Monday, January 27, 2014

Rabbit Tamales

Many of you who know me also know that I love to cook. I love feeding people,company, comfort and enjoying the outcome of a good meal. What I really, really love, though, is going into a kitchen where it seems like there is nothing to cook, no possible meal to be had, then magically coming up with a delicious, innovative and unique meal. I enjoy making magic happen in the kitchen and surprising myself and the people around me with home-cooked deliciousness from scratch.

Farm life lends itself to unique situations where even when there is nothing left in the kitchen, a trip to the garden manifests abundance. Raising our own meat gives us even more options, and I recently had the exciting opportunity to make the very first meal using one of our rabbits -- rabbit tamales.

We grew some beautiful ears of blue corn this year, as we have in years past, but when it came down to it we didn't really know what to do with them. They sat prominently centered on our kitchen table throughout the Thanksgiving season, where we picked mercilessly at their kernels when we were bored or deeply entrenched in conversation. A few ears made themselves useful around Halloween, as you can see in the background of the picture below:

So, as timing would have it, BJ was tired of seeing the corn sitting on the kitchen table at the same time our first rabbit was ready to process. We were trying to determine what on earth we should do with these blue corn kernels and if we should plant any to grow next season, and I was contemplating our first rabbit meal. Flipping through an old cookbook, I came across a recipe for blue corn tamales. Bingo! We threw the corn kernels into our handy Vitamix and within minutes had a quart of blue corn flour. It was really that simple.

The book had directions for wrapping the tamales in banana leaves, South-Mexi-Central-American style. Luckily, we happen to still have some pretty beautiful leaves growing on our banana trees during this ridiculously hot San Diego winter.

A quick internet search told me to cut a leaf off the plant, then use scissors to cut out the spine. The remaining leaf should then be cut into usable 3-inch strips, rinsed off and wilted for 5 minutes in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven. Easy enough.

For the meat, we simmered the entire rabbit in a pot of water on the stove until it fell off the bone, then shredded the meat and mixed it with spices and mole sauce. I didn't have canned mole or dried chiles, so I modified a can of enchilada sauce that we had. Shhh - don't tell my grandma. We also reserved the broth to use for making the Mexican rice and masa that would go with the meal.

Assembling the tamales was a little funny for me because my family is of north Mexican decent and the only way I've ever made tamales is with dried corn husks. I didn't even know where to start with putting the masa on these leaves or rolling 'em up, but we figured it out.

The meal was a huge hit, the masa actually came out really tasty and we discovered that there really are fabulous uses for blue corn. It was easy to dry, kept for months on our kitchen table and made a lot of flour off of just a few ears. We reserved a handful or kernels to plant again, and I am excited to try blue corn bread, polenta, pudding and other exciting recipes in the future. 

Blue Corn Masa:

2 sticks butter or 1 cup of lard, room temperature
2 1/2 cups blue corn flour
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup stock

Use a hand blender or kitchen aid with the whisk setting. Whip butter or lard until fluffy, then add in the dry ingredients until well blended. Slowly add stock and continue to whip for 30 seconds or until well incorporated. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to absorb the broth, then mix the dough by hand to make sure everything is well incorporated with an even consistency.

Fill tamales with meat, cheese, or veggies and steam for about an hour.


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