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Hallacas is the traditional dish of Venzuela, which more than any other foods, symbolizes Christmas.

  • Prep: 30 minutes
  • Cook: 3 hour 30 minutes
  • Total time: 4 hours
  • Recipe serves: 24 hallacas

Ingredients for the Meat Filling

  • 1lb top round beef, cut into 1/4-to 1/2 inch-dice
  • 1 lb lean pork, cut into 1/4-to 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/4 lb bacon, strips cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1 onion, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram
  • 1 medium leek, diced
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1 tablespoon mustard relish, pickle, minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into 1/4-to-1/2-inch dice
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Ingredients for the Masa Dough

  • 2/3 cup lard or 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon annatto seeds (achiote, optional for colour)
  • 2 cups masa harina flour (dehydrated, treated corn flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water

Ingredients for final preparations

  • 2 packs of banana leaves (16 ounces each) or 24 (9-inch sqaure) parement paper or tinfoil
  • 1lb shredded cooked chicken
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 1/4 cup blanched almond
  • 2 ounces pimientos, sliced
  • 5 ounces pimento stuffed olives, cut in half 
  • Tabasco sauce

Instructions for the Meat filling

  1. Put beef, pork, and bacon in a large pan.
  2. Puree the tomatoes with the peeled onion and garlic.
  3. Add mixture to the meat pan along with the salt, marjoram, and leek.
  4. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and continue cooking until all meat is tender, about 2 hours.
  5. When meat is tender, add to the meat mixture the capers, mustard pickles, vinegar, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. 
  6. Raise the heat to high and cook the filling, stirring, until almost all liquid in the pan has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  7. Add the raisins and set filling aside.

Instructions for the Masa Dough

  1. Over a low heat, melt 1/3 cup lard with the annatto seeds.
  2. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Whip remaining lard until fluffy.
  4. Beat in masa harina, salt, cayenne peper, and water.
  5. Finally, beat in melted, strained lard, discarding annatto seeds.
  6. Form dough into 24 balls.

Instructions for the final preparations

  1. Put a ball of Masa Dough in the center of each banana leaves.
  2. Flatten dough out to 1/8-inch thickness.
  3. Top each masa-coated husk with an equal distribution of the meat mixture, chicken, hard cooked eggs, almonds, pimentos, and olives.
  4. Sprinkle on Tabasco sauce to taste.
  5. Fold corn husks to completely encase the filling.
  6. Tie each hallaca with thin strips of corn husk or kitchen string.
  7. When tightly assembled, steam halacas for 1 hour.
  8. Serve piping hot.

NOTE: Hallacas are easily refrigerated or frozen. Reheat by steaming again until hot.

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