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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Beef Brodo

Beef Brodo

If you are reading this page, you are probably considering making beef brodo at home. Congratulations! Your cooking will never be the same! When I worked in restaurant kitchens, I used to prepare stocks and brodos that would simmer for 10 to 12 hours or overnight. In my home kitchen, it’s pretty hard to deal with this large number of bones, so I work with smaller batches and simmer for 1-2 hours. That’s enough to yield an incredible broth. I use it for everything, and it’s so good that it doesn’t last long.

Watch this quick video of Beef Brodo in the works.

Broth or Brodo? Brodo or Broth? What about stock? What’s the difference between them?

Good question. Brodo is more of a drinkable “tea,” and broth is the term used for cooking purposes. Broth and stock are two terms for the same thing. Brodo is seasoned; the broth is unseasoned for stews, sauces, soups, and many purposes.

Can you use brodo for cooking purposes instead of broth? Of course, you can; just be sure to taste the recipe as you cook and adjust the seasoning accordingly. You might need to go lightly on the seasoning if you use brodo.

What about consistency? Do they have the same texture?

It depends on who is making it. I like to give brodo a bit more body than broth, simply because the broth will probably be reduced in cooking recipes. In contrast, the brodo is the final product.

Brodo is considered one of the healthiest foods you can eat/drink. It helps your body function better, improves digestion, strengthens joints and helps the body absorb protein. Speaking of protein, brodo is loaded, about 10 grams per cup of beef brodo.

Brodo is a fantastic meal replacement. It is very satisfying and will give you a sensation of a full meal. I have documented my own brodo drinking experiences. Whenever I drink brodo for dinner, I notice that it fills me up. Maybe that’s just me. I’d love to hear your experiences when drinking brodo.

About the bones: You can start with raw bones and roast them. I like to make many short ribs stews during the wintertime, so if I have leftover bones, I’ll save them for brodo. That was the case when I made this video. You can see in the video that the bones are from short ribs and not raw beef bones. Can you use veal bones instead of beef? Absolutely! Use this same recipe and proceed to make veal brodo. This brodo will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months and it’s one of the easiest frozen dinners you can make.

One last note about Beef brodo, I’m not against recipes (obviously), but some things in the cooking world really don’t need them. Brodo (or broth or stock) is one of them. The recipe below is just a guidance, feel free to go with your instincts. Get in touch if you have any questions. Happy to help, always and forever!


Beef Brodo

Makes about 3 quarts


6 pounds beef bones

3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

2 onions, peeled and quartered

2 stalks celery

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon black peppercorns, cracked

3 to 4 bay leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375˚F. Place a large roasting pan in the oven. Place the beef bones in the roasting pan with the vegetables. Try not to overcrowd the pan so they have lots of space to brown evenly. Drizzle the olive oil and toss well. Roast until they are medium brown all over, about 30 minutes,
  2. Transfer the bones to a large stockpot (about 10 to 15 quarts) with the vegetables and cover them with about 4 to 6 quarts of cold water. The water should be 1 to 2 inches above the bone level. Cover the pan and cook over high heat just to bring to a boil, about 15 minutes. Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and cook at a very gentle simmer, skimming occasionally for fat and foam. Do not try to rush the process by raising the heat and boiling. You want very small bubbles at the most. The longer you cook your stock, the more viscosity and complexity it will have.
  3. When the bones have cooked for about 30 minutes hours, add the peppercorns and bay leaves. Continue to simmer the stock for another hour, skimming occasionally.
  4. After about 2 hours, the stock should be very gelatinous and medium to dark brown. Remove the big bones from the stockpot with a slotted spoon and strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. This moment is gold! Discard the bones and vegetables.
  5. Place the brodo over an ice bath then chill in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours – chilled is the best way to judge the quality of the stock. The more gelatinous, the better. Carefully remove any fat that accumulates on the top and discard it. Divide the stock into several small plastic containers, label them, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.


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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.

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Hispanic Health Campaign

Exciting news! I’m so proud to be part of the Media Planet Hispanic Health Campaign!

Hispanics have long lacked access to quality healthcare in this country, and as a result suffer disproportionately from health complications like diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, and more. This campaign advocates for improving that access to care, and empowering the Hispanic community to take charge of their health and well-being. Learn more by picking up a copy of the campaign in the LA Times or by reading the digital version online here.

Yesssss!!! It’s him, the amazing, the talented, the worldwide popstar artist, the one and only Pitpbull!

I’m so honored and thrilled to be part of this project with him and can’t stop spinning to his songs!

Leticia Spinning to Pitbull


Did you hear me say spinning? Oh yes, and you can read abut it too, on this article, part of our campaign, about how I discovered joy in exercising.


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

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 @ChefLeticiaHealthyCooking

See you next time,





How To Make Brigadeiros

What’s that? A truffle? A fudge? You want to know the recipe everyone is talking about, clicking, pinning, and drooling over the internet more than any other this week? BRIGADEIROS! Silky, chewy, fuggy, and chocolaty, brigadeiro, is an undiscovered candy from Brazil waiting to become your next vice.

I’m over the moon and beside myself to tell you some awesome news:

Thanks to Bon Appetit, now anyone who loves chocolate can make brigadeiros!

Just think about all the occasions we have for giving a gift; a bridal shower, housewarming, mother’s day, father’s day—this holiday season!

Tangible expressions of caring and love can be wrapped and given in so many ways. And now, you can add Brigadeiros to the list.

Because a handmade gift, especially a food gift like Brigadeiros, represents creative energy and time spent in the kitchen—like a homemade hug!

Find the article here.

Photos on this post are a credit to Bon Appetit. Photo by Laura Murray, Food Styling by Micah Morton


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Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart

A Pie from the Sky: Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart

In praise of summer, this Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart is the dessert of now!

it’s a pie in the sky, adapted from Nick Malgieri’s cookbook Bake! (Kyle Books 2010)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart


Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart

Makes a 10-inch or 8 to 10 servings

The dough is enough for 2 tarts

Cookie Dough Tart Crust

¼ cup (52g) slivered almonds

¾ cup (108g) confection sugar

2 ½ cups (405g) all-purpose flour

pinch salt

2 sticks (227g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Almond Crumb Topping

1 ¼ cup (190g) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (65g) organic sugar

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

¼ cup (35g) slivered almonds

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled


Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling

1 lb (454g) cream cheese, softened

1 cup confection sugar (more for garnish)

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 lb strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and halved (or quartered if large)


  • Prepare the Dough:Combine the almonds and confection sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse repeatedly until finely ground, about 1 minute. No visible pieces of almond should remain. Use a spatula to scrape the bowl.
  • Add the flour and salt and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter and pulse well. Add the yolks and vanilla and pulse until the dough form a a ball.
  • Invert the dough onto a floured surface. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, or at least 1 minute. You can prepare the dough u to 5 days ahead.
  • Bring the dough to room temperature at least 20 minutes before handling. Flour the surface and dough and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a round disk, adding pinches of flour under and on top of the dough as needed.
  • Warp the dough on the rolling pin, lift it onto the tart pan, and unwrap. Fit the dough into the pan, making sure it’s flat against the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim away the excess.
  • Plate the tart pan in the refrigerator and chill for at least 20 minutes before blind baking.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Line the crust, bottom and sides with a parchment paper and fill with dry beans. Bake until the crust is dry and looking set, about 10 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and return the tart to bake until the crust is evenly lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cool the crust on a rack.
  • Prepare the Almond Crumb:In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the almonds and butter. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes then use your fingers to break the mixture into ¼ – to – 1/2-inch crumbs. Spread the crumbs onto a sheet pan and bake in the oven until deep golden brown.
  • Prepare the Cream Cheese Filling:Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the confection sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and continue beating until lightened, about 1 minute.
  • Assemble the Tart:Spread half of the cream cheese filling on the bottom of the tart crust and arrange the berries on it, cut side down. Spread the remaining filling over the berries. Scatter the crumb topping over the filling. Right before serving, dust the top with confection sugar.
  • Unmold the tart and slide it off the pan base to a platter and serve.
the best alfajores

The Best Alfajores

Staying away from dulce de leche? I am not good at that. How about from The Best Alfajores? Impossible!

In South America, dulce de leche is the food of getting along. It’s the common ground for Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and all our neighbors. Despite the dispute for paternity over the product, if there is a pot around, we all enjoy it together.

Dulce de Leche!

Which brings us to Christine from Uruguay, Rolando from Argentina, and me, from Brazil. Over Dulce de Leche, we became friends. Pretty strong team to back up this story, don’t you think?

Christine was born and raised in Uruguay, where her family ran a bakery in Punta del Este. There, she met her husband Rolando, while he was working in the textile industry.

Cristina Goldstein
Cristina Goldstein


Uma eating Alfajores
Take a bite Uma!

The couple moved to New York in 2007 and after the birth of their daughter Uma, Christina began making treats from her homeland to reconnect with her birthplace and pass away her native culture to her daughter.

Typical story goes big, fast forward 10 years, and in 2016 they opened a manufactory in Buchanan, New York, a perfect place to set up shop.

“I am cooking the foods I grew up with”, said Christina who makes the best alfajoresI’ve ever tasted.

How about Dulce de Leche Bombons? Wanna take a bite? Nhac!

Dulce de Leche Bombons

As a loyal, royal, sweet-submissive, aficionada for the subject (and for Hamilton!), alfajores has always presented a certain degree of dissatisfaction. Not because of the ducle de leche. Oh no! That’s the easy part. Because of the cookie!

“Everyone expects alfajoresto be a crunchy cookie, like oreos. And the cookie by itself, is indeed, on the crunchy side when it is just baked. But the differential of the alfajores lies in the process of sandwiching two pieces of cornstarch cookie with a layer of dulce de lechein the middle, and then enrobing in dark or white chocolate. Once enrobed, the chocolate seals the moisture, and gives a soft texture to the cookie. This balance takes 2-3 days to develop. You can’t eat alfajoresthe day it’s made”, says Christina.

Plain AlfajoresLiving in the New York area, I have tried alfajoresin all shapes and forms, but nothing compares to this one. In Christina’s hands, the sandwich cookie is transformed, and enlightened through the process of enrobing. It’s worth the calories!


You can find Christina’s alfajores and other delicious dulce de leche products through her web site:

You can also find her treats on her products on

Bel Ami Cafe NY– coffee shop, upper east side, 68thand Madison

Restaurant in Williamburg, Tabare