Friday, November 1, 2013

Muc-bil Pollo (Tamale Pie for Day of the Dead)

In the Yucatec Maya language Dias de los Muertos is known as Hanal Pixan, it is truly a time for real celebration!  No sadness, gloom or laziness allowed!  There are many foods that span many people for Days of the Dead, such as Bread For The Dead, which can be found in as far flung places as the Pueblos of New Mexico to Quechua areas in Peru.  While other dishes are specific to a certain group of people celebrating their dearly departed; but no group of people have as many dishes for the occasion than the Maya do.  This is one of them, and has become so well known outside their ethnicity that it is made all year round in some places.  This comes from Daniel Hoyer's Mayan Cuisine:  Recipes From The Yucatan Region.

Muc-bil Pollo

For The Filling:

1 lb. pork butt or stew meat cut into 2 inch pieces
2 qts. water
10 to 12 garlic cloves (about 1 head), toasted and peeled
1 white onion, cut in half and toasted with the skin on
1 to 2 habanero chiles, charred and left whole
2 sprig fresh epazote or 1 tbsp. dry
1 tbsp. Mexican oregano
2 tbsp. sour orange juice, or mild fruity vinegar
3 tbsp. Maya xak Recado Colorado made or purchased (or bottle Sofrito)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 lbs chicken pieces, bone in

For The Kol:

1 cup reserved masa 
2 1/2 cups reserved broth from cooking the meats

For The Masa:

3/4 lb. pork lard
2 lbs. fresh masa or Masa substitute, such as dough made from masa harina
3/4 cup strained broth from cooking the meats
1 habanero chile from the cooking pot, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups cooked black eyed peas (optional)
Banana leaves for wrapping
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 white or red onion, peeled and sliced

Garnish:  chopped hard boiled egg

1.  To make the filling:  place the pork in the water and add all the other ingredients, except the chicken pieces.  Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the chicken and cook at a slow boil, skimming any foam that comes to the top for about 1 hour.

2.  Remove meat from broth, cool and coarsely chopped.  Strain the broth, reserve 2 1/2 cups for the Kol and 3/4 cup for the masa (My note:  be sure the freeze the rest or use it for soup!).  Save 1 chile for the masa.

3.  Make the kol by mixing 1 cup reserved masa the reserved broth until smooth.  Slowly simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the kol has thickened like gravy, then remove from heat.

4.For the masa, gently heat the lard to just melt and with a stand-up mixer or by hand, beat it into the masa, alternating with the 3/4 cup broth and the chopped chile and salt until smooth.  Fold in the peas/beans, if using.  

5.  Toast the banana leaves to make them pliable and tear several strips as ties.  Place one leaf in the bottom of a large casserole, Dutch oven or heavy roasting pan, then lay the ties in a cross.  On top of the ties, line with enough leaves to come up the side and over lap the top.

6.  Place 2/3 of the masa in the bottom and up the side 1/2 inch thick.  Mix 1/2 of the kol with the meats and place on the masa.  Pour the the remaining kol over the top, then layer in the tomato, pepper and onion slices over that.  

7.  Top with remaining masa and pinch together the edges with bottom to make a sealed package around the filling.  Place a banana leaf on top and fold the edges of the other leaves over that.  Tie the pieces of the cross to secure the package.

8.  Bake at 375º F for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit 20 to 30 minutes.  Cut open package carefully (there will be hot steam)!

9.  Serve family style on the banana leaves or cut into individual portions.  Garnish with the chopped hard boiled egg.

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