Beef Rezala and Bhuna Khichuri

Welcome to Bangladeshi week! Actually, it was last week but some appointments took longer than expected and it threw my entire week off. Also, weather. 

As I metioned last week, the Four Year Old became the Four Year Old last Wednesday and we planned a pool party for her the following Sunday. James just happened to check the weather forecast on Thursday and saw that there was a 90% chance of rain on Sunday.

Rain. In August. That almost never happens.

The next couple of days were spent checking the weather every four hours, sending out multiple group texts to our guests, and ultimately deciding to cancel the pool party and hosting a smaller version at the house. The Four Year Old still had an amazing time and even got a piñata, which she wouldn’t have had at the pool and it was the one thing she really wanted anyway, so yay! Birthday success!  

I learned two things from that event. Number one: I really need to buy an umbrella. I don’t know why I don’t own one but I need one. It’s been raining for the past four days and I’m tired of getting wet. Number two: I need to be more flexible. I’ve always prided myself in my time management skills and I still believe that they are essential but I need to make room for unexpected events. Too often I plan down to the minute and I get frustrated when I get thrown off. There is no reason to be so stringent because I end up disappointed and why put myself through that? Life is too short to be so annoyed with myself. 

I’m taking this week off from cooking so I can catch up on posting. I’m actually taking the week off from everything. James is home all week so instead of trying to fit in errands, running, yoga, housework, craft projects, and cooking, I’m filling it with Orphan Black binge watching with my man during the day and fun family time with the girls in the evening. I think it’s much more worthwhile than all the other stuff.

And now for the beef rezala. A rezala is a white spicy curry from Bangladesh. Yes, curries are typically a little spicy anyway but rezalas are spicier because they include whole chilies. They also get their white color from the inclusion of yogurt or milk. Rezalas are similar to kormas in that sense, however, unlike kormas, the meat is not braised. Very slight difference. This beef rezala is different in color from other rezalas due to the spices used but mine didn’t come out as red as I think it should have. My beef released a lot of water so I think that didn’t allow the spices to coat and stick to the meat as well. I was afraid that since it released so much water, it would come out tough but it was surprisingly tender. It also wasn’t as spicy as I expected it to be but that wasn’t bad because it made it more edible for the girls. And yes, both girls ate it. They also ate the bhuna khichuri, which I preferred over the rezala. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it forever, I love rice and beans! 

What I enjoyed most about the meal was being able to use two new tools. After  Indian week, where I scorched my arms from frying spices or worked my arms sore from grinding spices, I decided to invest in some tools that will make life easier. The first is a vaghar vadki, a spice roasting spoon. It’s basically a tiny skillet, about four inches in diameter, with a long handle that fries spices in seconds. The smaller diameter speeds up the process since the heat doesn’t have to be distributed to such a large area like with a regular skillet and it’s ideal for measurements under a cup. I was able to fry up the cumin in less than thirty seconds and had more control over how dark I wanted it to get. The other tool is a spice grinder, although I bought a coffee grinder but it’s basically the same thing. I’ve been using a mortar and pestle, which isn’t terrible except both my mortars have grooves so the spices often get stuck in them. This results in an uneven texture unless I put some real elbow grease into it. The grinder I bought has three different settings, coarse, medium, and fine, and it took maybe a minute to grind my spices into a nice fine powder. Technology is amazing! It was super satisfying and I wish I would have bought one sooner but so it goes.

Recipe, Recipe

 

  

 

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Ceebu Jen

When we decided on doing Senegalese food, I don’t think either one of us knew what to expect. I have little to zero knowledge of Senegal; James probably knows more because he’s an encyclopedia. I really hope the girls inherit his thirst for knowledge…Anyway, the only thing I did expect was to eat fish since it borders the Atlantic Ocean.

I think I’ve mentioned this before but seafood always makes me nervous. I grew up in southwest Texas and the seafood we ate was mostly catfish and shrimp from the gulf. I’m sure we ate more because my dad loved fishing but all I remember is catfish and shrimp. Catfish is not good. I mean, it’s not bad, but there are few people who would choose catfish when presented with fish options. And there’s only one way to make catfish: fried. You know why? Cause you have to fry all the crap out of it, literally. Shrimp is a little more versatile and I love me some scrimps so I will not say anything bad about shrimp. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried many different kinds of fish but deep down, I’m still that little kid from Uvalde, grossing out over another catfish fish fry. I lived in Austin for almost six years before I ate my first fish taco for crying out loud!

Fish can be gross.

I really hoped that would not be the case with this meal. Ceebu Jen is considered the national dish of Senegal but just because the Senegalese like it, didn’t mean I would. I am seriously a fountain of positive thinking. Constantly shooting out positive energy into the universe.

I had nothing to worry about. This was one of my favorite meals in a looooong time and as the picture shows, the baby liked it a lot as well. I had barely put the plate down when she started scooping out food. And she didn’t stop. It already called for plenty of veggies so the only thing I added was red bell peppers. It reminded me of paella, which it basically is. My rice burned a bit because I forgot about it but it didn’t affect it too much. I never cook rice on the stove top, I use a rice cooker, so when I do, I almost always forget about it. I loved the texture of the cabbage, eggplant, and squash; everything was just so chewy.

We had a good amount of leftovers because the oldest refused to eat it so I had the pleasure of eating it for an additional two days. Let me tell you, it.held.up. I’m a weirdo who likes to eat leftovers cold (I’ve actually analyzed this habit and it’s way too complex to get into) and it was really delicious even cold.

So this is completely unrelated but it’s a pretty big day for us. Four years ago today, our oldest came into our lives. She is now THE four year old and not the ALMOST four year old. She is quite possibly the most stubborn child I have ever met and as a parent, it drives me crazy because sometimes (always) I don’t need to be told why she can’t or doesn’t want to do something, I just need her to do it. I know this will work for her benefit someday and that’s why I’m as patient as I am, which is not very. But her strong opinions have helped me as a person and with this project because as she makes it very clear, I am not the best at everything and not all the food I make is awesome. She keeps me humble and grounded and for that, I am appreciative.

Happy birthday you difficult, wonderful little girl!

Recipe

Maafe

We are in Senegal this week!

We chose Senegal because it’s in Africa and so far we’ve only done two African countries, Morocco and Israel. I wasn’t aware that we’d done so little in Africa until I started marking off the countries we’ve “visited” on a map of the world. We’ve done plenty in the Mediterranean, Central America, and southeast Asia but the Africa on our map is a little bare. I don’t want Africa to feel left out so we looked at the map and settled on Senegal. Well, we looked at the map for ideas, Googled the cuisine, and then settled on Senegal. We looked at other countries but their cuisines didn’t seem all that appealing or included a lot of yucca and I’m tired of eating yucca. I mean, there is only so much you can do with it, fry it or boil it, and it almost never results in something super good. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the yucca fries from El Salvadorian week but I don’t need to keep recreating them with different spices. I get it, yucca is good!

Quick aside. I use “we” a lot when writing on the blog or when explaining to people what we’re doing. Many people have asked me to clarify who “we” are and when I say that it’s James and I, they ask what exactly he does. First of all, rude. Secondly, he doesn’t have to cook to be considered a contributor.  He helps choose countries, researches meals, helps decide which recipes would work on what days due to time constraints; his input is very important. He also watches our girls while I’m cooking so I can cook with little to no interruption. That right there is probably the best thing he does to help out because those girls be cray sometimes. The second best thing he does is pay for all of this, which he does without complaint. I’m not working so he funds this entire project and doing this is not cheap. For whatever reason, meat and fresh produce are hardly ever discounted, even though they are unbelievably healthier for you than pre-packaged food, so our grocery bill varies from $60 to $200 per week. That is not a complaint, I am fully aware this is a choice and we are by no means obligated to do this, but it is a huge factor. So yes, he is a partner in this and what he does is no less important than what I do.

Now that I’ve talked about how great my husband is, let’s talk about this meal!

This meal was pretty easy to make and the ingredients weren’t hard to find at all. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, these types of meals are my favorite! The sauce was made up primarily of tomato and peanut butter. Yes, I was curious about that because those two are not typically paired together (at least I’ve never paired them) so there was some slight hesitation about that. The recipe I used seemed to lend itself to improvisation because it was pretty lax about what vegetables to use. I liked this a lot because I could 1. use veggies I liked and 2. use veggies I could find easily. I ended up using okra and cabbage because I like okra and cabbage. Easy enough.

We all really enjoyed it. The tomatoes gave the peanut butter a little tartness which was interesting. Ginger was optional but I did use it because I love ginger. It was very present but not overpowering, which I think was due to the acidity of the tomatoes. I’m just guessing here, I have absolutely no knowledge of food chemistry. For that, you can turn to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. The meat was also surprisingly tender for a stew, for which I once again credit the tomatoes. Tomatoes are super fruits for a reason.

This was a pretty great introduction to Senegalese food. It made me hopeful for the rest of the week.

Recipe

Moules Frites

This was our last Belgian meal and oh man! Before I get into how it turned out, let me share with you all the great information I learned about this dish.

1. It’s considered one of the national dishes of Belgium. It shares this title with Carbonnade Flamande. I am very jealous of the Belgian people because they get to choose from two fantastic dishes as their national dishes. As an American, my options are hot dogs and, I dunno, coke? Say what, coke isn’t a dish? Say that to the Fried Coke vendors at the Texas State Fair!

2. There are different versions of moules frites; I made the moules natures. There are six common variations and I would eat all.of.them.

3. There was something else I learned but I’ve forgotten it. It probably wasn’t all that interesting.

There were a couple of hiccups when making this meal. The first was that I couldn’t find fresh mussels. I made this on Sunday and thought about getting the mussels at the end of the week but I got lazy and then I also worried about them sitting in my fridge for a couple of days. Old shellfish is never a good idea. So I waited until Sunday to head out to Quality Seafood to buy the mussels, only to get there and find out they aren’t open on Sundays! Hellur? Did they not get my telepathic message that I was stopping by? Jerks. We weren’t too far from my favorite Asian supermarket, MT Supermarket, so we ended up going there because their website said they also had fresh mussels.

Their website lied!

They had fresh catfish, some other weird fish that I forgot the name of but that the girls enjoyed watching swim all over its tank, red tilapia, octopus, shrimp, you get the idea, but no mussels. I ended up going the frozen route and I wasn’t too excited about that because I’d gone the frozen route during Thai week and the results were not good. So I sucked it up and hoped for the best.

The second hiccup was making the mayonnaise. For whatever reason, the mustard and egg yolk refused to emulsify and I think that threw the whole thing off. Regardless of how much warm water or whatever other suggestions the internet offered, it would not solidify. I was annoyed. I only had one lemon so making another batch wasn’t an option. I ended up using store bought mayo and sprucing it up with a tablespoon of mustard and a lot of pepper. It ended up tasting as close to homemade mayo as possible so I was pretty content with that and hoped that it wouldn’t affect the meal too much.

So after holding my breath while adding the mussels and literally watching the timer to make sure I didn’t go over the recommended four minutes, I announced that dinner was ready. The baby set the table (She literally sets the table at two years old. What did I do to get such a wonderful child?!) and the oldest informed me that she didn’t want to eat dinner (Oh, that’s what I did. I had a temperamental, opinionated first child and the universe showed me some compassion and made up for it with the second kid). I served dinner and hoped we wouldn’t be taking a trip to Taco Cabana.

We didn’t go to Taco Cabana.

This meal was EVERYTHING. The mussels were not chewy or tough like during Thai week. Instead they were buttery, chewy, and slightly fatty. The leeks and celery completely dissolved in my mouth into rich, gooeyness and the fries, er, frites, were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft at the bite.

The oldest held true to her statement that she didn’t want to eat so she ran off and did what she does best, hide in her room and tell her imaginary friend how annoying I am*. I am not exaggerating about this. I’ve literally overheard her talking shit about me. Usually it’s after I haven’t let her do something like watch tv for six hours or because I’ve told her she needs to put clothes on. The teen years are going to be amazing with this one. The baby, however, ate TEN MUSSELS. She just couldn’t stop, she loved those little suckers. She also loved the mayo because at one point she just kept spooning it directly into her mouth. She is a treasure.**

This was a fantastic way to end Belgian week. The onion soup wasn’t my favorite but three out of four meals is not bad. And my two year old ate mussels. I mean, if that’s not a victory, I don’t know what is!

*She later told me she loved me and that I’m the best mommy. She might cause my blood pressure to skyrocket but within hours, she’s turning my cold, black heart a nice shade of gray and warming it up to just above freezing.

**She later kicked me in the stomach when I picked her up to put her in the bath. I had a tall glass of Frambois to calm down.

Recipe

Carbonnade Flamande

This dish was one that was recommended to me by various people who have visited Belgium. There was a lot of praise and many said it was their favorite thing to eat in Belgium. So I obviously had to try it.

There are many variations of this dish and it was hard to find a true “Belgian” version and I think that has to do with Belgian cuisine being so heavily influenced by neighboring France, Germany, and the Netherlands. After looking at many, I just chose one that was the easiest. Don’t know if that’s being true to the dish but it made my Wednesday night a lot easier.

It’s very similar to beef bourguignon and the Nourished Kitchen‘s Braised Short Ribs with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs*, both of which I’ve made before. The biggest difference is that both those dishes are made with red wine while carbonnade is made with beer. Actually, that’s the only difference. Well, beef bourguignon doesn’t use any pork and also includes onions and mushrooms but you get the point. Seeing as how I’ve made these before, I felt pretty confident with making this meal as well because I have, just with wine. Confidence is very important in the kitchen.

My confidence paid off because this was an extremely satisfying dinner! I did forget to make frites but this was more than enough food for us. I feel like it could have used a bit more tomato puree and I don’t say that because it affected the flavor but because all the pictures I saw of this dish were significantly redder than mine. I couldn’t find anything that told me whether I should marinate in the fridge or at room temperature so I did overnight in the fridge and then let it sit out in a covered dish in the kitchen for about six hours. I don’t know if that made a difference but just want to throw that out there.

The oldest was not interested in it at all. I can’t remember her reasoning but I’m pretty sure it was not logical. The baby, my beautiful, healthy, somewhat gluttonous baby, had two servings. That’s right, she ate hers and her sister’s. And it wasn’t that she was hungry, she had already eaten a lot that day, she just really liked the meal. I’m telling you, this kid and I are going to take a food tour of Europe someday and the oldest will be at home, eating McDonald’s.

So I now have three versions of this dish that I can make and that’s good. It’s nice to be able to change things up every once in a while. And it’s also nice to have options when you’re missing certain ingredients for one meal. Which, of course, never happens to me because I always have a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator and never forget to buy anything at the store. Never.

*If you are not familiar with Nourished Kitchen, I cannot stress enough how much you are missing out! She focuses on using real food and preparing them using traditional methods like fermentation and soaking and souring grains. The Beef Braised Ribs can be found in her cookbook and before starting this project, I used it all.the.time. I have yet to have a bad meal from her recipes and I cannot recommend it enough!

Recipe

Chicken Waterzooi

About ten years ago I bought a book titled 501 Must Read Books. Reading all 501 books is on my bucket list; I’ve read about 30 so I have a ways to go. Anyway, at some point I was browsing for books at Goodwill. This was before the bedbug epidemic and before all the transplants from bedbug infested cities moved to Austin and brought their creepy crawlies with them and you could buy secondhand books without worrying about bringing them into your home. Ruining secondhand book purchases for Austinites is something that is often forgotten when we complain about how transplants have ruined this city but honestly, I think it’s far more important than what they’ve done to traffic. Think of the books!

Back to my story. I was at Goodwill. One book I came across was Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. I remember feeling it looked familiar and the story on the jacket was interesting (“the story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle”) so I bought it for a whopping $1. I got home and put it with all the other books I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading and forgot about it. A bit later, when updating my reading list in the 501 book, I saw that Austerlitz was on the list. The “Woah!” and “Wow!” feelings were full blown kismet. I was meant to read this book!

I started reading the book last week and I’m on page thirteen. What does this have to do with this blog? Well, the first thirteen pages are set in Belgium and reading those thirteen pages inspired me to do Belgian food this week. So here we are. It’s all connected.

Also, before I move on, those first two paragraphs would not have been possible had I been reading an ebook. Physical books have more stories than just what’s written on the pages and let’s try to remember that. No doubt, there’s a place for ebooks, but they will never replace the real thing.

Last night I made Chicken Waterzooi. Traditionally it’s made with fish but I wasn’t in a fish mode so I chose the chicken option. Also, it’s traditionally eaten during the winter because it’s a hot, creamy soup. Hot, creamy soup and I made it in Texas summer. All glorious 95 degree Texas summer with 1000% humidity. It was not the smartest decision but it was a DELICIOUS one. It was very rich, probably due to the large amount of chicken broth and egg yolk, but the veggies made it lighter. The use of leeks, celery, and onions (some of the lightest vegetables you can eat) really helped offset the creaminess. I think it would have been a different story had I used a starch like potatoes so I’m grateful for the lightness.

The oldest didn’t eat it. Her exact words were “Mommy’s soup is yucky!” but oh well, more for us! The baby loved it because she’s an amazing child who appreciates what her mother does for her. And also she likes to eat but in order to shame the oldest one into submission, I’m focusing on the love the baby has for me.

I really am the best mother around.

Recipe

 

 

Mie Goreng

This is my fourth attempt at posting this but Squarespace, or maybe my computer, was being difficult. OVER IT. I also spent an hour and a half driving to New Braunfels today, spending thirty minutes doing what I had to do, and then another hour driving back to Austin so maybe I’m more over that than anything else. Actually, I’m over many things right now. Let me list them so I can get this out of my system:

– searching for a dresser/buffet for the dining area that doesn’t cost over $500.

-this heat that requires me to wake up at six in the morning so I can run.

-my inability to wake up at six a.m. the past two mornings because I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

-the character of Rebecca Bunch on Crazy Ex-girlfriend. She is the worst! I can’t even hate watch the show anymore.

-me whining. I’m over it.

Now that I’ve gotten that out and woo-sawed, let’s talk about this meal! So I actually made it last week. It was really easy to make. The hardest part was mixing all the ingredients together in the wok because the noodles made things a little cumbersome but overall it was pretty quick to put together. The recipe called for Indonesian soy sauce, which is a soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar, but I didn’t have it so I just added some palm sugar to the mix. My noodles were also a little thinner that what I think is typically used but I don’t think it made a huge difference. We all liked it but the baby especially loved the noodles so I was very pleased.

This week is another off week from cooking. A last minute opportunity came up for the almost four year old to have private swim lessons so we’ve taken it and are spending evenings at the pool. It’s not really an off week, I’m still cooking and experimenting, sort of. We had a birthday party last weekend for my mother’s 70th birthday and were left with almost four pounds of sausage. FOUR POUNDS. Dinner for the past two nights has involved sausage and I plan on doing the same for the next two nights because I refuse to just throw all that sausage away. I’ve made very simplified versions of gumbo and jambalaya that turned out surprisingly well. I think I’ll do a stir fry tonight. Or maybe I’ll say the heck with it and get pizza. 

Recipe

Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Mac n’ Cheese, and Fried Okra

In honor of America’s birthday, we ate American food last week. I asked for meal suggestions on Facebook because while I’m very familiar with Texan and southern cuisine, I’m a little lost when it comes to the rest of the country. I mean, I know basics like deep dish pizza from Chicago, chowder from the northeast, and pretentious vegetarian food from California but the rest of the country is a big ‘ol question mark. There were some very good suggestions, like the Italian beef I’d never heard of and plan on making tomorrow, and many eye roll inducing suggestions like “Fried everything” and “Super sized food.” Haha, I get it, we’re a country of bad eaters, bahaha, so funny. I never knew how patriotic I was until my friends started making fun of themselves and the rest of the country.

So you can imagine my “Goddamit!” moment when I decided on chicken fried steak, mac n’ cheese, and fried okra for our first meal. Fried meat, carbs smothered in butter, and fried vegetables. Cholesterol heaven! But the truth is, I love this meal and it’s one of my favorites. I have told my husband many times that I don’t ever want to live in a state where they don’t serve chicken fried steak and I’m serious. A life without chicken fried steak is not a life worth living. I think I’ve also told him that should I ever end up on Death Row, I will probably request chicken fried steak as my last meal. I mean, at that point, why do I need to worry about clogged arteries?

Considering this is one of my favorites, I’ve never made it. Aside from the mashed potatoes, I’ve never made any of the parts of this meal. I’ve made instant mac n’ cheese but that doesn’t count. I’ve made roasted okra and okra casserole but never fried. And I’ve made my fair share of actual fried chicken but not chicken fried steak*. The reason is simple: it’s work. You wouldn’t think frying stuff would take a lot of time but you have to watch frying food so you don’t burn it and mac n’ cheese is pretty sensitive as well; it’s very easy to get clumpy cheese and that will ruin the whole thing.

Before I started, I got everything out and did the whole mise en place to make life a little easier and to not ruin my meal. I highly recommend doing this otherwise your kitchen will look like a disaster. I mean, mine still looked like I got a bag of flour and some grease and sprayed the whole kitchen but it could have been so much worse. I still failed at timing everything so it was ready at the same time. I ended up finishing the mac n’ cheese earlier than expected and let it sit in the oven, with the oven off, an extra three minutes so it came out a little dry but still fully edible. My okra was also room temperature but in retrospect, that wasn’t a bad thing. Hot okra is never fun.

But what was fun was me eating this meal! I was in hog heaven, complete with food coma afterwards. I’ve had chicken fried steak that was dry because it was fried too long but not mine #humblebrag. Mine had the right amount of breading and was still very juicy. The mac n’ cheese, although slightly dry, was CHEESE OVERLOAD but in a good way. And the okra was perfection! Crispy on the outside, smushy on the inside, and I was popping it inmy mouth like popcorn. Everyone was happy and how could they not? This meal is the definition of southern comfort food.

So yeah, maybe we are a country of fatties but whatever, we’re happy and you can kiss our grits.

*Chicken fried steak gets its name from the fact that it’s steak prepared in the manner of fried chicken.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Grilled Chicken Shawarma, Mejadra, and Israeli Vegetable Salad

This meal, oh man, this meal was so good! *cue Penny from “Happy Endings”* suh guhd!

This wasn’t authentic shawarma because James won’t let me be great and buy a vertical spit to grill my meat but this was a close second. The recipe I used called for an outdoor grill but I decided to finally use the ceramic grill pan James gave me for Mother’s Day. My reason for not using the outdoor grill was purely selfish: I didn’t want to clean the grill and it was a billion degrees outside. Those ceramic pans live up to the hype in terms of clean up and my kitchen has a/c, it was basically a “Duh” decision.

I was a little worried that cooking it on the stove top would compromise the flavor but I still got great results. I think the key to making chicken shawarma in the non-traditional method is to use chicken thighs because you need that extra fat. Traditional shawarma is basted in its fat and juices so you need to replicate that any way you can, or at least the easiest way you can, and that means using a fattier cut of meat. If you’re really concerned about the greasiness of dark chicken meat, you can maybe do a mixture of both dark and white meat but just don’t use all white, it won’t turn out well.

I also got the veggie salad from the same site as the chicken. I didn’t dice my veggies as finely as needed but, oh well, what are you going to do? The baby really liked the salad but mostly enjoyed just picking the cucumbers out of it. The three year old didn’t touch it.

She did, however, touch the mejadra. I’ve actually made mejadra before but not this specific recipe. I didn’t realize I’d made it before until I was cooking it and honestly, I’ve made it a few times. I believe it’s in my Greek cookbook, the one that turned out to be less Greek and more Mediterranean, and it’s a pretty easy and straight forward dish. Themost time consuming part of this dish was frying the onions. Frying onions take for-e-ver! I recently made caramelized onions and was soooo bored. What is it that takes those suckers so long to turn brown???

Anyway, this meal made up for the frytastic meal before it. It definitely felt a lot healthier! One of the many good things about this meal is that I can make it over and over again and that each dish would compliment others as well; I wouldn’t have to always make all three together.

Actually, I think I’ll make the salad tonight. I’ll work on my dicing skills.

Tamales de Elote

Along with the pupusas, this meal was the one I was most excited to make. I love, love, LOVE tamales! They are the definition of comfort food to me. Like many Hispanic households, my family would get into tamale mode a bit after Thanksgiving and we would stay there until mid-January. They were always available during that time, either through us making them or buying them from the many, many women who sold them back home, but the biggest consumption time was right around Christmas. Because of this, I always associate tamales with the winter and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I ate my first tamale in a month that didn’t require a coat. That’s right, I was thirty before I ate a tamale that 1. wasn’t pork and 2. didn’t help keep me warm. I vividly remember that Oaxacan black bean and cheese tamale wrapped in a banana leaf and eating it at a farmer’s market in downtown Austin about five years ago.

Up until then, I couldn’t fathom eating a tamale in the spring or summer. It’s a hot food and you don’t eat hot foods when the temperature outside matches the temperature of the food.  This is also why I don’t eat soup in the summer. Barbecue is clearly the exception here because, I don’t know, it’s amazing. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again, I’m aware I’m weird.

So anyway, I was looking forward to making these tamales. I found the recipe online (that website is really awesome, by the way) and got to it. The last time I made tamales was for our New Year’s Eve party three years ago. I made almost fifteen dozen, ALONE, and it was painful. There’s a reason why there’s always an assembly line when making tamales: one person would develop carpal tunnel. My hands ached for a few days after but it was worth it because my tamales were the bomb.com. Luckily this recipe only made a dozen so I knew I could handle making a dozen on my own.

These tamales were different from what I’m used to because the filling, the corn, was actually incorporated into the masa. Typically you smear the masa on the husk and then put a dollop of filling in the middle but with this, I had to mix in the corn and butter directly with the maize and lard. The recipe said to steam them for thirty to forty five minutes but after forty five, they still felt soft, so I steamed them for another fifteen minutes. They still came out softer than usual tamales but my cousin, who was over for dinner, and I surmised that this had something to do with the corn being mixed in. I’m not a food chemist but I’m just guessing that the liquid the corn releases when being cooked had something to do with it.

Even with being softer than expected, they were fantastic! I had some rice and beans leftover from the day before so I whipped up some more Casamiento to go with it. The tamales were a little sweet and a lot lighter than what I’m used to but I still loved them. Spreading the masa wasn’t as easy as it is with pork tamales but again, I’m thinking that had to do with the corn. I’m also not the best at spreading masa. Growing up I was never allowed to spread the masa because I had a heavy had; my job was to put the meat in and wrap them. Translation: the crap job.

The girls loved them, the oldest especially, and since they were easy to make, I know I’ll make them again. Maybe when they’re older, the girls can help me and BOTH will be able to spread the masa because I will not allow them to grow up with a masa spreading insecurity.