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Masa as Thickener

Mexican

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17 replies to this topic

#1 rancho_gordo

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 09:09 PM

How authentic is using a little wet masa as a thickener? I have seen it used in mostl recipes for Mole Amarillo but then it's absent in a few.

I made a stew of leftover vegetables and pozole and it was too thin so I mixed as little Maseca with cold water and then dribbled it into the stew. It thickened a bit but what I really love is the taste. It's like adding fresh tortillas! Is this done often?
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#2 andiesenji

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 09:56 PM

I add masa to chile that is not quite thick enough or has a bit too much fat. The masa seems to take up the fat first and does add a rich note to the taste.

Sometimes I add just a little to albondigas that lacks a particular flavor for which I am aiming.

I always add it to green chile stew, either chicken or pork. In this case I ladle some of the liquid into a small pan so it is about 1/2 an inch of liquid then bring it to a simmer and add masa, a little at a time, whisking constantly until it is thick like porrige. I continue cooking it, stirring constantly, until it begins to look a bit dry. I remove it from the heat and add more liquid from the stew until it is a slurry with no lumps, then stir it back into the stew.

Oh yes, I keep the masa in a shaker just as I do flour. It is much easier to add it to a pot this way, when I want to add it little by little.

Edited by andiesenji, 13 October 2004 - 09:57 PM.

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#3 esperanza

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 10:12 PM

Masa--a little ball of masa from the tortillería around the corner--is always the thickener for atole (de guayaba, de vainilla, de zarzamora, etc), for tejuino, and for a Purhépecha soup that I make. I haven't tried it for thickening other things, but I can't think why it wouldn't work. Andiesenji is right: it does need to be incorporated into hot liquid before it can be added to the pot of whatever you want to thicken.

It's also interesting that something that is a powder--masa harina--is being called masa. Masa harina literally means 'dough flour'; once you add the liquid it becomes masa (the dough).

And Sr. Rancho Gordo says 'wet masa'. Would that be the reconstituted masa harina, or am I missing something here? I'm confused.
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#4 theabroma

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 10:25 PM

Masa--a little ball of masa from the tortillería around the corner--is always the thickener for atole (de guayaba, de vainilla, de zarzamora, etc), for tejuino, and for a Purhépecha soup that I make.  I haven't tried it for thickening other things, but I can't think why it wouldn't work.  Andiesenji is right: it does need to be incorporated into hot liquid before it can be added to the pot of whatever you want to thicken.

It's also interesting that something that is a powder--masa harina--is being called masaMasa harina literally means 'dough flour'; once you add the liquid it becomes masa (the dough). 

And Sr. Rancho Gordo says 'wet masa'.  Would that be the reconstituted masa harina, or am I missing something here?  I'm confused.

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Esperanza, I think that we up here in the masa=impoverished regions to the north of the Rio Grande sometimes lapse into bad form and refer to Maseca and its cohorts as masa. We know that it's dry ... masa harina, or nixtamalized corn flour, but ... there you are!.

I have seen many guisos, pot moles, stews, etc . & what have you thickened with a little masa mixed with water ... or masa harina mixed into a slurry with water and added to a brothy dish to thicken it. And RG is right, it has a certain unmistakable aroma and taste that is just, well, very, very Mexican.

It is only the lucky few who live in areas where there has been established a 'real' Mexican-style molino for making masa. Otherwise, we are pretty much stuck with what we can make of Maseca. Yes, he IS talking about reconstituted masa harina.


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#5 rancho_gordo

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 09:15 AM

It is only the lucky few who live in areas where there has been established a 'real' Mexican-style molino for making masa. Otherwise, we are pretty much stuck with what we can make of Maseca. Yes, he IS talking about reconstituted masa harina.


Sorry for the confusion but in my haste to express my joy for my makeshift stew, I wasn't clear.

I actually work with a family that makes tortillas and fresh masa and I sell them at farmers markets on the weekends. The masa is a beautiful thing and it strikes me as almost alive. So I have access to fresh, ground "wet" masa normally. But not last night. So I mixed a little Maseca in cold water until it was a thick gruel and then dribbled it into the stew.
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#6 andiesenji

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 01:28 PM

I can buy bags of wet masa, masa for tortillas or masa for tamale at either Vallarta Supermercado, or one of the two independent carnicerias here in Lancaster.
However there are other things added to the masa which I don't necessarily want in some of my dishes, so I buy the dried.
If I am making a dish in which I want a coarser masa I simply buy the wet processed corn also sold at Vallarta and process it carefully in the food processor until it is the way I want it.
I use this in tamale pie and it is very, very good.

Edited by andiesenji, 14 October 2004 - 01:29 PM.

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#7 fifi

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 02:39 PM

I have done the same thing with my BBQ posole, Rancho. Yes. It tastes good. One time, just for the heck of it, I mixed the masa harina with some fresh lard and "toasted" it in a frying pan. I was thinking corn "roux". I have no idea if this is ever done in Mexico. It was really good and thickened the posole quite nicely. It was almost a completely different dish.
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#8 rancho_gordo

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 02:49 PM

I can buy bags of wet masa, masa for tortillas or masa for tamale at either Vallarta Supermercado, or one of the two independent carnicerias here in Lancaster. 
However there are other things added to the masa which I don't necessarily want in some of my dishes, so I buy the dried. 

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I think masa should have corn, water and lime and nothing else. Normally it comes in coarse for tamales and fine for tortillas. There's also masa preparado with the lard already added. Normally, this is kind of nasty, at least in my area.

Hey you Mexico Girls- I will be careful from now on to refer to masa as masa and reconstituted masa from Masesca as masa harina. Did I get it right? Please correct me.

Fifi- one time I made a tortilla out of masa preparado and fried it on my comal. I am embaressed to admit how much I like it!
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#9 caroline

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 07:04 PM

This is fascinating because I think it goes to the heart of the difference between Mexican and Western (including American) cooking. Growing up I learnt that flour was the thickener for soups, sauces etc. I learnt to reach for flour whenever anything looked too watery.

I don't think that's the reaction of a Mexican cook. Absolutely they use masa for atole as Esperanza says. And they probably use it elsewhere as Theabroma says. But most Mexican sauces are thickened (1) by the flesh of tomatillos and chiles as in salsa verde, roja and adobos or (2) in more complicated pipians and moles by some or all of the same and seeds, nuts and spices as well.

I asked one of my friends about this today. Since Mexican cooking is so divided by class and region, here's her background. She's lived in Guanajuato all her life, her husband was an upper level bank manager, she ran a very successful comida corrida (quick lunch which means soup, rice/noodles, main dish, dessert) place for about fifteen years, and is well traveled and educated (just back from a wedding in Helsinki, Finland).

Oh yes, she said, we use harina (flour) to thicken cremas and salsa gravy. What kind of harina? Well harina de trigo (wheat flour) or masa harina (maseca). Masa harina is more "finura" --fine or refined or better in general--than harina de trigo.

Now salsa gravy is something I've had my eye on for some time so I asked her to define it. That's the salsa you use with a roast pork loin, roast chicken, pork chops, or crepes. She'd just yesterday been to a wonderful comida where crepes with salsa gravy ( a white salsa gravy) were the second course between the wild rice and the shrimp.

Cremas are pureed vegetable soups.

So what she was saying essentially was that flour thickeners, whether of wheat flour or masa harina, were used to thicken cream soups, gravy and bechamel. That is, basically Western sauces.

I asked her whether she used harina to thicken salsas de chile and she said never.

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#10 rancho_gordo

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 11:13 AM

It's funny coming back to this thread after all these years.
So Gunajuato is a no but now that I've travailed and asked a lot more, it's not uncommon in Oaxaca.
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#11 andiesenji

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 08:32 AM

Wow, R.G. Eight years is a long time. I don't get your reference to Gunajuato.
Are you referring to the use of masa for thickening stews is Oaxaca?

My Mexican neighbor makes a vegetable stew that she thickens with masa. The vegetables vary with the seasons, I especially like it in the fall when she adds calabaza to the carrots, potatoes and onions, etc., instead of sweet potatoes. Although like the sweet potatoes (the white kind) I think the flavor is better. She serves the stew over rice. She has told me that it is a traditional dish for Holy days when they don't eat meat in the Durango area where she was raised.

P.S. I still miss Fifi.

Edited by andiesenji, 21 August 2012 - 08:33 AM.

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#12 rancho_gordo

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 03:32 PM

Wow, R.G. Eight years is a long time. I don't get your reference to Gunajuato.
Are you referring to the use of masa for thickening stews is Oaxaca?


yes, Rachel had said that her friend would never have done that in Guanajuato.
I do see it a lot in Oaxaca, and not just with the Mole Amarillo. And like you say, it's delicious. I'll have to try it with all vegetables, as you point out.

My Mexican neighbor makes a vegetable stew that she thickens with masa. The vegetables vary with the seasons, I especially like it in the fall when she adds calabaza to the carrots, potatoes and onions, etc., instead of sweet potatoes. Although like the sweet potatoes (the white kind) I think the flavor is better. She serves the stew over rice. She has told me that it is a traditional dish for Holy days when they don't eat meat in the Durango area where she was raised.


it's funny but reading this I sound insane. "Wet masa" !

P.S. I still miss Fifi.


Me, too. Especially when I cook with my clay pieces.

Edited by rancho_gordo, 21 August 2012 - 03:32 PM.

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#13 rancho_gordo

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Posted 17 February 2014 - 07:18 PM

I was just in Veracruz and the cook was making a very nice soup of shrimp and crab but she also added these masa dumplings:

 

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I was very excited because I thought they'd be delicious but they were pretty bland and very "well-cooked". But I realized the masa dissolves a little into the soup, flavoring it and thickening it. The soup itself was incredible. 

 

12603483024_180dbfd393_c.jpg

 

 

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The shrimp their were small to medium and excellent. 


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#14 danielito

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 03:38 PM

Aren't those little dimpled masa dumplings called chochoyotes? 


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#15 rancho_gordo

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 01:53 PM

I believe you are right but it's so much easier to call them masa dumplings!


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#16 Chris Hennes

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 08:46 PM

I'm disappointed to hear that they were bland, since they look delicious in the photo! Do you think there would be a way to make them in such a way that they weren't? Maybe just more salt? 


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#17 rancho_gordo

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 11:49 AM

I think their purpose was to thicken the stew and per serving, you maybe got two. The stars were the crab and shrimp. 

How do you make matzoh balls better? Maybe the technique would be the same. 


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#18 thayes1c

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 01:03 PM

I've made masa dumplings with quest fresco mixed in and that improved them quite a bit. A good shake of garlic powder helped, too. Matzo balls are much airier, probably because of the gluten and the egg binder, not to mention the structure inherent in the matzo meal. Some people add baking powder or seltzer to make their matzo balls lighter, but I find that gentle handling makes for good, airy balls. I don't know if those tips would translate to masa dumplings, but maybe you could make "masa meal" with dried out tortillas and use that to make dumplings. Hmm. I may have to try that...





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