When I stepped onto campus today for work, I felt like I was entering a ghost town. With most students officially gone and on break, things around here are quiet. For me that only meant one thing: CHRISTMAS IS COMING! I only have to sit through one more week of housing arrangements and copy making before I can come home. It’s a good thing I only have to wait a week too, because my taste buds are definitely craving some good Valley food right about now—some good Mexican food to be more specific.
I know what some of you are probably thinking, “you live in Los Angeles, there has to be good Mexican food there!” Although this may be true, it does not exist in the part of LA where I live. Besides, during this time of year there is one type of dish that I distinctly crave: Tamales!
For as long as I can remember my family has had a tradition of eating tamales on Christmas Eve for dinner. After a long day of cookie making and delivering, we go to candlelight service at church. Afterwards, we come home and crash in front of the TV to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while having a delicious meal of tamale’s with all the sides. With the exception of one year, my family has always just ordered our tamales from different businesses and people in the valley. We are never disappointed. My mom usually orders a few dozen because our relatives from out of town always want to have the delicious dish as well.
Each year we get the same kind of tamale: beef, pork, chicken, or cheese with chili. And every year they are delicious. I love that year after year we can get the same kind of filling, but based on where they are from, the taste can still be different. Last year, my parents decided to try a new flavor: pheasant tamales. Living in the valley provides the unique opportunity of pheasant hunting. With the various fall and winter fields that are grown, it is a perfect gathering place for these birds. I think the standard way of cooking the pheasant is to roast it, grill it, or cook it in the oven; at least that’s what my family has done in the past. But with our holiday tradition of tamales, it only made sense to try this new flavor.
The result was delicious! The pheasant meat was seasoned with the same seasoning as the chicken tamales, and marinated overnight to really let the flavors set. This was done in order to try and mask some of the “gamey” taste you can often get from wild birds. The texture of the meat perfectly shredded without being dry. The taste was perfect: great flavor without being overly spicy. Definitely a new classic that should be added to any family who goes out hunting and wants to try something new with pheasant meat.
Although I do not have a recipe for the pheasant meat, I will share a recipe for my second favorite dish to have on Christmas Eve: Spanish Rice! I hate to admit this, but I could probably just eat rice for dinner some nights.
Spanish Rice Recipe:
2 Tblsp Vegetable Oil
¼ Medium Onion; diced
1 green bell pepper: diced
1 ½ cups rice
3-4 cloves garlic: finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth (I like to use the chicken bouillon cubes to make the broth)
1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilis
1). Heat oil in a deep skillet or pan over medium heat. Sauté rice, onion, and bell pepper until rice is browned and onions/peppers are tender
2). Stir in the chicken broth and tomatoes. Make sure to add in slowly and at a constant pace. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is cooked and liquid is absorb.
If your family has tamales during the holidays, I hope that you will get the chance to try this ‘Valley’ spin on holiday classic.