Dear readers, I did not intend this post to be a diatribe on fat, but it looks like it is. My mother did not make tamales steamed in banana leaves. She made her tamales with dried corn husks, or as they call them in Oaxaca, hoja de totomoxtle. She did not use lard either. She used melted butter or margarine and Crisco. By now we all know that the trans fats in margarine are BAD. Crisco was invented in 1911 by a candle maker and a soap maker, two brothers-in-law in Cincinnati, Ohio who wanted to control the price of tallow -- the key ingredient in candles and soap (see Mother Linda's). They hired a German scientist to turn cottonseed oil into a solid. He was successful and they called it Crisco. Their names were Proctor and Gamble.
Five years ago I developed cancer of the pancreas, had surgery and recovered. I knew I would be o.k. when two months after surgery, I went to Armandino's Salumi in Seattle and ordered a meatball sandwich and ate a portion of it (3 bites) sitting in my car on S. Jackson St. During my recovery I started to research traditional foods and fats and learned that saturated fats (aka) traditional fats [lard, butter, whole raw milk, beef tallow, duck & goose fat, etc.] are GOOD. In an article for Bon Appetit Magazine, Nina Planck, author of "Real Food, What to Eat and Why" encourages us to eat traditional fats with impunity. Self-professed contrarian, Jennifer McLagan, author of "Fat, An Appreciation of A Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes", defiantly declares, "For all the Jack Sprats* out there -- you're wrong!". *(Nursery rhyme, "Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean, and so betwixt the two of them, they licked the platter clean...")
Eat off the fat of the land (you don't have to work too much)
The cream rises to the top (the best rises up to meet you)
La créme de la créme (the very "best" people)
Chew the fat (talk)
Fat cats (Robber Barrons -- Diamond "Jim" Brady, wealth, etc.)
Grease the palm (bribe)
Schmaltz (in the Montreal Jewish community, slang for money)
I try to eat only foods about which one can wax metaphorical. As evidenced by some of our everyday cultural references above, fat is one of those foods. Hydrogenated polyunsaturates is not.
That said, here is my recipe for black bean tamales:Rendered Lard
5.5 lb. Kurobuta (Berkshire) pork cut into cubes
2 cups Water
Place the fat and the water into a large crock pot and set on High. Cover and let cook for 10-12 hours until the water is evaporated and the cubes are small and golden. Strain the liquid into a container and let cool. This will yield approximately 3.25 pounds of pure white lard.
1 lb. Black beans, cooked with 1/4 onion and 2 garlic cloves
2 tsp. Ground avocado leaves (optional)
2 Tbs. Olive oil or, dare I say it, lard
Grind the beans in a food processor with very little liquid. Slowly cook the beans in the oil or lard, stirring constantly until the beans form a paste that is fairly dry and spreadable. Cool completely in the refrigerator.
1 lb. Fat
4 cups Maseca corn flour for tamales
3 cups Vegetable broth, warmed
1 Tbs. Baking powder
2 Tbs. Salt
Mix Maseca and vegetable broth in a mixer until it holds together in a mass. This will yield approximately 3 lb. 6 oz. Set aside and keep covered. Beat the fat in the mixer on high with the baking powder and salt for FIVE minutes. With the mixer going on medium speed, add the masa/dough in ping pong ball-sized chunks until it is incorporated. The finished masa should have the consistency of buttercream frosting.
Open the package(s) and unfurl the long leaves. Cut the leaves into 8 to 10-inch wide sections, inspecting each section and wiping them with a damp cloth if needed. To cut, just cut the hard inside vein and then tear. Two of these long strips put together with the veins together will make one long banana frond. Stack the leaves, get yourself organized and you're ready to start filling!
Stack the tamales, staggered and seam side down. Steam in pre-heated, salted water for 1 hour, or until the masa does not stick to the leaf.