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Tamal en Cazuela (Soft Polenta with Pork)
From ¡Sabor! a Passion for Cuban Cuisine, by Ana Quincoces Rodriquez

Tamales are a popular snack and party food among Cubans. They are often sold wrapped in the cornhusks in which they are boiled. Tamal en Cazuela is basically tamales in a pot – a creamy, thick, cornmeal-based soup that is delicious and satisfying. It is really the Cuban version of polenta. And since we Cubans need to add animal protein to everything, this recipe includes pork (of course). Be sure to marinate the pork for at least thirty minutes and up to twenty-four hours.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh sour orange juice, or an even mixture of lime juice and orange juice
3 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 pound lean pork loin, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup vino seco (dry white cooking wine) or dry sherry
1 bay leaf
3/4 pound Spanish chorizo sausage, coarsely chopped
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
Hot sauce, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions:

Combine the orange juice, 1-1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, paprika, and cumin in a large, nonreactive bowl. Add the pork, cover with plastic wrap, and let the pork marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours. Refrigerate it if you plan on marinating it longer than 1 hour.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add the tomato sauce, vino seco, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Add the chorizo, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the vino seco to evaporate, the flavors to deepen, and the tomato sauce to cook down a bit. Set aside.

Drain the pork from the marinade.

In a separate frying pan, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of the olive oil (depending on how lean your meat is) over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear the pieces on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large stockpot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the red wine vinegar, the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the remaining olive oil. Add the cornmeal while stirring continuously with a wire whisk.

Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, until the mixture thickens and becomes creamy.

Add the chorizo mixture and stir well. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

To serve, add the crispy pork chunks atop a steaming bowl of this dense, creamy soup. Season with hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

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