TAMALES DE MAÍZ CON CANGREJO
I learned this technique on a trip I took to Cuba many years ago and immediately fell in love with the idea of making fresh corn tamals. When I got back to my kitchen at Cuba Libre, I began to re-create the dish, tinkering with a wider variety of ingredients. I am well aware that huitlacoche is not a traditional Cuban ingredient, but its earthiness pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the crab and the corn, a combination I’m certain Cuban chefs would enjoy. Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on corn and is considered a delicacy. While it is sold fresh in Cuba, it is more typically found frozen, jarred, or canned. If using canned, you can expect it to be seasoned with onions and spices, so be careful when adding salt.
You Will Need
Remove the husks from the corncobs and reserve them; remove and discard the silks. Grate the corn off the cobs using the coarse side of a box grater and transfer the grated corn to a bowl. Put the cobs in a large bowl, pour the paella broth over them, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Melt the vegetable shortening in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Add the onion and grated corn and sauté until the onion turns limp and translucent, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Whisk together the Bijol, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and fold it into the grated corn, making sure the mixture is well combined. Add the Parmesan, recaito, and Enchilado Sauce, and stir well.
After an hour, remove the corncobs from the paella broth, squeezing the cobs to release the juice back into the broth; discard the cobs. Add the cream and egg yolks to the paella broth, then pour the broth into the corn mixture and stir until well combined into a dough.
Gently fold half of the lump crabment and all of the claw crabmeat into the dough.
Preheat the oven to 375oF.
Prepare eight 61⁄2-inch-wide cazuelitas (small terra-cotta bowls) by lining each one with 2 or 3 reserved corn husks, allowing the corn husks to hang over the edges of the bowl. Spoon about a cup of the tamal dough into the center of one bowl and fold the cornhusks over the dough to cover it. Repeat with the remaining cazuelitas, cornhusks, and dough. Cover each cazuelita with aluminum foil, transfer them to a baking sheet, and bake the tamals for 40 minutes.
Remove the tamals from the oven and discard the foil. Toss the remaining lump crabmeat with the culantro. Peel open the corn husks and top each tamal with some of the crabmeat-culantro mixture and a drizzle of the huitlacoche salpicón. Serve the tamals in the terra-cotta bowls.
Makes about 8 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped (2 cups)
2 Cubanelle peppers (see Note, page 59), seeded and chopped
5 cachucha peppers (see Note, page 82), seeded and finely chopped 1⁄4 cup white wine
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup tomato puree
1⁄2 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions in the hot oil until they begin to turn a light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Toss in the red bell, Cubanelle, and cachucha peppers and cook, stirring intermittently, until the peppers begin to soften. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any golden brown bits with a rubber spatula.
Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cumin, oregano, and black pepper. Pour in the pureed and diced tomatoes along with 1⁄2 cup water. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the hot sauce. Allow the sauce to cool.
Set up a meat grinder with the large plate. As soon as the sauce is cool, pass it through the grinder. Alternatively, lightly pulse the sauce in a food processor to coarsely chop it. The sauce should remain chunky. Cover and set aside until needed. The sauce can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5–6 days, or frozen.
Makes about 1⁄2 cup
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces huitlacoche, fresh or thawed if frozen
1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1⁄4 teaspoon freshlyground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium- high heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt and sauté until the vegetables are limp and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the huitlacoche and reduce the liquid until almost all of it has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Pour in the balsamic and sherry vinegars and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt along with the truffle oil, thyme, pepper, and lemon juice. Stir until well combined. Cover and set aside until needed. This can be stored
in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.