Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Green chile chicken tamales and tacos

Before we started eating locally and seasonally, I was vaguely aware that meat had seasons. I knew people butchered hogs and steer in the fall, and I knew that chickens didn't lay eggs reliably in the winter, but beyond that I didn't think about it.

As it happens, chicken is a summer meat. We buy our chicken, pastured and antibiotic free, from the same Amish farm family who sells us our lamb, pork, sheep's milk cheese and occasional gallon of raw milk. Chicken season started two weeks ago, and Chuck and I headed out to the farm, 15 minutes away, to pick up a couple. We will buy 2 or 3 every week or so from now until around the first of November. Last year we froze a couple whole chickens and some cooked meat to use in other things. Chuck also fried several and froze the pieces to grab for a quick dinner on those days when we couldn't' get anything else made in time. This year I purchased a new pressure canner, and will try my hand at making and canning chicken broth and chicken meat to keep the freezer clear for the beef, pork and lamb.

We smoked these first two whole, and ate chicken for dinner, and had meat left over for sandwiches during the week. By the next weekend we were down to the little bits that don't work well on a sandwich, so we decided to make tacos and tamales.

I combined the small pieces of cooked chicken with some cheese and a 4 oz jar of chopped green chiles from the summer before. Then I made dough for the tortillas and set it aside to rest while I made the tamales. I used an instant masa mix for the corn tortillas and the tamale dough, and a 50/50 mix of unbleached white and white whole wheat flour for the tortillas.

The last time we used the tortilla maker, we had trouble with it blowing apart the tortillas from internal steam. In addition, cooking them one at a time is an arduous process. This time, rather than cook the tortillas one at a time on the tortilla maker, we made them with the press part, and then stacked them on waxed paper to cook on the griddle. We had mixed results with this- the flour tortillas stuck terribly, and were an awful mess when they cooked. The masa did not stick so badly. The stickiness of the flour tortillas is entirely my fault- I lost the recipe and tried to proceed without one. Next time I will follow the process found here There is also a link to a corn tortilla recipe/process on this page as well. Despite their appearance, they tasted OK- a little chewy. The masa tortillas were fine, and the tamales were as well. We garnished with some (non-local) guacamole, local tomatoes and cilantro from our garden.

Click here if you would like to view the tamale making process. You won't find any pictures of the ugly flour tortillas, though- sorry. By the way- I happened to have a bag of dry corn husks here from the last time I made tamales, but if I hadn't I could have wrapped them in parchment paper for a less authentic result. In South America, tamales may also be wrapped in banana leaves.