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.

 

 

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Leticia

Barreado recipe

Barreado, Brazilian Beef Shank Stew

Barreado is the name of a typical dish from the state of Parana, in the south of Brazil. It’s a Brazilian Beef Shank Stew and consists of meat delicately braised with bacon, onion, and spices at low temperature in a clay pot that is hermetically sealed with a starch paste made of manioc flour. The dish’s name comes from the term barrear a panela, meaning to seal the pot with this manioc paste. It’s typically served with manioc flour, banana, oranges, and pepper sauce.

Barreado
Barreado, served with banana, oranges and manioc flour.

 

I tasted barreado on a trip to the south a few years ago, more specifically in Morretes, a city in the state of Parana that claims paternity of the dish. Mention Barreado to any Brazilian in other parts of the country, and you might draw a blank. But go on to name some classic recipes from the south to anyone from the region, and chances are you’ll draw an expression of pleasure when thinking of Barreado.

 

 

Barreado Receita
Barreado from Morretes, Parana

 

There is no doubt that Barreado can be prepared with different cuts of meat such as london broil, bottom round, or rump. Tasting the authentic version in Brazil and then in the kitchen of Monica Justen, a Brazilian friend from Curitiba who loves to cook, I concluded that beef shank produces the best Barreado recipe.

All the luscious marrow of the shank is part of the appeal when cooking meat on the bone. In this recipe, the meat is cooked separately from the bone, and the two met again in a later stage in the recipe—a fascinating approach compared to other classic braised dishes like Osso Buco, Short Ribs, or Lamb Shanks, where meat and bones are cooked together.

 

Barreado Recipe
Beef Shank

 

All the luscious marrow of the shank is part of the appeal when cooking meat on the bone. In this recipe, the meat is cooked separately from the bone, and the two met again in a later stage in the recipe—a fascinating approach compared to other classic braised dishes like Osso Buco, Short Ribs, or Lamb Shanks, where meat and bones are cooked together.

 

Barreado Parana Brazil
Beef Bones

 

Speaking of Osso Buco, this dish is a great alternative at a much better value. Osso buco might run up to US$24.99 a pound depending on where you shop, while the beef shank is only US$3.99 a pound at Stew Leonards, a grocery store in Connecticut ( with a few stores in New Jersey and New York state as well). A bit less glorified in its reputation for sure, but this recipe for Barreado might have you look at beef shank in a whole different way.

Fun Fact: We don’t have the verb “to braise” in the Portuguese language. If you google the translation, you might find words like assar na panela, or estufar. I heard a few chefs in Brazil saying a word that doesn’t exist in Portuguese called “Brasear”, the Portuguese pronunciation for Braize. I think the Portuguese dictionary should add “Brasear” to our vocabulary, don’t you think?

 

Barreado

Brazilian Beef Shank Stew

Adapted from Monica Justen

 

Serves 6

 

6 bone-in beef shanks

Kosher salt ad freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 oz bacon, diced (about 4 to 5 strips)

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

3 fresh bay leaves

Freshly ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons tomato paste

 

Side dish:

2 cups manioc flour

2 bananas

1 orange cut in segments

¼ cup freshly chopped parsley

 

  • Heat the oven to 325˚F and place a rack on the lower third set.
  • Prepare the Bone Stock: Cut the meat separating it from the bones. Heat a large stockpot and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bones and cook them until lightly browned, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Pour 6 cups of cold water, bring to boil, then adjust the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has thickened and flavored, about 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut the meat into 1–inch cubes and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large Dutch oven pan add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon until it just starts to crisp, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat, add the garlic, and cook until it just starts to golden about 1 minute. Add the onion, bay leaves, nutmeg, and cumin, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture gets soft and tender for about 6 minutes. Add the beef cubes and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned. During this step, the meat will release its juices moistening the mixture and turning it into a delicious kind of refogado (sofrito). Add the tomato paste and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Strain the broth; you should have about 5 cups. Pour over the meat and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, and transfer to the oven. Braise until the meat is super tender, about 2½ hours, checking often to make sure simmering is at a gentle boil and liquid level is right. You can always add another ½ cup water if necessary. (In a traditional barreado, the manioc paste helps prevent some evaporation. Here, you need to check more often.)
  • Remove from the oven and let it rest at room temperature, covered for 30 minutes. Using a large spoon, smash the meat to shred everything into thin threads. At this point, the dish looks more like a soup than a stew.
  • To serve, place about 3 tablespoons of manioc flour on the bottom of a plate in a circular motion. First, add some of the liquid from the barreado to form a paste, then add the meat. Garnish with banana, oranges, and chopped parsley.

 

 

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Leticia

Rhubarb Soup

Chilled Rhubarb Soup

We often associate rhubarb with pie, tarts and crumbles recipes, but it was OMG at first sight when I saw this bunch at the farmer’s market and used it as an inspiration for this gleaming new recipe for Chilled Rhubarb Soup. Think Pink! Sweet and sour, it subtly glimmers for an occasion that blends easy elegance with a casual spirit.

Characterized by a unique tangy taste, each slurp of this soup celebrates your hand in the kitchen. The soup’s distinctive taste is created by slowly cooking rhubarb and some ginger in a sugary syrup. The result is one of the most gorgeous foods you’ll ever create. I’m not kidding! Look at the color of this soup! Rarely we see recipes as photogenic as this.

We are entering rhubarb peak season during the months of May, June and July.

Think Pink! Think Rhubarb!If any association with celery comes to mind, yes, look for crisp, refreshing stalks. You’ll see shades of green turning to shades of pink and it’s that passage of color in this unique vegetable that makes rhubarb so unique in taste and appearance.

When buying rhubarb, choose a bunch as you would celery. You’re looking for crispy stalks. I like to wrap the ends of the rhubarb in a wet paper towel and keep it well wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. It should last a good two weeks in the fridge.

This soup is so refreshing from the ground up! After many winter months, a new season feels like a miracle and rhubarb has the power to transform an entire menu, whether it’s creating a healthier neutral base or taking center stage as dessert. For a modern spin, garnish the soup with strawberries pistachios and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Every year I like to explore rhubarb in a variety of different recipes. You might like this recipe for Rhubarb Strawberry Pie here on the site and boy, oh boy, oh boy, this recipe is dreamy!

 

Chilled Rhubarb Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming

Simple Syrup

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ¼ cup water

6 ½ cup sliced, trimmed rhubarb (about 2½ pounds untrimmed)

1 ½ ounces fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into 12 quarter size slices

For Garnish:

Serve with some quartered strawberries or raspberries in the soup.

Chopped pistachios

Green Yogurt

Procedure:

In a large saucepan over medium high-heat combine the sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer gently for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.

Add the sliced rhubarb and ginger to the pan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to break down the rhubarb. Do not let the soup boil or the foam will turn bitter. Force the soup through a medium sieve discarding the solids. Pour the soup into a bowl and let it cool completely. Chill the coup until cold, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. To serve, scoop a small mound of Greek yogurt in the middle and ladle each into chilled bowls or soup plates and garnish with strawberries and pistachios.

 

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Onion Gratin Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Onion Gratin Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Maybe it will happen tonight, or tomorrow. How many sandwiches are you eating during this quarantine?

I saw a recipe at the NY Times Cooking Section (by Ali Slagle) that inspired me. And oh boy, this Onion Gratin Grilled Cheese Sandwich is just as good as I thought it would be! I brought it up to quarantine cooking club and have been making this sandwich over and over again. It already became a regular in the weekly repertoire in my house.

Caramelizing onions does take a bit of time to prepare.  I usually prepare it when I’m cooking something else so that have it ready in the fridge, and then, when I crave for this sandwich, boom, it’s ready.

I usually like a small sandwich, so I always go for the end parts of the bread as they are smaller than the center cut of a loaf. But if you like a regular sized sandwich, be sure to center slices. I used Italian bread because that’s what I had at home at the time, but any country style or sourdough bread will make a damn good sandwich.

As for the cheese, traditionally, the classic French Onion Soup calls for Grueye cheese. I had cheddar in the fridge, that’s what I used. Feel free to use muenster, gruyere, cheddar or any other yellow cheese of your preference.

You can use a panini press machine, an iron camp cooker or just a simple plain skillet.

You can watch of video of this recipe on my YouTube Channel! And don’t forget to subscribe!

 

Onion Gratin Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Serves 2

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted to mayonnaise point

1 center slices Italian bread

4 slices white cheddar cheese

1 raw garlic clove

 

Cook the onions: in a large skillet heat the olive oil over low heat and add the onions. Cook slowly, stirring frequently, until they caramelize into a deep amber caramel color, about 25 to 30 minutes. If you see some onions burning on the sides, add a tablespoon of water. Resist the temptation to turn up the heat; they need to caramelize over low heat or else they might burn too fast. Transfer to a plate or a container and keep refrigerated. You can make the onions up to 5 days ahead of time.

Pre-heat the panini press.

Spread melted butter on the outer parts of the bread.

Mound some onions, about 2-3 tablespoons on one side of the bread, top with the cheese, close the sandwich and take it to press until nice and golden-brown and the cheese is melted, about 4-5 minutes.

 

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