The Christmas music is already playing at the mall, which means it's tamale-making season here in Southern California. This Saturday at 10:30 a.m., as part of the Chef Demo Series at the Orange Home Grown Farmers Market, Chef Gabbi Patrick of nearby Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen will teach you how to make her Butternut Squash Tamales with Roasted Corn, Mushroom Confit, Creme Fraiche and Candied Serranos.
We asked Gabbi a few questions about her family's tamale traditions, and where this particular recipe comes from.
Stick a Fork In It: Do you have a specific, funny, or fond memories of holiday tamaladas from your childhood?
Gabbi Patrick: My grandparents would come to visit the states from Merida, Yucatán. My grandmother was an amazing cook (when it came to Yucatecan cuisine). She wasn't a huge fan of tamales but when she did, it was more of a regional tamale. Made with fillings of cochinita pibil and xic (shredded turkey dish), served with escabeche (picked onion) and fresh habanero salsa (which was the inspiration for our bottled habanero sauce). Her tamales were usually wrapped in banana leaves as opposed to the traditional corn husk. My grandmother was more of a fan of masa-based dishes such as panuchos and salbutes.
Tamales are very region-specific, sometimes village or family specific. What inspired this recipe? Is it something from your own family?
This particular recipe was actually inspired from different sources. Throughout my travels in Mexico, I usually carried a journal and jotted down ideas that I came across. In Oaxaca, is where I got the idea of flavoring masa with different spices and salsas. To this day, I do so because tamale masa could really dry at times.
The butternut squash puree was actually a recipe that we use at the restaurant, but for this particular recipe, I don't strain the puree as much so that it comes out a little thicker and would complement the earthiness of the masa. As for the mushroom confit, I was looking to make a side using produce from the Orange Farmers Market.
Besides your own, which restaurant tamales in Orange County are your favorites?
My husband and I tend to get our fill of Mexican food at the restaurant. But the best tamales that I have had was on a trip back from Big Bear, in the city of Apple Valley. The restaurant was called Viva Maria. They had tamales made with mole, rajas, and pork with pipián.
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One of the trickiest parts of making tamales is getting the masa blended just so with perfect balance of water and fat. Is there a store-bought source for masa preparada you recommend, or will your provide your own recipe?
I will provide my own recipe at the demo on Saturday, but you could also purchase masa preparada at the El Metate stores throughout Orange County.
Orange Home Grown Farmers Market. Cypress St. and Palm Ave, Orange. Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Chef Demo Series begins at 10:30 a.m.