Mushroom "Carnitas" Makes about 2 cups filling
Carnitas are small pieces of fried, seasoned pork. This mock carnitas filling, made with meaty mushrooms, is rich, chewy, gutsy.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 90 minutes

1 pound portobello, shiitake or any combination of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Cooking oil spray
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon ground chile
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano, or a mixture of mint and oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of cloves
2 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper
7 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 - 3/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 recipe Basic Masa

1. Spray a large non-aluminum frying pan with cooking oil, and heat to medium hot. Add half the mushrooms, spray again with oil, and brown mushrooms without shaking pan for about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms; set aside. Cook remaining mushrooms in the same manner; set aside.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Sauté onions and spices in canola oil for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautéed mushrooms, and mix well; stir in the apple juice. Cook until most of liquid is absorbed, then add just enough stock to cover mushrooms. Simmer until liquid has cooked away, occasionally stirring and scraping bottom of pan. Stir in cilantro. Cool before filling tamales.

Variation: For a chicken filling, poach 2 chicken breasts in water with bay leaves. Cool and skin chicken, bone and shred the meat; combine with sautéed onion, garlic and spices as described above, omitting the chile and juice. Use just enough stock to moisten mixture.

How to MakeTamales

1. Pour boiling water over corn husks in a large bowl; keep submerged for at least 30 minutes until softened. Remove husks and wipe dry with a towel. Husks should be about 7 inches across; if not, overlap 2 pieces to form a surface about that size. Lay husk on a flat, dry surface with the grain running away from you.

2. Spread a thin layer of masa about 4 inches long in the center of the wide end of the husk, leaving about an inch on the sides and the top clear. Put 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the masa.

3. Pull the two long sides of the husk over the filling and overlap so masa is enclosed.

4. Fold bottom edge of husk up. Tie in place with a piece of kitchen string or thin slice of husk. Leave top edge of the tamale open. Place tamales open end up in a steaming basket over a pot of boiling water. Cover and steam for about one and a half hours. Tamales are done when husks pull cleanly away from the masa.