This dish required a technique I had never tried before–flambe. Flambeing alcohol involves setting the alcohol on fire in a saute pan until it burns out. What’s leftover is all the aroma and flavor of the vodka, without all of the alcohol. The vodka is the critical component of this dish because it reacts with the sauce and brings out the flavor of the tomatoes. I have tried this dish before without the flambe technique and I like the results of flambeing a lot better. I have also tried this dish with bacon instead of pancetta, but I have come to prefer the pancetta. Lots of vodka sauces are pale pink but I only put 1/2 cup cream in the sauce so mine was a pale brick red instead. I prefer the darker sauce–I think the cream can mask the flavor of the tomatoes. I topped the pasta with a little grated parmesan and basil.
Tamales are a Mexican food made of masa (corn flour) and stuffed with any number of fillings. Tamales are an old food, meaning that it was probably eaten by Aztecs and Mayans as early as 8000 BC. Making them is a pretty involved process and it requires some time to get everything prepared and cooked–about 3-4 hours. I had a lot of fun making these, and when I was forming the dough into the corn husk I could picture someone from a different time and background doing this very same activity (which was pretty cool). The tamales turned out really well. The dough had a nice fluffy texture and the filling had a spicy, savory flavor. The filling was a tex-mex style shredded chicken and sweet corn. I seasoned the dough with cumin, paprika, and cinnamon. The chile verde was tasty and pretty simple to make too. I topped the tamales with a little monterey jack cheese and sour cream.
Chile Verde is a sweet, spicy salsa that is made most commonly with tomatillos and a number of different green chiles. This salsa goes well with chicken, pork and fish, and can be used as a topping for burritos, tacos, tamales, etc. The tomatillos provide a great sweet and sour flavor that I like a lot. Depending on how smooth you wish to puree the sauce, you could create a thicker version that would be great as a salsa dip as well.
This is an all-purpose chicken filling that could be used in all kinds of mexican dishes. I used this as a filling for tamales but it would be great in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, etc. The shredded chicken is pretty simple to make and has a nice sweet and spicy flavor. I only added the corn for the tamales so that is an optional ingredient.
It’s blackberry season and of course the perfect time to make blackberry jam. Blackberries and blueberries make a great pair since their colors are so robust and the flavor of the berries is so good! The jam was less thick than other jams, which allows for a little more versatility. It’s great mixed in with yogurt or as an ice cream topping, but still works fine on toast.