Although clearly the pilgrims were not making tamales, these pumpkin ones seem like a natural for the Thanksgiving table. Perhaps it’s because the ingredients are mainly indigenous to the Americas, or maybe it’s the lively combination of harvest flavors. Whatever the magic is, these pumpkin tamales with white beans, goat cheese and dried cherry mole sauce are a fresh way to spice up the feast, while somehow remaining true to the Thanksgiving spirit.
PUMPKIN TAMALES DOUGH
2 cups masa harina (if your masa mixture contains salt and baking powder, omit them below)
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin, pureed (or canned)
1 1/3 cups warm vegetable stock
1 cup butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
PUMPKIN TAMALES FILLING
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 leeks, washed and sliced, pale parts only
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cup cooked white beans
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin, pureed (or canned)
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
1 pureed chilpolte pepper in adobo sauce (or favorite hot sauce) to taste
salt to taste
24 corn husks, plus extra for steaming and tying (see Hints)
1. Carefully separate husks and cover them with hot water—let soak for at least 1 hour.
2. To make the filling: If you are using fresh pumpkin, you will need about a 4 pound pumpkin—try a sugar pumpkin or cheese pumpkin, these varieties have a better flavor and are less stringy than carving pumpkins.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove seeds and cut pumpkin into chunks, peel and bake until tender, then puree in food processor—if very wet, strain out excess water. Alternately, use canned pumpkin puree.
4. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and cook until leeks are soft. Gently stir in beans, 1/2 cup pumpkin, cheese, and add chilpolte and salt to taste. Let cool.
5. To make the dough: Mix masa harina in a bowl with enough warm stock to make a soft dough—be careful not to make it sticky.
6. Beat butter in a separate, large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add masa harina mixture and pumpkin puree to butter gradually, beating on medium speed and scraping sides as needed. Blend until well mixed and light in color. Stir in cinnamon and maple syrup.
7. Use 24 large husks to wrap tamales and reserve smaller husks to tear into strips for tying the ends of tamales and for lining the steamer.
8. Pat husks dry and place on work area, with narrow end at bottom. Place about 2 tablespoons of dough in the center of husk and spread into 4-inch square. Leave room around the edges for folding.
9. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling down the center of the dough. Fold husk in half lengthwise, and wrap the other side around to enclose filling. Fold up bottom (the narrow end) of husk to cover the seam and tie a strip of husk around the tamale to hold it together. (The top can stay open.)
10. Add enough water to a rice cooker or stockpot with a steaming rack, to simmer for one hour.
11. Line steaming rack with extra husks and stand tamales upright with open end on top, in rack. Use extra husks (or crumpled foil) to help tamales stand straight if there is extra room. Cover tamales with extra husks to help steam.
12. Cover and steam over simmering heat, about one hour. Let tamales stand few minutes to cool before serving. Pile on a platter and serve with Cherry Mole Sauce.
CHERRY MOLE SAUCE
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded
4 cups warm water
1/2 cup light oil
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (how to roast your own)
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup sesame seeds
4 whole canned plum tomatoes, drained
2 3/4 cups (or more) water
1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1. Cover chiles in a bowl with warm water and soak until soft, about two hours—reserve 1 cup soaking water and roughly chop chiles.
2. Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried cherries, and sesame seeds and sauté until toasted, about 12 minutes.
3. Place mixture in food processor with chile, reserved chile liquid, and plum tomatoes. Puree until almost smooth.
4. Return mixture to skillet and add 2 3/4 cups water. Bring to a boil while whisking. Turn heat down add chocolate and stir until melted.
5. Simmer until sauce darkens, about 15 minutes. You can add water 1/4 cup at a time if sauce gets too thick.
6. Salt to taste.
7. Can be made ahead, just stir over low heat until warm.
Makes 24 tamales