Back when I was a kid growing up in San Francisco, there was a great place named Johnson’s Tamale Grotto where we would get “cup” tamales. Cup tamales were made in – you guessed it – coffee cups. They spread the filling into greased coffee cups, added the filling – the turkey cup tamale was the most popular – and then added more filling to the top. They were then steamed until done and served with a brown sauce that went on everything.
San Francisco had scores of “Tamale Parlors” and “Tamale Grotto’s” once upon a time – most coming into being during the 1920’s. We practically lived at The Hot House at Playland, and Johnson’s was a short bike ride when we were catching crawdads at Pine Lake. (Yeah – we city kids had our pockets of country right in our own backyards – and the Pacific Ocean was 2 blocks away!) Roosevelt’s is still in full swing – albeit a new remodel and menu has changed the place dramatically (and their website is still a mess…) But I digress…
I bought a bag of masa a few weeks back thinking that I might just make some tamales, again… I actually used to make them all the time – they’re pretty easy to do – and even kept corn husks on hand. I think my most memorable tamale party was my brother-in-law’s birthday maybe 25 years ago. He’s a 4th of July baby and we had a huge party. I made hundreds of tamales and consumed hundreds of margaritas. I think we had a great time.
Fast-forward to 2009…
I wanted tamales, didn’t have corn husks. I remembered those wonderful Johnson’s Tamales (damn, I wish I had their tamale sauce recipe!) and decided to go for it.
- 3 cups Masa Harina
- 3 cups lukewarm broth or water (I used homemade beef broth – I was roasting beef bones…)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup lard
Whip lard in mixer until light. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and then add lukewarm broth a nd mix with fingers to form a slightly moist dough. Add to lard and mix well.
I had a couple of chip steaks that I simmered in the aforementioned beef broth. I chopped them and then – in a skillet – mixed them with:
- 1 diced onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp pasilla pepper
- 1 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1 can diced green chilis
- 1/2 cup chipotle sauce
- salt and pepper, to taste
Saute chopped beef with the onions and garlic. Add green chilis and spices. Add chipotle sauce and simmer.
I used 10 oz souffle cups.
Grease containers well. Place about 2 tbsp dough in bottom of cup and press down. With a small spatula or knife, spread dough around the inside of the cup to the rim, leaving a well for the filling.
Place a couple of tablespoons of filling in each cup, pressing down. Add a bit more dough to top to cover and smooth.
Cover with foil and place in deep pan. Add boiling water halfway up cups and bake at 350° for 1 hour.
I’ll never be able to replicate this one…
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 jar mole paste
- 1 tbsp assorted chili powders (I have several. I just added some of all of them…)
- 2 cups aforementioned beef broth
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Mexican oregano
- salt and pepper
I sauteed the onion and garlic, added the fresh tomatoes, then the canned. I added the rest of the ingredients and then hit it with an immersion blender. I then strained it and put it back into the pot to simmer.
I made the (brown) rice with bottled enchilada sauce thinned with yet more of that beef broth.
The beans were canned pintos to which I added jalapenos and sofrito sauce.
Dinner was really, really good.
This one took some time, because I really did do it all from scratch. I think if I could find a good all-purpose Mexican Red Sauce (maybe I’ll take a run out to Wegman’s one of these days) it would save a lot of time. Plus, I hadn’t done these in a really long time, so I took my time putting them all together.
Tomorrow is Chinese New Year – the year of the Ox. I can guarantee no Oxtail Soup.