Tag Archives: masa harina

Tamales with Pibil-Style Pork and Guajillo Sauce

Have you ever made tamales?  No, not tamale pie.  My mother used to make that and as much as I enjoyed her cooking, tamale pie would not have been one of my favorites.  From what I can remember, it was noticeably sweet, and comprised of hamburger, corn, and canned tomatoes.  I’m not going to blame this on my mother, because I know it was the recipe.  Tamale pie could never compare to homemade tamales.

The only source of comparison I have is that of local women who tempt office workers with their once-a-week offerings, wrapped in foil, and still piping hot.  They’re amazing and so of course it’s a challenge to not eat one before taking them home to share for dinner.  I’d say that’s a fairly good model to work from.

Often, tamales are made with dried corn husks, the masa, or corn meal and filling spread on the inside of a dried corn husk, or fresh banana leaf before steaming.  The filling can be anything imaginable, and often is depending on who traditionally makes the tamales, and what region of Mexico or the Southwest U.S. they’re from.

If you’ve been studying Mexican cooking like I have the past few years, the idea of banana leaves wrapped around a savory filling is quite tempting; it sounds so exotic! A glance out my patio window focuses in on the not so big non-fruit bearing variegated leaf banana plant I’ve been nurturing as a possible source.  No, I’d have to depend on a local market, which shouldn’t be a challenge in San Diego considering the influence of Mexican cooking, but it is.

When I first happened on to the lone 4-lb. package of huge sections of banana tree leaves recently, I grabbed it knowing I’d procrastinated long enough and could now make my own homemade tamales. I knew I didn’t need four pounds of leaves, so attempted quite unsuccessfully to separate them.  Unfortunately, the leaf strips were enormous and all folded together, so my efforts in trying to avoid waste ended up creating something worse.  The leaves began to split, making them useless for the next shopper’s tamales.

Thankfully, my first attempt at tamales was a success thanks to the help of a very good friend.  Between the two of us, influence from a few good recipes, and a make-shift steamer, a few split banana leaves caused very few problems.

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Not My Mama’s: Mexican Street Tacos

Tortilladora & Masa

Because I’ve been dreaming of the street tacos I had while in Mexico, I decided to put that bag of masa I’ve had in my cupboard since the last time we attempted making our own tortillas to good use.  It’s been a while because let’s face it — San Diego is a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the border and there are plenty of places to get authentic tacos here.  I just never order them.  I’m more of a carnitas person so can’t tell you much about how good the tacos are at our favorite “Los Dos” across from Albertson’s on Turquoise in Pacific Beach.  It’s on my agenda to find out, though.

In the meantime, I treated myself to a tortilla press to the tune of $17.  It makes me smile about this cooking “hobby” I have, because that sum could purchase quite a few packages of perfectly fresh corn tortillas if you know when the delivery guys stock the best ones at the market.  But the woman in Puerto Vallarta made it look so easy:  Make a ball, put it on the lower plastic covered plate, press, and peel.  Voila!

Yes, well, let’s just say that after watching me try a few with less than completely desirable results, my husband was gnashing at the bit to step in and finish the rest with no trouble at all.  Go figure.  Perhaps it’s a math thing.

And the taste?  Would they compare favorably with the El Cisne taco cart in Puerto Vallarta?  I say definitely.

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