Traditional Honduran and Nicaraguan meat and vegetable-filled tamales served on Christmas morning.
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
- 6 banana leaves**
* 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
- Fill and preheat the water oven to 134F/56.5C.
- Season the pork generously with salt and pepper and put it in a single layer into a cooking pouch; vacuum seal the pouch.
- Submerge in the water oven to cook for at least 1 hour.
- 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.)
- Raise the temperature of the water oven to 176F/80C.
- Put the rice into a small bowl and cover with warm water for 30 minutes. Set aside for assembly.
Make the masa
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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
- Remove the hard spine from the banana leaves and cut each one into a 10×10 inch square.
- Drain the rice.
- Gather the filling ingredients: rice, masa, pork, and vegetables to make an assembly line.
- Lay out a banana leaf with the smooth side up.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tie the packets with twine, like a present (which after all they are!)
Cooking the nacatamales
- 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.
- Submerge the pouches in the water oven to cook for 3 (to up to 6) hours.
- Remove the cooked packets from the pouches and serve, letting your guests open the packets, themselves, at the table.