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Kitchen Challenge Accepted: Honduran Nacatamales

When I saw that Love & Olive Oil was hosting a Tamales Kitchen Challenge this month, I was very excited. I needed an excuse to make nacatamales again. However, the instructions came with a caveat: "...but they do need to be traditionally wrapped in corn-husks…."

Hmmm...Honduran nacatamales are traditionally steamed in banana leaves instead of corn husks.

Not wanting to break the rules of the challenge, I sent Lindsay and Taylor a message. The answer: "They're wrapped and steamed in the same way right? If so, definitely ok!" Fantastic. Here we go.

So, while R went to his mandolin lesson, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I went to the Asian market for banana leaves and the Mexican market for Salvadorean cream (it's like a thin sour cream). Our nacatamales aren't completely traditional because I cook the meat before stuffing them and I also skipped the lard.

This recipe made approximately 24 nacatamales. When you're working with kitchen elves, things are not as precise as they could some were smaller and some were larger, but it was roughly 2 dozen when we were all finished.

For the masa
  • 6 C masa harina
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C vinegar
  • 4 C organic beef broth

For the filling
  • 1 lb 96/4 organic grass-fed ground beef
  • splash of olive oil
  • 4 banana peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1 T ground paprika
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 C chopped herbs (D gave me oregano, marjoram, parsley, chives, and mint from his garden)
  • 1 C shredded cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella, provolone, and cheddar)
You will also need 1 package of banana leaves, rinsed and dried.

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

For the filling: In a large flat-bottom pan, soften the garlic and banana peppers in a splash of olive oil. Add in the meat. And cook through. Pour in the tomato sauce. Season with paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Fold the meat mixture into the masa - with the herbs and the cheese - 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.

The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf was so proud of his nacatamales. 

Each diner opens the banana leaf of his or her own nacatamal before eating. D used the Salvadorean cream and fresh salsa to make "art on a plate."

This was a fun Kitchen Challenge! Can't wait to see what they have in store for us for September. We're definitely in.


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