Dia de los Muertos

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Dia de los Muertos 
© Ediciones Malinalco

Dia de los Muertos is a two-day Mexican Holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2.  It's an occasion to celebrate and remember the dead.  Altars are created in the home and sweets, drinks and sugar skulls are put out for the returning spirits.  Tamales are also popular during the holiday.
Barbara Sibley is the author, with Margaritte Malfy  of Antojitos: Festive and Flavorful Mexican Small Plates.  They are partners at La Palapa Cocina Mexicana in New York.
Tequila y Sangrita
Serves 12
8 oz freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 oranges)
8 oz tomato juice
4 oz pomegranate juice
4 oz bottled Salsa Valentina*
2 tsp kosher salt
Tequila, for serving
A day ahead of serving, in a large glass pitcher or other nonreactive container, mix together the orange juice, tomato juice, pomegranate juice, salsa, and salt.  Cover and refrigerate.  (The mixture will keep for up to 1 week.)
Just before serving, stir the mixture.  Pour into shot glasses and serve with shots of tequila.
*Cook’s Note: These hot sauces are sold in Mexican stores and on the Internet at www.mexgrocer.com, as well as other sites selling Mexican ingredients.

Tamales de Pollo Verdes
Serves 12
30 corn husks*
2 cups masa harina for tamales*
1 cup high-quality lard, at room temperature
1 tsp kosher salt
7 cups tepid water
3 cups Cooked Tomatillo Salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Put the corn husks in a shallow dish, add hot water to cover, and let soak for 1 hour.  Drain and rinse to remove any silk.  Cover the husks with a damp kitchen towel and set aside.
While the husks are soaking, in a small stockpot, use your hands to mix together the masa harina, lard, and salt.  Add the water and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and the consistency of heavy cream.
Put the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about 20 minutes, or until the masa is no longer lumpy and is shiny and almost translucent.  Remove from the heat and cover.
Tear 1 husk lengthwise into strips about ½ inch wide.  To shape each tamale, put a corn husk in the palm of your hand.  The base (or “navel”) of the leaf should reach your wrist.  Place in the hollow of the husk, in the following order: 1 tablespoon salsa, 2 tablespoons masa, 1 additional tablespoon salsa, and 1 tablespoon shredded chicken.  Loosely (so there is room to expand) fold the sides of the corn husk into the center, overlapping them slightly.  Fold the narrow end of the husk over the seam and then fold the broad end of the husk over the top.  Tie a husk strip loosely around the center.  Repeat to make 24 tamales total.  (You may have masa left over.)
Pour water into the bottom of a large steamer and put the steamer tray in place.   Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the tray.  Stand the tamales vertically in the steam with the “navel” end facing upward.  (If the tamales will not fit without crowding, steam in 2 batches or 2 steamers.)  Lay plastic wrap over the tamales (it helps form a tight seal), and then cover the steamer tightly.
Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour.  Check the pan occasionally and ad more boiling water if the water threatens to boil away.  To test for doneness, remove 1 tamale from the center of the rack and unwrap the husk.  If the dough pulls away easily and is firm and smooth, the tamales are ready.
To serve, lay 1 or 2 tamales on each plate and serve at once.  Let diners unwrap their own tamales at the table.
*Cook’s Note: The best corn husks are thin and flexible, with an intact “navel” or circle, where the leaf was attached to the ear.  We need only 25 husks for the tamales and ties but the husks tear easily, so it is good to have extras on hand.  Buy Maseca brand masa harina for tamales (Maseca is the most common brand of masa harina), which is more coarsely ground than the regular masa harina used for tortillas.  If you cannot find it, the latter can be used.)

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