Tamales de Bacalao (Salt Cod Tamales)

Tamales de Bacalao (Salt Cod Tamales)
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Jack Pickett, Phoenix Table & Bar 

1/2 lb. salt cod
2 bay leaves
2 cups milk
1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup whipping cream
Juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
12 dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for a few minutes and patted dry
Salsa de tomate or tomato sauce (recipe follows)
Masa (recipe follows)

The night before making tamales, start soaking the salt cod in cold water, keeping refrigerated, and changing the water once in a 12-hour period.

Drain the cod and place into a sauce pan with the 2 cups milk and the 2 bay leaves.  Bring milk to a simmer, and cook until the cod is tender and easily flakes.  Drain, discarding milk and bay leaves.  Flake the cod into small pieces, and reserve.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot with 1 teaspoon salt and enough cold water to just cover them.  Put on a lid, and bring the potatoes to a low boil.

While the potatoes cook, melt the butter in a sauté pan, and add the onion and garlic.  Sweat the onion mixture on low heat until tender and translucent, but not browned.  Then, stir in the cream.

Pour into a blender jar and blend until smooth.  Keep warm.

When the potatoes are tender, drain them well and force them through a ricer or mash well.

Stir in the cream mixture, the lemon juice, salt, white pepper, and the flaked cod.  Check seasoning. 

Put this mixture in a piping bag with a large straight tip or plain opening.

On a clean surface, lay out the corn husks with the tapered end away from you.  Inspect the husks for any splits or other flaws, and replace if necessary.

Spread the masa mixture onto the corn husk in approximately a 4-inch square, leaving a 1- inch gap on one side (preferred side usually depends on whether you are right or left handed (I am left handed and like the right side), pipe or spoon a 1-inch thick by 4- inch long pipe of the potato cod mixture onto the middle of the masa square, and roll the husk up in the direction of the gap you left.  Fold down the top and neatly place the tamale in a steamer basket or colander, open end up.  Finish the process on the other 11 or so husks.

Place the steamer basket in the steamer or the colander in a pot large enough to handle it with an inch of boiling water in the bottom.  Don't let the tamales rest in the water.  Cover tightly and steam for 30 minutes, or until the masa starts to puff up, keeping an eye on the water level as you go.

Turn off the heat, and allow the tamales to "set."  Carefully unwrap the tamales and serve with the tomato sauce.

Masa Ingredients
2 cups masa harina (Maseca or Bob's Red Mill, not corn meal)
1 cup light stock or water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon annatto seed (optional)
1/4 lb. butter, softened

Masa Preparation
Mix the dry ingredients together.  Slowly stir in the stock until the mixture forms a smooth ball.

Cream butter in the mixer, then add a small ball of masa dough to the butter, beating completely until it is incorporated.  Add the rest of the dough in this manner until it is all gone and the masa is light and fluffy.

Use immediately or refrigerate and then re-beat before using.

Salsa de Tomate Ingredients
1 28-oz. can of whole plum tomatoes in juice
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Salsa de Tomate Preparation
Sweat the onions in a saucepan until tender, but not browned.  Add oregano and cook for a bit.

Drain and crush the tomatoes, add to the onions, simmer for a few minutes, and then puree in a blender to create a slightly coarse sauce.  Check seasoning.

Reheat before serving.