Pumpkin empanadas, cod empanadas and tamales
I'm not sure about empanadas, although an Argentinian neighbor of mine has told me about an Argentinian/Latin market on Lee Highway in Arlington, where he gets his meats and chorizo...don't know the name, but they'd probably know where you could get good empanadas. As far as tamales go--I'm from L.A., and finding decent Mexican food and ingredients here on the right coast has been amazingly frustrating. Trader Joe's frozen tamales are fairly good. The Latin markets I've visited (on Columbia Pike in So. Arlington, especially) sell Salvadoran-style tamales, usually wrapped in aluminum foil. The problem is, everyone in this area seems to use only masa harina, not fresh masa. I did track down one tortilla factory, which was started in Hyattsville years ago by a homesick Chicano from L.A.-- unfortunately, it's now located halfway to Baltimore. They make fresh masa from dried corn, and will sell masa para tamales to anyone who walks in. But its a long way to go. I decided to make my own masa, but had a heckuva time finding the right kind of dried corn. The only type I could find here is from Bolivia or Peru, with huge kernels, not the corn used in Mexico and California for making masa. I finally brought five pounds of dried corn back from California in my suitcase, when I visited home for New Year's. Then, there was the problem of finding good lard, for making tamales, which I discussed in an earlier posting. It finally did all come together, and I have made several different types of tamales--chicken and green chile, pork with red chile, green chile and fresh corn, completely from scratch. I start by soaking dried corn husks overnight, then cook a couple of pounds of dried white corn with two heaping tablespoons of cal (calcium oxide, or builder's lime) in about three quarts of water for around forty minutes to the stage called nixtamal. I rinse and scrub off any remaining yellowish hulls, then grind it in my Cuisinart, add enough water to make dough, and then beat lard, baking powder and salt, add the masa and moisten with stock. The tamale dough is the right consistency when a lump of it floats in water. It is then spread on the softened corn husks, some filling put in and the husks are folded and tied. Two pounds of dried corn makes about three dozen tamales. They are then steamed in a big pot(s) for one to two hours, depending on how tightly they are packed into the steamer. It's quite a process, but the finished product is unbelievably delicious. I serve the chicken tamales with a cooked tomatillo-green chile salsa and some sour cream. The pork tamales get a ladling of a red-chile/roasted tomato adobo. It's a lot of work--it's usually a collective activity in Mexican families, and it's true that many hands make light work. For me, working alone, it's a major project, which is why I don't do it too often. Fortunately, they freeze well.