Nothing says Holiday like a Disneyland Tamale!

| December 14, 2010

What’s better than going to Disneyland early on a Friday morning, during the holiday season?  Eating Christmas tamales!!!!  The DIS Unplugged was invited to come learn how to make Chicken Pasilla Tamales with Jay Garcia, Chef de Cuisine at the Pacific Wharf Cafe in Disney California Adventure.   Since tamales are a great Latino family holiday tradition, you can taste these little beauties for yourself until January 3rd, 2010 at the Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Disneyland and the Cucina Cucamonga in California Adventure!

Come along and you can get some tips, watch Chef Jay teach me the proper way to make a good tamale, as well as get the recipe to use in your own kitchen (there’s even a vegetarian one to enjoy)!   We’ll give you a sneak peek at some of the treats available this holiday, but only a teaser.  There’s enough of that goodness to make another blog!

When I arrived at the beautifully decorated Big Thunder Ranch, I was greeted by the lovely table where we would be doing our  cooking demo.   I could tell that this was going to be something fun.

Chef Jay Garcia came up and introduced himself.  I’ll go out on a limb and say it – What a cutie!  He was extremely sweet and a wonderful man to work with on such a chilly morning!

He also had, in his hands, a steaming covered plate…..  I got even more excited.  I was going to get to sample!!!  But more on that in a minute.   We were on in 5… 4…. 3… 2… and action!

Chef Jay talked about how labor intensive tamales are and that the fun of having them during the holidays is that everyone in the family comes together to assemble them.

It all starts with preparing a few things in advance – the filling, the corn husks and the corn masa or “dough” that is thick like a paste.  This masa is made with a corn flour (for those of you familiar with the video in the Mission tortilla factory in California Adventure – MASECA© is what we are referring to) , broth or water, and other ingredients – depending on the type of tamale you are making.    Corn husks and the flour can be found in the Latin food aisle of most large grocery stores or in Latin specialty markets.    The masa is in the bowl on the right in the photo below.

The filling can be almost anything you desire.  In this case, it is a mixture of chicken and pasilla chiles that has been cooked so slowly and tenderly that is simply shreds into the beautiful mixture you see below….

The Pasilla Chicken Filling and the Masa dough

Once you have the masa and the filling prepared, the corn husks need to be soaked for about 30 minutes in a bowl of hot water to soften them.   Chef Jay then showed me how to spread the masa on the husk, being careful not to damage the tamale.

He then added the filling in the middle and folded the husk around the filling, so that the masa enclosed it without the husk touching the filling.  It was like folding a burrito or a Chinese moo shu pancake, but not.

Once the tamale’s corn husk is folded, they are placed with the open side up, into the pot for steaming.   When they come out, they look like this….

Can you say “YUMMMMMM!!!!”?  I certainly did.  But that isn’t all… They can be topped with a variety of delicious items.  Chef Jay placed tomatillo salsa (also known as salsa verde or green salsa), pico de gallo (a mild, freshly made mix of tomatos, onions, and optional chiles), grated cotija cheese (found in any refridgerated specialty/Mexican cheese area, chopped cilantro, and lettuce on mine.  You can also use a simple crema fresca (Mexican Crema or thin sour cream sauce) to drizzle on top.  He had another spicy chipotle sauce to drizzle, too!

The toppings – top to bottom:  Tomatillo salsa, cilantro (left) and cotija cheese (right with spoon), pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce.

After our video shoot, the crew was astounded that I ate so much of mine during the segment!   I didn’t care – I loved it!   I don’t think you will regret it at all if you take this little taste of Disneyland and try it at home.    The recipe that Disneyland provided for the chicken filling is mild and doesn’t have the Pasilla Chile in it (as pictured above), but you can easily make it as spicy or mild as you want it.  To make it like the filling I had, just add one diced Pasilla chile to the chicken filling ingredients (remove the ribs and seeds, unless you want the heat).  You could also substitute the spicier ingredients with milder ones, such as Anaheim Chiles for Pasilla ones.  If you can’t find Pasilla, try using Ancho or Poblano ones.  They are similar enough in heat level and flavor.

Thanks to the good folks at Disneyland for sharing their recipes for this chicken version, as well as a vegetarian one!   Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo!!!!!

Chicken Tamales

Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante

DISNEYLAND® Resort

Makes 18 tamales

Chicken Filling

1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, excess fat removed

1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon ground oregano

1 tablespoon sea salt

Red Chile Sauce

1 (3-ounce) bag dried California chiles (about 12 to 14 chiles)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch ground bay leaves (see Cook’s Notes below)

Tamale Dough

3 1/2 cups masa harina (see Cook’s Notes below)

1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening at room temperature

1 tablespoon coarse salt

2 to 4 cups of reserved chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Tamale Wrappers

24 dried cornhusks, soaked in boiling-hot water for 2 hours

For chicken filling:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a large stockpot. Add enough cold water to cover chicken entirely.
  2. Place pot over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken registers 165° on an instant-read thermometer.
  3. Carefully remove chicken from the broth; reserve broth for tamale dough. When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull off and discard the skin. Pull the meat from the bones, discarding the bones. Shred chicken meat, and set aside.

For red chili sauce:

  1. Place chiles in a medium bow. Pour 3 cups of boiling water over, submerging chiles completely in water. Soak for 2 hours.
  2. Place the soaked chiles into a blender with the remaining ingredients. Add just enough water to cover chiles (no more than 2 cups). Puree until smooth.
  3. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove skin and seeds, pressing on solids to push sauce through the sieve.

For tamale dough:

  1. Place masa harina and lard or vegetable shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until shortening is evenly distributed through the masa.
  2. Add chicken broth, a cup at a time, until mixture resembles the consistency of mashed potatoes.

For tamales:

  1. Add 1 cup of Red Chile Sauce to the shredded chicken, tossing to combine. Lay 1 cornhusk, concave side up, on a work surface. Place about 2 tablespoons tamale dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk. The dough should be about 1/2 inch from the sides, 1 inch from the top and about 3 inches from the bottom.
  2. Place 1 level tablespoon of the chicken mixture in the center of the dough. Bring sides up to meet, pinching dough to seal, and then roll tamale into a cylinder. Fold the bottom of the husk up and under. Set tamale seam side down on a baking sheet or large platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  3. Add a few inches water to a large stockpot, and place a steamer basket inside. Place tamales in steamer, stacking no more than 2 high. Place pot over high to bring water to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low. Steam tamales for about 90 minutes, or until the tamales start to separate from the cornhusks.  Check water level periodically, and add more water if needed. Serve with additional Red Chile Sauce on the side.

Vegetable Tamales

Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante

DISNEYLAND® Resort

Makes 18 tamales

Vegetable Filling

4 large fresh pasilla peppers (may substitute poblano peppers)

2 medium russet potatoes

4 medium carrots

1/2 (1-pound) bag frozen sweet peas

2 pounds queso fresco

Tamale Dough

3 1/2 cups masa harina (see Cook’s Notes below)

1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening at room temperature

1 tablespoon coarse salt

2 to 4 cups of reserved chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Tamale Wrappers

24 dried cornhusks, soaked in boiling-hot water for 2 hours

Favorite chili sauce or salsa

For vegetable filling:

  1. Place the peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place under a pre-heated broiler, about 2 inches below the heat. Broil until skin blisters and is charred, turning to evenly char each pepper.
  2. Place the peppers in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Steam in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Gently peel away the skin. Cut off the tops of the peppers, and discard the stems and the seeds. Cut peppers into strips about 3 inches long and 1/2-inch wide.
  3. Peel the potatoes, and place them into a bowl of cold water. Cut each potato into strips 3 inches long and 1/2-inch square. Return potato strips to the water until ready to use.
  4. Peel the carrots and cut them into strips 3 inches long by 1/2-inch square.
  5. Place the frozen peas in a sieve, and run under hot water until they turn bright green.
  6. Crumble cheese and place in a small bowl. Set aside.

For tamale dough:

  1. Place masa harina and lard or vegetable shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until shortening is evenly distributed through the masa.
  2. Add chicken broth, a cup at a time, until mixture resembles the consistency of mashed potatoes.

For tamales:

  1. Lay 1 cornhusk, concave side up, on a work surface. Place about 2 tablespoons tamale dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk. The dough should be about 1/2 inch from the sides, 1 inch from the top and about 3 inches from the bottom.
  2. Place 2 strips pepper, 1 piece potato, 1 piece carrot, 1 teaspoon peas and 1 teaspoon cheese in the center of the dough. Bring sides up to meet, pinching dough to seal, and then roll tamale into a cylinder. Fold the bottom of the husk up and under. Set tamale seam side down on a baking sheet or large platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  3. Add a few inches water to a large stockpot, and place a steamer basket inside. Place tamales in steamer, stacking no more than 2 high. Place pot over high to bring water to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low. Steam tamales for about 90 minutes, or until the tamales start to separate from the cornhusks.
  4. Serve with your favorite chili sauce or salsa.

Cook’s Notes:

Ground bay leaves may be found in the ethnic aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin-foods markets.

Masa harina (literally “dough flour”) is flour made from dried masa, which is made with sun- or fire-dried corn kernels.  Masa harina may be found in the ethnic aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin-foods markets.

Video courtesy of Disneyland Media Services.  Photos by N. Johnson


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Category: Dining, Disneyland

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Disneyland Podcaster for the DIS Unplugged

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