This week’s #SpicyChat edition is rather close to my heart. Not only are we featuring one of my personal favorite food trucks here in Orlando, C & S Brisket Bus (My review of Brisket Bus), Chef Chris is generously sharing one of his beloved comfort food – Tamales with #SpicyChat friends. Smoked brisket, tamales, well-balanced heat ; are you catching my drift? How can you not fall in love with Chef Chris’s mouthwatering creations? For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to taste the irresistible creations of Brisket Bus.
Chris & Stew’s Brisket Bus is Orlando’s Mobile Gourmet Delicatessen. They blend historic and modern culinary approaches to achieve a menu that is reverent to the classics, as well as forward thinking. The essence of the American Delicatessen is much more than succulent hand carved pastrami sandwiches and steaming bowls of matzo ball soup; it is comfort, community and nostalgia. Our goal is to foster a tradition of the highest quality, fairly priced, and quick service food.
Speaking of traditions, what better way to showcase the ideal blend of classics with a modern twist than with Tamales made with smoked brisket from C&S Brisket Bus. Tamale is like the perfect wrapped present. Big or small, spicy or mild, steamed or stewed – every version is delicious. Light and aromatic corn, encased with endless permutations of flavor combinations, each bite of a tamale is seductively addictive leaving me craving for more. Making these tamales with C&S Brisket Bus smoked brisket was a true test of discipline. One teeny nibble of the brisket and I had to use all my strength to keep me from devouring the buttery & juicy brisket without having to use it for filling the tamales.
I usually fly solo in my kitchen but since making tamale is a time-consuming process, it is one time I invite my family to lend me a hand. Making a batch of tamales is a great excuse to gather your friends and family for a fun and delicious filled day in the kitchen. Enough of my rants, let me hand it over to Chef Chris:
As a professional chef, I spend the majority of my time and energy cooking in the fast paced high pressure environment of the commercial kitchen. Compound this with the time demands of being a business owner, and the unfortunate result is very limited time spent in my home kitchen actually cooking for my family. As result, my home cooking (when I do make time) roots itself strongly in the realm of comfort food. Not only does it allow me to put the maximum amount of love on one plate, it’s also the food that I want to eat.
Spice has always ranked highly for me as a vital element in elite comfort foods. I’m not talking about the “nuclear buffalo wing challenge,” face melting test of an individuals pain threshold kind of spicy. Rather, the seductively slow, smoldering burn of a well spiced dish that begs you to hang around the table for seconds. This kind of warm omnipresent spice plays equally well as an underlying background flavor or as the focal star of the show. In this case, it does both.
As with most comfort foods, tamales are a lengthy process. One that can’t really be cheated and when done properly greatly rewards your time investment. This recipe can be broken down into steps and pieced together through the week or done all in one day. The unctuously tender texture of slow cooked meats Carry spice like no other culinary vehicle can. In this case we’re using brisket. A cut of beef permeated with connective tissue that when cooked properly gelatinizes yielding that “Mom’s pot roast” texture that we all love. I use smoked brisket (I cook a lot of it at work.) If smoking your own or purchasing smoked brisket is not an option, there is a braised option. It’s also important to note that, as with any recipe, substitutions are what make the dish your own. These tamales would be equally delicious using pork shoulder, confit duck or chicken thighs. But in this case, smoked brisket.
These tamales can be served with a cooling crema or sour cream sauce, a veggie slaw or your favorite pico recipe. But they are also delicious piled high on a plate and served family style.
Prepare the filling in advance, it is significantly easier to handle after it has cooked and cooled. It will hold for a few days in the refrigerator and if properly sealed it freezes beautifully.
- 3 lb smoked brisket* (if you are using raw (not smoked) brisket, or any other braise appropriate raw meat: cube and brown well at this point)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
- 4 dried chilies, stem and seeds removed
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 1 Tbs cumin
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbs tomato paste
- Oil of your choice as needed for saute
- Salt to taste
- Dice the smoked brisket
- In a large pot/dutch oven, sweat onions (medium heat) with a pinch of salt until fully cooked (a little brown is OK)
- Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook until they just become fragrant
- Add Chicken stock, chipolte (with sauce,) dried chilies, tomatoes and cumin
- Bring to boil and reduce to simmer
- Allow to simmer until chilies are tender (approx 15min)
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp (transferring containers and placing in refrigerator will expedite the process)
- Once cooled: blend, in batches if necessary, until smooth. -Side note: if you attempt this while the mixture is hot or over fill the blender, results will not be ideal.
- Return sauce to pot and add brisket
- Simmer until tender (approx 15 minutes). 10* – If using raw (not smoked) meat, this will become a braising process. For brisket braise for approx 90min. Pork shoulder 60min. Chicken thighs 30min. Or until meat is shredded
- Shred meat into sauce
- Store filling
This masa recipe is super simple and extremely versatile. I use it both as a tamale masa and an arepa base. It’s a good one to know.
- 4 cups masa harina
- 4 cups warm water
- 12 Tbsp melted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1 Tbs baking powder
- 2 Tbs salt
- 1 tsp sugar
This recipe will make anywhere from 50 – 60 tamales based on your portion control.
Soak cork husks in water to make pliable. Individually remove corn husks from water. Place husk on a clean work surface and apply masa paste to husk in a roughly 1/4 inch thick layer, leaving enough room around the sides and bottom to allow for rolling. I find it easiest to make a pancake of sorts in my hand and then press it into the husk (see picture.) Apply 1-2 Tbs of filling to the center of the masa. Although it is difficult, you must avoid the urge to over stuff! Roll tamale from one side to the other and then tuck under the bottom of the husk. Repeat until you have carpal tunnel 🙂
Stand the tamales up snugly in a deep pot. The tamales should be standing shoulder to shoulder vertically (not laying on their sides.) Add water (or stock if you choose) to the pot 1/2 – 3/4 inch up the bottom of the tamales. Bring to a simmer, put a lid on the pot and reduce the temperature (think rice cooking.) This is a steaming process. Allow to steam for an hour, checking the water occasionally to make sure the pot hasn’t gone dry.
Serve and enjoy.
You probably won’t know you’re craving a Delicatessen-Mexican Tamale until you taste the buttery goodness of the smoked brisket encased in a spicy yet light corn tamale. Served with cashew nut mole sauce on the side, these tamales might be the BEST Tamale you have ever eaten! I am fortunate enough to live in a town with over 25+ Food Trucks. Have you attend a Food Truck Bazaar or eaten at a Food Truck in your neighborhood. Or do you have to travel far from home to satisfy your mobile meals cravings? I would love to hear from you. Write a comment under the post or feel free to shoot me an email.