Sunday, December 28, 2014

Raisins in our Tamales

Tamales have always been a tradition in my family. Who knows how many generations back our tradition goes and who knows what great-great grandmother in our family decided to add the very European ingredient, raisins, to the tamal, thus transforming a pre-Columbian food into a colonial hybrid. 

Every family makes them differently; every family is convinced they make the best. Although...ours are the best. The arrangement of the raisins, one of the last things added before wrapping the tamal is crucial. They make the first bite into the tamal a delicate burst of sweetness mixed with the red chile-seasoned pork and venison. The corn dough is light, never pasty and thick and they are cooked in steam. Three types are made: venison/pork, bean with rajas, and sweet tamales. The moment of suspense comes in testing for doneness after the steaming process: the tamal must peel away from the husk easily. If this doesn't happen, two days of work are down the drain and everyone is in a tizzy looking for who or what is to blame. This has only happened once and it was about 30 years ago, but it's still a horror story retold nervously among the group of family gathering to make tamales every year.

Tamales have one taste when they're fresh out of the steamer, and another in the days after that, when you toast them on a comal to warm them. You can even warm them up in the microwave, but everyone prefers the toasted way. 

I'm re-posting our family recipe for tamales in case you get the courage to make them on some wintery day this season.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Almond Biscotti

Biscotti is something we like to eat when it's cold outside. I was given this recipe by a friend in Florence who always served them with Vin Santo. If you have flour, eggs, almonds, an orange, vanilla, and a bit of baking soda, you've got everything you need. They keep forever, especially if you store them in an airtight tin; you'll get the aroma of almonds and orange peel every time you open the tin.

(48 cookies)
2 cup  Flour; unbleached, all purpose
1 cup  Sugar
1 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp -Salt
2 Eggs, large
1 Egg yolk, large
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tbl Orange zest; freshly grated
1 1/2 c Almonds, whole; toasted lightly & chopped coarse

----------------------------------EGG WASH----------------------------------
1 Egg, large; beaten with
1 tsp -Water
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, blend the flour, the sugar, the baking soda and the salt until the mixture is combined well. In a small bowl whisk together the whole eggs, the yolk, the vanilla and the zest, add the mixture to the flour mixture, beating until a dough is formed and stir in the almonds.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead it several times and halve it. Working on a large buttered and floured baking sheet, with floured hands form each piece of dough into a flattish log 12 inches long and 2 inches wide, arrange the logs at least 3 inches apart on the sheet, and brush them with the egg wash. Bake the logs in the middle of a preheated 300F for 50 minutes and them cool on the baking rack for 10 minutes.

On a cutting board, cut the logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices, arrange the biscotti, cut sides down, on the baking sheet and bake them, in the 300F oven for 15 minutes on each side. Transfer the biscotti to racks to cool and store them in airtight containers.