"Tamal en cazuela is our ultimate comfort food," insists Acela Matamoros, one of Cuba's top cooking teachers and food historians. A kind of Cuban polenta -- or a stove-top tamal -- at its most basic, tamal en cazuela can be just a soft mush of water, cornmeal, and salt, sometimes eaten with milk and a sprinkle of sugar. Other versions use grated corn or the strained "milk" of the corn puree, which thickens when cooked. The flavorings range from classic pork, such as here, to chicken to seafood. This recipe, using pork ribs and a combination of grated corn and some cornmeal to thicken it, is easy and fairly quick but delivers plenty of that comforting, grandmotherly flavor.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound (455 g) country- style pork ribs, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes
1 cup (110 g) chopped yellow onion
1 cup (145 g) chopped cachucha pepper or 1 chopped jalapeño pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup (90 g) chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
Salt and pepper
7 cups (1 kg) fresh corn kernels, cut from 3 or 4 cobs
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
8 lime wedges, for garnish
In a skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the pork and cook until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate.
In the same skillet over medium heat, cook the onion and cachucha pepper in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes, return the pork to the pan, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.
Place the corn kernels in a blender or food processor and blend on high speed for 2 for 3 minutes to make a fairly smooth puree. In a separate skillet over medium heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the corn puree and cook, stirring continuously, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir 1 cup (250 g) of the pork stew into the corn mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the tamal polenta in bowls, topped with the remaining pork stew, garnished with the parsley and lime wedges.
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