Local Chefs Share Holiday Favorites Part 2
Christopher Delgado, chef at One 19 North Tapas and Wine Bar in Kirkwood, reminisces about making tamales with his grandmother to give as Christmas gifts and shares his recipe.
Christopher Delgado, chef at One 19 North Tapas and Wine Bar in Kirkwood, spent a great deal of time in the kitchen as a child. "I liked being with Mom and Grandma, helping them, but I always heard good stuff and not always about food," Delgado said.
Delgado grew up in Arizona with his parents, who are Mexican and Spanish. "Holidays were a splurge in my house," he said. "We prepared big meals, special dishes, like roasted rack of lamb and paella, not your traditional holiday dishes, but we would always have turkey for Thanksgiving."
Delgado's most vivid holiday is making tamales with his grandmother. Tamales are a popular Mexican dish consisting of various fillings tied in a softened cornhusk with masa, dough made from ground corn, and steamed until cooked through.
"Grandma set up a kitchen outside," Delgado said. "We'd make tamales for two days straight, eight hours each day. We'd make 20 to 30 dozen and give them as gifts. My job was to turn the grinder for the masa."
Delgado came to St. Louis and worked in the kitchens at Del Pietro's, Jimmy's on the Park and the St. Louis Club before finally getting his own kitchen at One 19 North. He is too busy these days as head chef to visit family during the holidays with the December restaurant rush.
"The amount of time that goes into December – work doubles and triples – at home and here in the restaurant," the chef said. "I didn't realize until I was an adult how much work December takes."
Fortunately, Delgado was gracious enough to take time out of his busy December to share a tamale recipe, one he never got a chance to make for his grandmother but he thinks she would've liked.
Duck Confit Tamales with Cucumber Pico de Gallo
Confit can be prepared in many different ways. This is a tried and true way Delgado learned at the Saint Louis Club:
4-6 duck legs
Olive oil – split use
3 bay leaves
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
4-5 garlic cloves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup white wine
Liquefied duck fat (can be purchased at a local specialty grocer such as Whole Foods)
Take duck legs and marinate them in olive oil (enough to coat), bay leaves, parsley, garlic, rosemary and a basic mirepoix for about a day. Take the legs out of the marinade making sure to remove anything clinging to the legs. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Take a cast iron skillet (or oven safe skillet) and place 3 tablespoons of olive oil or duck fat in the pan until it shimmers (medium high heat on the burner). Brown legs on both sides. Remove legs and place mirepoix from marinade in the pan and sauté until tender (about 4-5 minutes). Deglaze pan with a splash of white wine and scrape off any brown bits in the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, reduce wine until evaporated and place your duck legs and all the other ingredients from the marinade into the pan. Now cover the duck legs with liquefied duck fat. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for about two and a half hours or until tender. When done take the legs out of the fat and strain off the other ingredients. Pour the fat back over the legs in a glass baking dish and let cool.
*a basic mirepoix is a mixture of diced carrots, onions and celery.
12 corn husks
1 1/3 cups of pork lard or vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups masa (fresh coarse-ground preferable)
1 cup chicken stock
Place about twelve cornhusks in warm water so they become pliable. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard with salt and baking powder until light in texture, about a minute. Continue beating as you add the masa in small portions gradually. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add chicken stock. Continue beating for about a minute, until a 1/2 teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water. Beat in enough additional stock to give the mixture the consistency of soft cake batter. For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so, then re-beat, adding enough additional stock to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before.
Line up cornhusks and spread out the masa evenly. Add previously prepared duck confit (about 2 tablespoons per tamale) and wrap the cornhusks around the filling. Take one or two of the husks and tear off small strips of husk to tie off the end of each tamale.
Line up the tamales in a steamer in one layer making sure to leave small gaps in between to insure proper steaming. Steam the tamales for about 1hour and 15 minutes or until the husks peel away from the masa easily. When done remove the tamales and let cool.
Cucumber Pico de Gallo
This tamale dish is filled with rich flavors. This pico de gallo adds a welcome lightness.
1 cucumber – peeled, seeded and diced
2 tomatoes – seeded and diced
1 jalapeno – diced
1/4 red onion
1 tablespoon cilantro – minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 limes - juiced
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Fold all the ingredients together and spoon over cooled tamales.
"To just kill this dish," Delgado recommends placing a poached egg on top of the tamale with the pico de gallo. The broken yolk acts as a wonderful sauce, he says.