Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Making of the Tamales

Tamales are not just thrown together. They are not easy to make, and should not be taken lightly. The corn husks must soak for hours, there are chiles to toast and de-vein, salsas to grind, meat to cook and shred. The dough must be mixed and kneaded and pushed by hand. Abuelita Marcelina has done this a thousand times, patting the masa out with her thumbs onto the flattened husk, spreading the filling, folding it up expertly without a thought. I clumsily dropped a spoonful of chicken and salsa verde in one tamal, and somehow managed to close it up in the time that Abuelita made 5 perfect packages. It isn't easy, but in her hands it looked it. It's a beautiful thing to watch a professional at work.

Soaking the corn husks

Abuelita Marcelina de-veining the chile guajillo

The chile close-up

Salsa de guajillo about to be mixed

The fillings: pollo con salsa roja, pollo con salsa verde, rajas con queso (jalapeno and cheese)

The kneading of the masa

Her hands moved so quickly I couldn't catch them on camera

The tamal waiting to be filled

Sweet tamal with raisins (they are dyed pink so that they are easy to identify)

Filling the steamer with the tamales

Piles of tamales!

Ready to eat

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Cake: Part One

It was a four layer round cake, based on our favorite drink- the Margarita. Lime cake, soaked with tequila-lime syrup, filled with lime curd, and frosted with lime buttercream. Lime, lime, and more lime! Now I do not recommend to any bride that she make her own wedding cake, but I did it and survived (barely) to share the experience.
Day 1. The actually baking part was easy. Two cakes for each layer, 14 inch, 12 inch, 10 inch, and 8 inch. A bag of limes, zested. A few pounds of flour, a few dozen eggs, separated. 2 quarts of lime curd, cooked and in the fridge, cooling, waiting to be spread over every layer. Day 2, the buttercream went smoothly, 8 pounds of butter, room temp, melded perfectly into the batch of meringue whisking away in the huge Hobart mixer. I began to frost. And frost. And frost. Cake number 1, the biggest: filled, layered, frosted, and done! Same with number 2, the 12 incher. As I began to scrape the buttercream out of the large silver bowl I began to sweat. 2 more cakes left! Will there be enough? Cake 3 got frosted with the crumb coat, into the freezer to harden, and then back out for the second layer. From the huge bowl filled with fluffy, lime-y butter, there was barely a cup left. Did I miscalculate? Would I have to make a new batch? The top layer was for us, to freeze and eat on our first anniversary, would we miss out on the tradition because I did not make enough buttercream and had no more butter? As I filled the last cake with curd and nervously eyed the dwindling supply of frosting, my heart began to pound. I thinly, so thinly, coated the top layer of our wedding cake and chilled it, my mind not on the wedding, or the meaning, or the love that I have for my future husband. All I could think of was why. Why am I punishing myself? Who does this?
With my bright red spatula, an engagement gift, I scraped the whisk clean, I cleaned that bowl, I got every little bit of that buttercream I could find and managed to completely cover that last little cake, with not an ounce to spare. Disaster averted, I took a breath, remembered what I was doing it for, and thanked the pastry gods for the buttercream miracle.

The Cake: Part Two, a Photo Essay

6 a.m. on the morning before the wedding, I was up and rolling fondant. Note the smile and the crazed look in my eyes.
The smallest cake, covered. Finally. I will not go into detail, because I never want to re-live the experience, but the smallest layer was the hardest to cover neatly. Strange.

Placing the small, edible pearls around the border of each layer.
More Pearls...
Ribbons placed, waiting to be delivered to the Orange Lawn Tennis Club.
The cake! Finally decorated, flowers arranged, no more worries.

The only, and blurry, picture I have so far of us cutting the cake.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where did the summer go?

Yes, once again it's been a while. I haven't written a thing since July. How could that have happened? A whole month has passed me by. It's not like I haven't eaten since July, or cooked, or even catered. But I've been busy with wedding stuff and also, to be honest, I've been lazy. School was out, and I didn't feel like writing. I know, I'm terrible. I have been taking pictures though, so I will do a sort of best of entry, Summer 2009. There were turkey burgers and mini ice cream cones, salads and sandwiches, princess birthday cakes and picnics, not too mention a search for the best chaat in jackson heights, and a trip to Vegas! Here are a few of the highlights, in picture form. Enjoy.

Birthday Picnic!

A delicious mezze platter at Black Orchid in BK

Mango and pistachio mini cones in South Orange.

I keep trying to recreate the chipotle salad that I order while doing homework on 8th street but it never quite works.
The best chicken-tarragon salad with marinated tomatoes on whole wheat bread ever, thanks to Jose!

The first, and hopefully last, princess cake I will ever be asked to make.
And the lovely princess.... our niece Jade
The Fixings for the Best Turkey Burgers Ever (how could I not have taken pics of the burgers?)

The most photogenic chaat of the bunch, from the last place we went on the chaat tour of 09,
Maharaja Snacks and Sweets in JH.

A trip to the Red Hook soccer fields for some huaraches. What can I say, I've had way better in Queens.

You can't tell from this awful picture but it was fajita night at the Markel-Gonzalez house.
Whole wheat tortillas. So healthy, aren't we?
This is a lovely pic from our cabana (yes, cabana!) poolside at the Mirage in Las Vegas. It was an amazing trip with the girls, and we were VIP's all the way. No healthy eating there.

It's been the worst summer weather-wise that I can remember, which for me means no beach trips and hardly any picnics. But it's not over quite yet, and I will put some labor day posts up.
After that, well, school starts next week and the wedding is less than two months away, so I'm not saying that I'll never post again, but I am sort of tossing out the idea that I won't be cooking or posting for a while.