump at it, for our love for Pudim de Leite is too strong.  Combine the love of flan with the flavors of fall and this recipe for Pumpkin Flan is perfect for any dinner party or holiday occasion. I first got my hands on this recipe years ago, through the pages of the Gourmet Magazine (I still can’t get over) and have been making it for years.

I remember the many incredible recipes from that magazine. The work they produced wasn’t just delicious—they were memory made edible. It’s history in a bite. And the meal isn’t only about what’s on the table, it’s about the people sitting around it, and the meals that came before it, and the ones that will follow. It’s about tradition, which means that there are things that matter more than how it tastes. Although when recipes are as perfect as this one, it’s an Olympic gold medal at the table!

Pumpkin Flan
Photo by Rodolfo Sanches

 

While I try to add variations to every Thanksgiving table, I always come back to this Pumpkin Flan. The recipe is just so perfect, so tested, so good and so reliable.

When making the caramel, be sure to tilt the ramekin so that it covers the entire dish.

You can choose to make it in a large ramekin as I did, if you’re serving a large group, or in individual ramekins if you prefer.

Pumpkin Flan Recipe
Pumpkin Flan can also be prepared in individual ramekins.

 

Cooking time will change slightly if you use individual ramekins, bake for 45 minutes instead of 60 plus minutes. Whether using a large or individual ramekin, be sure to use a water bath as it protects the custard from direct heat, and it helps to cook more evenly.

Wrapped in plastic film, the flan will keep for a good 7 days in the refrigerator. But once you unmold, it’s best to enjoy the same day.

 

Pumpkin Flan 

Serves 8 to 10

For the Caramel and Flan

2 cups sugar

1½ cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

5 whole large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk

1 (15oz) can sold pack pumpkin puree ( I used Trader Joe’s)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

 

For Garnish:

1 cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds

Equipment: one 2-quart souffle dish or a round ceramic casserole dish and a water bath set up

 

Make the Caramel:

Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350F.

Cook 1 cup sugar in heavy saucepan over moderate heat undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep caramel.

Pour over the dish, tilting it to cover the bottom and sides. Keep tilting as the caramel cools and thickens enough to coat, then let harden.

 

Make the Flan:

Brink cream and milk to a bare simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, then remove from heat.

Whisk together whole eggs, yolk, and remaining 1 cup sugar in a large bowl until combined, then whisk in pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt until combined.

Add the hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking well.

Pour custard over the caramel in dish, then bake in a water bath until flan is golden brown on top and it’s somewhat firm when you jiggle the ramekin, about 1¼ hours.

Remove dish from the water bath and transfer to a rack to cool at room temperature, then chill flan in the refrigerator until cold, at least 6 hours. Flan can be kept in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic film up to 7 days ahead of time.

Bring the flan to room temperature 20-30 minutes before serving. Run a thin knife between flan and side of the dish to loosen. Shake dish gently from side to side and when flan moves freely in dish, invert onto a large platter with a lip to catch the caramel.

Holding the dish and platter securely together, quickly invert and turn out flan onto platter.

Caramel will pour out over and around flan. Allow all the caramel to run down before lifting the dish.

Sprinkle the flan with pumpkin seeds just before serving.

 

I’m so happy that you visited today. Thanks for reading and browsing my site.

Make sure to share this story with someone who cares about this topic.

I’d love to know what you think about this article, please send an e-mail.

You can buy my cookbooks on Amazon: Latin Superfoods is my latest cookbook, I’m also the author of The Brazilian Kitchen and My Rio de Janeiro: A cookbook.

Visit my YouTube Chanel @LeticiaMoreinosSchwartz

The easiest and most impactful thing you can to support is subscribe to my newsletter and to my channel on YouTube. And of course, tell your friends about it.

I’d love to connect with you on social media

Instagram @LeticiaMoreinosSchwartz,

Twitter @ ChefLeticia

Facebook

Linked In

See you next time,

Leticia

 

 

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