Southern Smoke Tamale Pop-Up at High Horse

Tuesday, December 3, 5–10 p.m. 

High Horse, Raleigh

Earlier this month, celebrity chef Katsuji Tanabe moved from Los Angeles to Raleigh to open up High Horse, an upscale new restaurant in City Market.

Tanabe—who was born and raised in a Jewish neighborhood in Mexico City, and whose parents are of Japanese and Mexican descent—rose to fame through Top Chef and Mexikosher, the groundbreaking Mexican kosher eatery he opened in 2010 in LA.  At High Horse, Tanabe says he will continue to experiment with flavor profiles; melding Southern cuisine with the Japanese and Mexican cooking he was raised on. 

On Tuesday, Tanabe celebrates High Horse’s first month by enlisting the help of Matthew Register—pitmaster at famed restaurant Southern Smoke—at a holiday pop-up bar. 

“In LA, street vendors are often invited in to sell the most delicious tamales in cocktail bars, so we thought it would be fun to do the same at High Horse, in our bar,” Tanabe explained in a press release.

Register owns Southern Smoke, a tiny barbecue joint in Garland, N.C. with a big reputation. In May, Register published Southern Smoke: Barbecue, Traditions, and Treasured Recipes Reimagined for Today. The cookbook was the culmination of his barbecue travels through the Carolinas and beyond, with stops in Memphis and the Delta, where he learned tricks for perfecting okra fries, country-style duck, and tamales. In the book (and in his cooking), Register emphasizes the importance—and delight—of celebrating every food tradition in the South. 

Tuesday’s event offerings will include Register’s signature Delta Tamales alongside Tanabe’s cocktail menu; guests will also leave with a signed copy of Garland’s cookbook. 

If the Thanksgiving turkey hangover hasn’t quite cleared yet and you can’t make it to High Horse on Tuesday, you can still try Register’s Delta Tamales recipe at home. Below, the chef shares detailed instructions from Southern Smoke

Delta Tamales

Makes about thirty tamales

The Delta tamale is a bit different from a traditional Mexican tamale, as it is a little smaller and the dough is made of cornmeal rather than masa. They are also simmered in a spicy broth rather than being steamed in the corn husk. This recipe is my take on the Delta tamale, with one step closer to Mexico. It is made like a traditional Mexican tamale, with masa, and cooked in a corn husk. However, after the tamales are finished, I open them up and pour spicy broth on them.

For the Pork Filling

1⁄3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil

1 medium onion, diced

6 pounds (2.7 kg) pork shoulder, cut up into 1½-inch (3½ cm) chunks

3 tablespoons (54 g) salt

¼ cup (30 g) chili powder

3 tablespoons (21 g) paprika

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 packages (8 ounces [225 g] each) dried corn husks

For the Tamale Dough

3½ cups (448 g) masa harina

1½ cups (300 g) lard

3 cups (710 ml) hot water

2 tablespoons (36 g) salt

1 tablespoon ground cumin

To make the pork filling: In a 16-quart (15 l) stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and pork. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the pork browns, then add the salt. Stir and add enough water to the pot to cover the pork and onion. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, about 2 to 2½ hours.

Take the pot off the heat and remove the pork from the cooking liquid and set aside. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, remove and discard any skin and big chunks of fat. Shred or dice the meat and return it to the pot. Turn the burner back on to medium. Add the chili powder, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Set aside.

To prepare the corn husks: While the meat mixture is cooking, soak the husks in a large bowl or a small sink filled with hot water. They can soak until you’re ready to use them, but make sure to soak for at least 45 minutes so that they are soft and pliable. When you are ready to use them, remove them from the water and gently dry them o with a paper towel.

To make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dough ingredients. Mix the dough by hand until it is well combined. The dough should be moist but not wet; it should look like soft cake batter. Cover the mixture with a warm, moist towel until you are ready to use it, no more than 3 hours.

Note: A trick to making sure you have fluffy dough is to drop a small piece of dough into a cup of cold water. If it floats, it’s ready. If it doesn’t float, mix the dough a little more and add some additional lard.

To assemble and cook the tamales: After removing the corn husks from the water and drying them, cut or rip them into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) pieces that are about 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) long.

One at a time, lay each corn husk flat with the pointy end facing you. Spread about ¼ cup of the dough out on the corn husk until it makes a 4-inch (10 cm) circle. Spoon about 1½ teaspoons of the meat mixture down the middle of the tamale.

Take both long sides of the tamale and bring them together. You’ll know you did this right if the batter completely surrounds the filling. Tuck one side under the other and roll. Take the bottom part of the husk and fold it under. Tie the flap with corn husk strips or string; do not tie them too tight, though, as the tamales need room to expand.

Place the tamales in a steamer basket with the folded bottoms pointing down. Place the leftover corn husks over the top of the tamales. Steam the tamales over medium heat, making sure that the water does not touch them and that it doesn’t boil away. When the tamales are finished, the corn husks should easily peel away from the masa.

To serve, open up the wrappers and pour the reheated cooking liquid over the top.

 © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. Text  © 2019 Matthew Register

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