apocalyptic tamales

Back in November, I had what seemed like a great idea: celebrate the upcoming apocalypse with a Mayan potluck!  Since it was so close to my friend Shannon's birthday, we decided to celebrate that simultaneously.  The one glitch: we scheduled this for 12-12-12.  Yes, that's right: I mistook the Mayan apocalypse for the wrong day (and, somehow, no one corrected me!)  But no matter!  Why let the end of the world stop a perfectly good dinner party in mid-swing when we could have it a little early instead?

The Mayan recipes available online, few and far between as they are, all seemed to keep an eye toward the god of maize.  I decided to do pibikutz, which are traditional baked tamales made with turkey,  tomato, onion, and epazote (a bold and intriguing herb I'd never used before).  Rather than steam the rolled tamales, these are baked because the Mayans used to bury the pibikutz in a rock pit to cook for 8 hours before digging them back up.  This process symbolized the Mayan belief in burying the dead before they transition into the afterlife.  This dish is typically prepared during Hanal Pixan, the Mayan Day of the Dead celebration.

a runt tamal

I began to follow this recipe I found online, but soon realized it assumes you are working with an already-prepared masa dough, rather than just straight masa harina (or so it seems?  Basically, just a wonky recipe).  So I did some improvising.  :)  

Turkey Tamales

2 c turkey broth (good use of some leftover stock I had frozen from Thanksgiving!)
1 1/2 c water or more broth
3 1/3 c masa harina
1/2 c pork lard (I looked high and low for turkey lard, to no avail)
1 tsp + a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp achiote
2 tsp baking soda
4 c shredded turkey
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
torn epazote leaves

Combine water (or brother) with the masa harina until a dough forms.  In a separate bowl whip pork lard, 1 tsp salt, and half the achiote until light.  Slowly add the lard mixture into the rest of the dough mixture, kneading with your hands until blended.

Next, boil broth with the other half of the achiote, a pinch of salt, and a dash of masa harina for thickening.  This will be part of the kol that bathes the interior of the tamales.

Arrange a set-up like the one above, with masa dough, chopped tomato and torn epazote, shredded turkey, turkey broth and brush all at the ready.  Spread some masa dough into a corn husk, create an indent and fill the hollow with shredded turkey before basting it with the kol (broth) and layering tomato, onion, and epazote.  Top with another layer of masa dough, roll, and place in a baking dish.  (I didn't feel the need to tie this tamales off since they were being laid in a dish rather than stood upright in a steamer).

Once all the tamales are wrapped and stacked, bake them at 375 degrees for an hour and a half.

Another change I would have made would be to soak the corn husks before rolling the tamales-- though I guess that wasn't traditional or just wasn't mentioned in this recipe?  The tamales definitely had a bit of a crunch to the outside of them, which was interestingly tasty... though I concluded that I do prefer steamed tamales after all (and now, the air rich with the fragrance of eau de masa, I'm really craving them!)

Some other scenes from the Mayan potluck:

chocolate orange avocado mousse by Leah and Maury!

this must have been a popular Mayan shirt since Maury and I were twinsies!

Tori made flatbread and whipped up some butter-- perhaps not Mayan, she noted, but definitely apocalyptic (though the flatbread was almost like a thick tortilla..)

a tiny devil in a mini-hoodie

the birthday girl: hater of cake, lover of flan