Thursday, September 4, 2014

Poc Chuc Nacatamales

I wanted to do a tamale with a Poc Chuc feel to it for our Pre-Popul Vuh PicnicPoc Chuc is a traditional dish from the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, the home of the Mayans. Nacatamales are from Honduras. But we love how steaming them in banana leaves imparts a smoky flavor. 

Poc chuc is made up of two Mayan words: poc which means 'to toast', especially on hot embers, and chuc which is 'charcoal.' Traditionally it's made with pork; Poc chuc, the way the Mayans did it, was a means of preservation. Wild pig was pounded to tenderize the meat and, then, cured with a salt brine and sour orange juice. It could last in the salt for months, then, it was roasted over an open fire. I opted to braise ours instead. And since I couldn't find any sour oranges, I mixed orange juice and lime juice.

Read this recipe all the way to the bottom before making your shopping list. There are two parts!
This made 2 dozen nacatamales.

Poc Chuc Ingredients
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless pork
  • juice from 2 organic oranges
  • juice from 6 Mexican limes, or 2 regular limes
  • 6 garlic cloves 
  • 1 T mixed ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and dried lemon peel
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Bring all of the ingredients - except salt and pepper - to a boil in a large, flat-bottom pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is fork-tender, approximately an hour.

Uncover pork; simmer until liquid evaporates and pork begins to brown, approximately half an hour. Continue to cook, for another 10 minutes, until the pork is nicely browned. Shred pork with a fork.

Nacatamale Ingredients
  • 6 C masa harina
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C vinegar
  • 4 C organic beef broth
  • poc chuc
  • 1 C diced, sauteed onions
  • 2 C fresh corn kernels, blanched
  • 2 C black beans, cooked
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
  • banana leaves for wrapping
  • crema, for garnish
  • salsa, for garnish - we used Ix'ni Pec 

For the masa: Mix the first five ingredients together in a bowl and stir till it comes together into a ball. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

For the filling: Fold the meat mixture, onions, corn kernels, black beans, and fresh cilantro into the masa to form the filling.

To assemble: Lay a banana leaf on a cutting board and spoon 1 C of the filling into the center.

Fold the edges of the banana leaf over the stuffing and roll the banana leaf to form a packet.

Place the nacatamales in a large pot, suspended over water. I don't have a steamer basket, so I use an upside-down bowl with a plate on top. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot tightly and steam for 60-70 minutes.

Each diner opens the banana leaf of his or her own nacatamal before eating. Garnish with the crema and fresh salsa.

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