Tamal en cazuela reminds me of my abuelo. He would enjoy this delicious Cuban stew with a croqueta preparada for dinner. Tamal en cazuela is sold especially on Sundays in Cuban restaurants, and I have even called ahead to make sure they still have an order since they can sometimes run out. Tamal en cazuela tastes like tamales in soup form: a glorious combination of savory corn meal with ribbons of tender mojo roasted pork shoulder throughout the thick corn stew. This traditional stew is like Cuban polenta with pork and is classically enjoyed with platanos maduros on the side or fresh sliced banana. Crushed up chicharrones on top add to the pork flavor and provides great crunch in each bite.
When masa de puerco was on the menu for dinner my abuela always used the left over pork chunks (masa de puerco) for a tamal en cazuela the next day. You can use masa de puerco and left over roasted pork or you can quick-marinade ground or chopped pork and cook it for the tamal en cazuela that day. As fall descends and temperatures drop, tamal en cazuela was exactly what I was craving. The thick corn porridge with marinated pork and Cuban sofrito will instantly feel like comfort food no matter where you’re from.
Tamal en Cazuela
For the pork:
- 1 lb boneless pork shoulder cut into pieces or roughly ground (or left over roasted pork)
- 1cup mojo criollo
- Juice of half a lime
For the soup:
- 1 medium onion ground in the food processor
- ½ medium green bell pepper ground in the food processor
- 2 cups corn meal
- 1/4 cup of mojo (store-bought or homemade)
- 1/4 cup white Spanish wine (vino seco)
- 2 cups frozen corn (defrosted) or canned works as well
- 1/3 stick of butter
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- 2.5 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- ½ tsp black pepper
- One package Goya with Saffron seasoning or chicken or ham bullion also work
- Salt to taste
- Crumbled chicharrones for garnish
- Lime wedges
If you are cooking fresh pork for this recipe, heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the marinated pork through set it aside. Preheat a pan on medium to low with olive oil. Once the pan is hot cook the white onion and green bell pepper until soft. The peppers are meant to be a subtle in this dish and be tasted but not seen.
While the onions are cooking take the corn meal mix. Pulse the defrosted frozen corn in the food processor just enough so you still have small corn pieces in the mix. Add the corn meal to the food processor and create a rough mixture. Now return to the onions and peppers and add the tomato sauce and stir allowing it to cook for a few minutes. When the mixture is cooked enough that you can see to the bottom of the pot add the butter and melt with the sofrito you just created.
Add corn meal mix, water, milk, salt and pepper in a large cazuela. Stir in the mojo and dry white wine (vino seco). Bring to a quick boil and immediately put to simmer. Continually stir the stew while it is coming to a boil. Since the mixture will be very thick the bottom of the pot can burn. Add 3 large left over masas de puerco or about a pound of roasted pork to simmer with the rest of the tamal en cazuela. These will easily shred while mixing the stew. Add the Goya seasoning packet or bullion at this point.
Simmer for around half an hour depending on the thickness (you definitely want the corn meal to get soft). My abuela’s receipe called for simmering for an hour or so, but my tamel en cazuela thickened very quickly. Remember, you want it to be a bit thick, not too runny. If it’s not thick enough add more corn meal in ¼ cup increments, or conversely add water in ¼ cup increments if it is too thick. Remember, to stir constantly while it cooks. It will burn if it’s too hot or not stirred, but don’t stress it- you don’t have to stir the entire time. Just keep checking on it. When your wooden spoon can stand straight up in the tamal you know it’s thickened enough and is ready to serve. Enjoy the tamal en cazuela with platanos maduros on the side. Some like to top their tamal en cazuela with crushed up chicharones (pork cracklings).
Notes: The fresh mojo that I had recently made gave the stew a strong acidic taste much to my horror. I added the slightest sprinkle of baking soda which according to my internet research helps to counteract overtly acidic foods as it makes them more basic with the increasing pH. The baking soda made the stew bubble and thicken temporarily. I stirred it until the bubbling subsided as the chemical reaction took place and then tasted again before adding more baking soda. It turned out amazing.