Nacatamales Sous Vide


Nacatamales Honduran/Peruvian Christmas DishTraditional Honduran and Nicaraguan meat and vegetable­-filled tamales served on Christmas morning.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS For the masa (dough)

  • 3 cups (500 g) masa harin
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) lard or rendered bacon fat, very cold and firm
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) naranja agria (sour orange juice)*
  • 2 cups (480 ml) chicken stock

For the filling

  • 1-1/2 pounds (680 g) pork butt, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) uncooked rice
  • 4 red potatoes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 bell pepper, stemmed, cored, and sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 small (Roma) tomatoes, stemmed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint

For assembly

  • 6 banana leaves**
  • Twine

* You can substitute the juice of one orange and two limes for sour orange juice. **Banana Leaves are available from Latin and Asian markets or alternatively you can use corn shucks (as in Mexico) or even aluminum foil to wrap.) DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill and preheat the water oven to 134F/56.5C.
  2. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper and put it in a single layer into a cooking pouch; vacuum seal the pouch.
  3. Submerge in the water oven to cook for at least 1 hour.
  4. Remove the pouch and quick chill, submerged in ice water until ready to assemble the tamales. (This step can be done a day or two in advance; if waiting longer than 30 minutes to assemble, refrigerate until ready to use.)
  5. Raise the temperature of the water oven to 176F/80C.
  6. Put the rice into a small bowl and cover with warm water for 30 minutes. Set aside for assembly.

Make the masa

  1. In a food processor put the masa harina and salt; add the cold lard and pulse to a mealy consistency. (Alternatively, put the dry ingredients into a bowl, cut the lard in in with a pastry knife, and mix in wet ingredients with a hand mixer.)
  2. With the motor on low, slowly add the sour orange juice and then enough chicken broth to make a soft, moist dough of a consistency a bit stiffer than mashed potatoes.
  3. Increase the speed to medium high and process/beat for 2 to 3 minutes to put make a fluffier masa. Cover and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Assemble the nacatamales

  1. Remove the hard spine from the banana leaves and cut each one into a 10×10 ­inch square.
  2. Drain the rice.
  3. Gather the filling ingredients: rice, masa, pork, and vegetables to make an assembly line.
  4. Lay out a banana leaf with the smooth side up.
  5. Put 1/2 cup of the masa down the middle of the banana leaf and, using wetted hands, spread it out a little, leaving a clear margin of leaf all around.
  6. Put about 1/4 cup (60 ml volume) of the pork on top of the masa and sprinkle 1 tablespoon (15 ml volume) of the rice over the pork.
  7. Lay 1 or 2 slices of potato on top of the pork, then 1 or 2 pieces of onion, 1 or 2 pieces of pepper and finally a slice of tomato. Top it all off with a few mint leaves.
  8. Fold the top edge of the banana leaf down over the filling. Bring the bottom edge of the banana leaf up over this. Then fold in both sides to make a rectangular packet.
  9. Tie the packets with twine, like a present (which after all they are!)

Cooking the nacatamales

  1. Put the packets in a single layer (2 or 3 at a time) into small cooking pouches and vacuum seal on Gentle speed; force the seal to interrupt the vacuum if needed to avoid crushing the packets.
  2. Submerge the pouches in the water oven to cook for 3 (to up to 6) hours.
  3. Remove the cooked packets from the pouches and serve, letting your guests open the packets, themselves, at the table.
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