Sautéed Lobster With Tamal Colado
Tamales colados are iconic for me. No exaggeration--it’s one of the preparations that pushed me to open Empellón.
This is a Yucatan specialty, yet ironically when served to the masses in NYC, the dish gets scoffed at as not being “authentic" Mexican food. People here simply don’t recognize it as a tamal because they think tamales are only one thing.
Corn masa is massaged in water until it disappears, leaving this milky liquid. The liquid is strained and brought to a boil. It thickens dramatically like polenta, but with zero granular texture. Fat is mounted in and the mixture is quickly poured out into a tray, where it gels immediately.
This masa gel is topped with an achiote stained gravy (also thickened with more masa) and topped with pibil, tomato and epazote. This is all wrapped up in banana leaf and steamed again.
You can view food in terms of tradition or you can speak about it in analytical terms. This, by definition, is a non-thermal reversible starch gel. Either way, it's all fascinating to me.
Our tamal does get a bit of a cosmopolitan treatment by subbing shredded meat for rich, buttery sautéed lobster, admittedly. Regardless, it helps us with our agenda of challenging what we all try to limit things to based on our individual perspectives.
-Chef Alex Stupak
Available at Empellón (510 Madison Ave.)
Photo by Evan Sung