Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tamales Dzotobichay

What does a vegetarian make for Thanksgiving? Well, at my house, our tradition is to imagine what the Pilgrims would have eaten at a feast if they had landed on the shores of Yucatan, being that is where DH is from. It's all part of living in a multi-cultural household. This year we made a very old Mayan dish called Dzotobichay, which means chaya tamales. Chaya is a dark leafy green vegetable similar to chard or collard greens and is native to the Yucatan. I have never found it in the States, and in any case, I find it rather harsh, being unaccustomed to it. So I substitute whatever greens I can find for the chaya in making these tamales: spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, etc.

For the first time, DH and I decided to try making the masa (tamale dough) from scratch, rather than using a dry instant masa flour mix like Masa Harina. This isn't going to be a recipe, but I am at least going to describe the process of making it. In the photo above, I am bringing a pot of hominy to a boil. The white cloudiness in the water is cal, slaked lime. The cal is essential to get the hominy to become soft enough to grind into the masa dough. In any event, I boiled the hominy for a short time and then set it aside to soak. After it soaked, I rinsed it well to remove all traces of cal and rubbed the hominy with towels to dry and to clean them.

We put the hominy in a grinder, pictured above, and ground it into masa. We decided to make the masa more indulgent than we normally do, being that it was Thanksgiving. So, we whipped pure butter, added the ground masa and beat it together, adding enough hot vegetable broth to make a moist dough. Salted as needed. Then we stirred some chopped, steamed greens into the dough.

These tamales are made using banana plant leaves, rather than corn husks. The banana leaves impart a flavor to the dough as it cooks. The dough is spread on the banana leaf and is topped with chopped boiled eggs, ground pepita (toasted pumpkin seeds) and salsa de jitomate. The banana leaf gets wrapped around the filling into a little bundle and the bundle is steamed for at least an hour to cook.

Here are some links that show more about the process of making fresh masa and making banana leaf tamales:

Vegetarian Banana Leaf Tamale Recipe

Masa Dough for Tamales and Tortillas

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