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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goat Cheese - Porcini Tamales

Goat cheese tamale with fig-lemon salsa

Here's one of the tamale recipes I made for Christmas: a moderately aged goat cheese wrapped in a porcini masa. The recipe is based on one from Tamales by Mark Miller, Stephen Pyles and John Sedlar. It's served with a tasty fig-lemon salsa. In the original recipe, the goat cheese is paired with a black olive masa (which sounds like another stellar combination) but I wanted to try the porcini one. It's not a powerful mushroom flavor, just an undercurrent of earthy nuttiness.

Wrapping tamales takes a bit of time and practice and it's nice to have extra hands to make the work go quickly. This recipe makes 8 tamales, so you won't be stuck wrapping forever even if you make them on your own. They are worth the effort.

This recipe calls for an aged goat cheese. I used a ripe Humboldt Fog® from Cypress Grove Chevre in Northern California. It's an earthy pungent cheese. You could use a milder goat cheese, one that isn't aged but it can be very sticky to work with. Also, the aged goat is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet fig salsa.



Porcini Masa
(enough for 8 tamales)

1 ½ cups masa harina
4 teaspoons porcini powder (grind up some dried porcini in a spice grinder)
1 teaspoon salt
½ baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup warm water
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or thawed if frozen

Place the masa, porcini powder, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Mix to combine. Add the butter and shortening. Beat with an electric mixer for 3 minutes, until thoroughly mixed. Add the water and beat for another 2 minutes, scrapping down the sides of the bowl once. Add the corn kernels and beat another minute. Take the masa out of the bowl, wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Goat Cheese Tamales
(8 tamales)

12 large corn husks, soaked in water for at least an hour
1 batch of Porcini Masa
8 ounces of semihard ripened goat cheese (like a Montrachet or Humboldt Fog®)

Drain the corn husks and shake dry. Take 4 of them and rip into thin strips (about ⅛" wide) for tying the tamales.

Lay out 8 husks. Divide the masa among the 8 husks. You want the masa to be in the center of the husk and spread out towards the edges. If you wet your finger with warm water, the masa won't stick while you are spreading it out. Place about 2 Tablespoons goat cheese in the center of each rectangle of masa. Bring the long ends of the husks together to totally enclose the cheese in the masa and seal the top and bottom well too. The cheese will ooze out while the tamales steam if you don't totally enclose the cheese, and given the cost of that cheese, you don't want to lose any! Wrap the long sides of the husks around the masa and tie both ends with the strips. I find if you fold up the bottom, it's easier to steam them by standing them on their bottoms. You can do the same at the top end, or gather together the top and tie with a corn husk strip.
Top tamale, folded over at both ends and tied. Bottom tamale, folded over only on bottom
Bring a few inches of water to boil in a pot with a steamer. Place the tamales bottom side down in the steamer basket, place over the hot water, and steam, covered, for 45 minutes. You can reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil but do check to make sure you don't boil away all the water. Replenish the water if needed. The tamales are done when the masa feels firm but not hard. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

While the tamales are steaming, make the fig-lemon salsa.

Fig-Lemon Salsa

1 ½ cups dried figs (about 5 ounces)
zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
1 ½ Tablespoons minced Italian parsley
½ Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
a pinch of cayenne
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (see Note)

Chop dried figs finely (you can do this in a food processor, but don't turn them into mush if you do). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Let stand at room temperature until the tamales are done.

Note: If you can find it, use ½ lemon-infused olive oil and ½ extra-virgin. Really boosts the lemon flavor.


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