I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Tamale Time

When I got married, I had no idea what I was getting into, honestly.  I had no idea how much I did not know.  I did not know how to properly use bleach.  I did not know how often I should dust or vacuum (not because my parents didn't do those things, but because they did those things- not me), and I honestly did not know that the tamales you buy in a can weren't genuine Mexican food.  I'm sure you can imagine the sheer giddiness I felt to feed my always-starving husband such an authentic meal.  I'm sure you can also imagine the dread my poor broken heart endured when he gently smiled and let me know that wasn't exactly what he'd grown up eating.  For years after that, I had a mild annoyance toward tamales, especially when we would get them while we were visiting California.  I always went back to that bitter place, and I wasn't really sure if I was angry at the hubs for not loving my fresh-from-the-can delicacy or at Hormel for lying to me all those years.  Regardless, I hated tamales.

I had been cooking for a while, really trying to venture out and make my own recipes, when I was confronted with that red and yellow can again.  My better half was out on the road DJing some shows, so I decided I was going to confront this enemy head-on while he wasn't around to harshly judge. (like he would really do that...)  I searched all over the internet.  I watched youtube video after youtube video trying to figure out what to do.

I finally found a few recipes I'd try, and I made my first batch.

They weren't awful.

So when my husband got home, I made a second batch.  And then a third.  Each time, I figured out what I liked, what I didn't, and how I could make it better.  Eventually, I figured out a filling I loved (this shredded beef recipe) and a masa recipe I loved.  I had an arranged marriage for those two, and sparks flew.  I have been making this recipe on the regular now, and I've even made a few bucks selling these little gems.

Fair warning: this recipe takes some time- to the tune of at least 24 hours in all.  Be prepared...these guys are a labor of love, but oh so worth it!

What you'll need (to make around 5 to 6 dozen):
4 cups of instant masa (Maseca)
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup of vegetable oil
2-3 cups of chicken broth
dried corn husks
Some kind of filling (hey! What's this link doing here?)

The first thing you'll need to do is soak your corn husks in some hot water.  It's best to do this overnight, but I've done it for as little as an hour before and was perfectly fine.  You just need your husks to be pliable or else you're just going to have a big mess.

Obviously, you'll need to have your filling all ready to go, too.

To start your masa, mix the maseca, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and chili powder together.

Add the oil, and mix by hand.  It is ready when it's the consistency of wet sand.

Now get ready to get messy.  Add in your chicken stock, a half a cup or so at a time and mix it with your fingers.  It's going to take most of your stock, but you don't want it too wet.  It should be like a grainy cookie dough.

I want to take a second and talk about how I set up for this.  I cover my work space with a big clean towel.  The corn husks are wet, the masa gets everywhere, and I prefer less clean up.  I also like to have everything set up like an assembly line, so I keep all the things I will need on the table with me.

After you're all settled into your nice cozy work space, you'll start with towel-drying a corn husk.  Then, put about a golf ball sized amount of masa on your husk.

Using the heel of your hand, mash the masa out evenly on the husk, being careful to leave enough around the masa so it won't make a big mess after it's all rolled up.

And fill 'er up!

Now roll them up, tucking the bottom part under (like a burrito) so the husk has a closed end.

Because I make these literally by the dozens, I do an assembly line.  I dry all the husks, masa-ize them all...

...then fill them all...

...then I roll them all and stack them, closed end down, and pile them in the steamer.

I always, always, have the best help.

Steam them for about an hour and a half.  I use an electric steamer, but the stock pot kind works wonderfully, too.  (That's actually much more authentic!)

When the masa doesn't stick to the husks, they're done and ready to eat!  You can freeze these cooked or uncooked for up to 6 months, so I prefer to make a huge batch when I opt for this recipe, simply because it is so time consuming.

I like to slather mine in green sauce....

Now please never ever eat a tamale from a can again.

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