Chicken Tinga Tamales

On December 21, 2014, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Nothing says Christmas like making Tamales. At least that’s the case for a lot of families, but not ours.  I wasn’t raised in a house that made tamales for the holidays. Nope. Instead we made spritz cookies and as a kid I would sneak into the garage freezer and eat a few just about everyday. Eventually my mom caught on and made an extra batch knowing her oldest son was eating a few as the holidays approached.

Back to the tamales.

This was my first attempt at making tamales.  I have a few places I love to go for them including Evie’s Tamales in Mexican Village in Detroit.  When I worked for DTE Energy we used to go their for lunch and often buy a dozen to take home.  Simple and delicious pork filled tamales are always a favorite.  I do have a place here in South Pasadena, California I go to and order tamales from.  Grass Roots Natural Market sells tamales for the holidays and they also sell mesa for making your own at home.

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I ordered a dozen from Grass Roots for Christmas Eve but also bought some mesa to try it myself.  One of my favorite tacos lately is the chicken tinga taco at Guisados.  I decided to make my own chicken tinga and while I still have a lot of work before I master Guisados’ version, what resulted here was pretty damn good and both my wife and I agreed they were the best tamales we ever had.

So here is my attempt at tamales.  One tip I found out after making them is to make sure you use the smoother side of the corn husk to wrap your masa and filling in.  The ridged side prevents the tamale from easily peeling the husk away.

Chicken Tinga Tamales
Serves 4

Corn huskes, 12-14
Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb bag of mesa, store bought or find a recipe that uses lard
4 oz cotija cheese, crumbled
3 ripe medium sized tomatoes
1 tomatillo, peeled
1 can chipotle peppers, only need 1 pepper and 1 to 2 Tb of sauce from can
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, diced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Remove from heat and submerge corn husks into the water and let it them sit for a hour.

First boil some water and poach the chicken breasts in boiling water for 12 minutes.  Remove and shred. You can also buy a rotisserie chicken from the store and shred the meat to use for this dish.

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To make the tinga sauce, bring the tomatoes and tomatillo to a boil in water then reduce to a gentile boil for 10 minutes.  Remove from water and place in a food processor.  Blend until smooth with no chunks.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic cooking for 3 minutes until translucent. Remove from pan and add into food processor.  Add the chipotle, 1 tablespoon of chipotle sauce, and spices to the food processor and blend until smooth.  Taste and add more chipotle sauce if you feel it is not to your desired heat.

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Put chicken and tinga sauce into a bowl and mix.  In another bowl add your masa and in another bowl add the crumbled cojita cheese.  Now take your corn husks and spread some masa into it then add about 3 tablespoons of the chicken tinga mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and fold the tamale placing it into a steamer.

Finish making the rest of the tamales and steam for 1 hour.  Serve with your favorite side dish.

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An Appreciation for Home Cooking Begins at Home

On April 26, 2013, in Family, by Chris Baccus
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I was reading an interview with food author Michael Pollan earlier today. He did an interview with Grub Street NY as part of the promotional tour for his new book Cooked. The interview talked a lot about Pollan’s experience with food through his family and mostly from his mother.

This got me thinking about my own personal experience with food, especially the early days.  I grew up in the late 1970s and 80s when the growth of convenience food was taking root as more families moved to two-income households and family meals cooked by mom was becoming less and less of a normal thing.

In our house it was still the norm. My mom stayed at home. Mostly that is when my parents weren’t separated or later divorced; though, by the time of the divorce I was 16 and I was pretty much done being raised by my parents. The last part of “living at home” was with my grandparents, but that’s a whole other story, and yes home cooking continued at grandma’s house too.

Back to the food.

With a stay at home mom and one who was half Italian and half French, a home cooked meal was pretty much every night.  We had a lot of typical things from the 1970s and 80s so it wasn’t some locavore, sustainable farming exercise.  There were a lot of canned vegetables, especially corn and green beans but I never minded. I loved both and would in fact come home from school sometimes and eat a whole can of corn that I would cook then add a  little butter to it.

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Still there were issues of Gourmet and Bon Appetite magazines that arrived in the mail from time to time.  This was both good and bad. I recall one dish my mom used to make that I never liked, though I do now. She made a ground beef and rice stuffed bell pepper.  She might as well have served me calf’s liver and boiled brussel sprouts.

So there were definitely moments when I could’ve done without Gourmet magazine’s influence, but for the most part home cooking was instilled into what we did at home as a family.

My mom also became known for a particular dish that to this day comes up in family conversation – lasagna. “Barbara’s lasagna” is legendary.  I have the recipe on an index card in my recipe folder; though, I’ve gone my own way with it and make mine in a similar though different manner. Still I’m sure side-by-side my mom’s would win.

387715_2806650369933_124449867_nIt’s that pride that comes from making a stellar dish that eventually made me love cooking. Without a home where that happens, one misses what the joy of cooking is really all about. It’s not about it being a chore; though, yes it can at times feel that way. No it’s about making that dish your family and friends love. Everyone lit up when lasagna was made or another favorite family dish, goulash.  No one ever gets excited when some pre-packaged convenience food from the freezer is thawed and heated up.

Some things have changed with time and it’s a bit different in our home. We mostly buy from local farms and what we can’t find there we buy organic.  It’s also maybe once every 3 months that we have a canned vegetable. We have raised our boys on eating fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal so our kids eat tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, carrots and just about every kind of fresh fruit.

Home cooking is fun; it’s memorable, but most of all it’s an important family experience I did eventually come to appreciate more and more as I carry the tradition on today with my own family.

Thanks mom.

 

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