When your kitchen has been dismantled for a week, it is good to get out of town for a day (especially if you have been doing plenty of the work yourself, and need some time away from all things covered in saw dust and dry wall dust).

If you drive to Gonzales, TX from San Antonio, take the exit for old highway 90 when you get to Seguin.  It is actually much faster, and very pastoral.

And when you are parking in the old downtown, and some young men on horse back come strolling out of the alley, make sure you ask to take their picture.

Pick up some “gingerbread” trim and “milk” (glass) at the architectural salvage store, and concoct an explanation for your carpenter about why we are adding old lost pieces of wood to the “new” kitchen.

Stop and read the poem in the room full of doors.

Dont buy any overpriced farmhouse sinks, but pick up some kolaches for the ride home and breakfast tomorrow.  OK, it is tomorrow already, and I ate them all.

And while I was eating them I was thinking about how many kinds of baked dough filled with fruit filling there are: pies, donuts, hamentashen, kolaches, empanadas, danishes… and?

I spent Christmas doing demolition, but managed, before the kitchen was totally taken apart, to learn to make tamales in the dining room.  It was a decent first run.  I ate seven of them, so yes, they could have used a little more salt, but not too shabby.

I cannot share the tamale recipe, as it is proprietary (being incubated by Diana and Spoon).  But I will share what we used to season the chicken, as well as the masa.

This is a tasty sauce.  Someone who knows says Mexican food is all about sauces, and I agree.  It is not spicy really, but you could make it so, depending on which chilis you use.  Anchos are the base, and they are very mild.

It is actually great on everything– like hot sauce, but without all the heat, just tons of flavor.  It is designed to be cooked with things, like meat, so the flavors develop more when it is cooked.  If you want to use it as a topping, cook the onions and garlic some before adding them.  When you add it to the masa, it gives it that nice alive orange color.

Red Chili Sauce (for tamales)

adapted from Michael Natkin at herbivoracious.com

4 ancho chilis

2 morita or chipotle in adobo

1 dried aji amarillo (we used guajillo, since these were not available)

1/2 large white onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tomato

1/2 cup or more of stock of your choice, or the water from soaking the chilis

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon salt

juice of 1 lime

Cut the stems off the chilis and cut them open.  Remove the seeds.  Wash your hands (or use gloves for that part).  Soak the dried chilis in boiling water for about 15 minutes.  Combine everything in the food processor or blender.  Add the stock a little at a time, processing a little each time until desired consistency is reached.  It will be thicker than hot sauce of course, but pourable.

Happy New Year tsp readers!