Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tamale Time 2006 Edicion Numero Dos

Thank goodness for good butchers. They are the people behind the counter or the case at the market where you buy fresh meat, poultry and fish. Get to know these people. Ask questions. If you don't see what you want, ask them to order it for you. You are more likely to find a helpful butcher at one of the smaller market chains, like Stater Bros. (God, please send a Staters to me!) There is no excuse why the supermarket butcher cannot be helpful and accommodating. But more often than not, there's nobody around to help. "Everyone is on break." I have a major "beef" with the lack of service at a local unnamed major supermarket. I only shop there for the items SuperA doesn't have room to stock.

So it was no surprise that in addition to the great price on masa, SuperA also had the big ass pork butt on sale. Nothing in the case---Dios mio! No problema, their butchers are always helpful. In no time at all the butcher had a huge pork butt ready for me, cut into three pieces and beautifully trimmed with just enough fat. I also bought a large piece of beef chuck roast, for "mas sabor", like our Nana Della and Tata did when they made tamales. In all it was about 15 pounds of meat.

The meat was prepped the day before our tamale time, drying the beef and pork pieces with paper towels and then salting all surfaces. After searing the meat in olive oil, I added smushed garlic cloves, a couple of whole peeled brown onions, then enough water to cover. Brought to a boil, it was seasoned with salt & pepper, then simmered until the beef was tender and fell apart. That was how my grandmother did it, how she knew the when meat was ready. Nothing worse than biting into a tamale made with tough stringy meat.

The meat was placed in a large bowl, the broth was strained, then poured it into another pot to be used later. Then I had to work quickly. Cleaning and shredding the meat is actually better to do while it is still hot. The pieces of fat, connective tissue and the nasty gristly parts come apart easier. I was amazed at how delicious that meat tasted. The combination of the beef and pork had such a great flavor. I couldn't help myself, so I made a burrito with a hunk of the meat and a splosh of that chile colorado. Man, that's some good eating, besides it's the chef's advantage! The meat was ready, very lean, not much waste. I gotta thank my butcher again.
(To be continued...)

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