Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tamales

Project Food Blog Challenge #2 required me making an ethnic classic that I've never made before and was outside my comfort zone.  A few weeks ago I went to our small library and found cookbooks from 3 different cultures - French, Italian and Irish. I decided not to do French or Italian (now I'm grateful because I missed where the challenge said no French or Italian!) In looking at the Irish cookbook I did not feel that they would be outside my comfort zone. So what to make? I finally decided to tackle a Mexican dish that I had wanted to make but it frankly scared the pants off me. I already own a Mexican cookbook so it worked great! For some reason I could never bring myself to make Tamales, so I decided it was now or never.  In researching I learned that making tamales is usually done with others. So keeping with tradition, I invited one of my closest friends to join me. I would advise anyone wanting to make tamales to do the same - it takes quite a bit of time to make these and its more enjoyable to have a friend to talk with during the assembly process!

Green Chili Chicken Tamales
From Mexico One Plate at a Time
Start by soaking corn husks in hot water about 2-3 hours before you want to start assembly (make sure they are completely covered in water - this bowl of water was just to keep them from drying out after they had soaked for hours.)

FILLING
Next, to start on the filling – roast 1 pound of tomatillos that have been husked and rinsed by broiling on high for 5 minutes on each side about four inches below heat.
Cool and then add to a blender
Also add 2 jalapenos that have been stemmed and chopped (deseeded, if you don’t like a lot of heat), and 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped.
Blend until it reaches a smooth puree.
While mixture is blending, heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. 
 When the oil is hot, add the puree.
Cook, stirring occasionally 
until puree is darker and thicker – about 5 minutes.
Add 2 cups of chicken broth 
Simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon – about 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt – about 2 tsp.
Stir in 4 cups shredded cooked chicken and 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro; cool completely - filling will cool while you are making the batter.
We also used a beef filling... I'm still trying to find a great recipe for beef!

BATTER
Beat 1-1/4 cups vegetable shortening, 2 tsp salt and 1-1/2 tsp baking powder with an electric mixer on medium-high speed.
Beat 1 minute or until light in texture.
Continue beating and add the masa in 3 additions.
A note about masa – you can use 4 cups fresh ground corn masa for tamales (you’ll be able to buy this at a tortilla factory or some Mexican grocery stores.) 
 Or you can mix 3-1/2 cups dried masa harina for Tamales mixed with 2-1/4 cups hot water. This is the way I have to do it, being in a small community with limited options. At least they have Masa Harina at the local grocery store.
Once all the masa is added in, reduced the speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Continue beating for another minute or until a half-teaspoon dollop floats in a cup of cold water.
Beat in ½ cup more chicken broth. The consistency should be a soft batter that holds its shape on a spoon. Salt batter to taste.  
**Note: I've used beef broth instead of chicken and it tastes great with a beef filling as well as the vegetable filling variation below (obviously not what you'd use when serving vegetarians though!) I also added some tomato juice to a different batch in with the chicken broth and loved it. If you wanted to do a vegetarian version, you could use a vegetable broth for sure!

FORMING
Pick out the largest and most pliable husks - you'll want them to be 6 inches wide and 6-7 inches long. You can overlap some if there are not enough large ones to make all the tamales.
Prepare thin strips of corn husks (you'll want them 8 inches or longer) or pieces of string.
To form the tamales, place 1/8-1/4 cup batter on a husk and spread it out to a 4 inch square. Spread ~1/8 cup filling down the middle of the batter. Fold the corn husk - making sure the batter meets to cover the filling. Once it is in a 'tube' fold the tapered end over the stuffed part of the husk.
Just a note about putting the filling on the husk - be sure to leave at least a 3/4 inch border around the edges (obviously the tapered end will have a lot more than that!) If you have the batter go to the open edge it will spill out while steaming.
Once the corn husk is folded over, use the corn husk strips (or string) and tie it around the tamale to secure it. Make sure this is loose to give the tamale room to expand!
We placed our formed tamales on cookie sheets until we were ready to steam them. 
For the steamer - line the bottom of the basked with remaining corn husks - this is a great use for the ones that were not the right size. Make sure there are holes so the condensing steam can run off.
Place wrapped tamales in steamer.
We did not use a traditional steamer so we had to adapt placement... You are supposed to place them vertically with the folded bottoms on the bottom of the steamer. You may need to cook in batches. Do not pack them in too tightly - they will need room to expand. If all the tamales do not fill up the steamer - use aluminum foil to keep tamales from falling over.
 In the pan pour water until it is an inch or more - you just don't want the tamales to touch the water. Bring water to boil. Place in steamer basket
Cover with more husks.
Top with lid, steam for 75 minutes adding more water as necessary - do not let it run out of water... it could ruin you pan and your tamales. Not that I would have had a pan run out of water while steaming these! It gives them a nice smoky flavor... luckily we caught it before it was a nice charred flavor.
Tamales are done when the husks peel away easily. 
 Leave them to stand in steamer for a few minutes to firm up.
These were absolutely delicious!
Enjoy!


Variations: 


Green Chili Chicken 2- I shredded the leftover Green Chili Chicken from the night before and used the leftover sauce - turned out great.

Another great variation is this recipe for a vegetarian filling. Except I used button mushrooms and a large sweet potato and I used shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Spinach Garlic - I roasted the garlic with the veggies from the recipe linked above and minced the 4 cloves of garlic and mixed it with some olive oil then tossed it in with 3 cups chopped fresh spinach. I added some shredded Monterey Jack cheese with them as well. Everybody loved this type including my dad and husband!

23 comments:

  1. Good job on showing the process of making the tamales. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great demo. I think I'll book mark this for later, when I might try to make these.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Crystal, I'm so happy for you!! I know you have what it takes to keep advancing in the food blogger challenge!!

    I wanted to let you know that I'll be featuring you on my blog this week with a Lovely Blog Award...please stop by my blog to pick up your award!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just found your blog, really great step by step style is helpful especially for a tricky project like tamales! Good luck to you in your challenges ahead! Renee

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm very impressed that you tackled tamales! Great job - love how many photos you took of the process.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love tamales and yours are making my mouth water.

    Good Luck...you have my vote!

    Norma
    Platanos, Mangoes and Me!

    ReplyDelete
  7. definitely great process you show here! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  8. GREAT tutorial. I LOVE homemade tamales. I used to depise them ala Lynn Wilson -- but these mexican women know how to do it here. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Crystal, you rock! I really NEVER thought I would make tamales - I don't think I can take much credit, but it was so much fun. Thank you for thinking of me. It reminded me so much of the college days when you cooked for us roomies ALL the time!!! GOOD LUCK!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Back at cha Crystal -- I gave you a vote too. Excellent step by step. When I'm ready to make tamales again, I'll have to come back here. I made them once about 15 years ago. Time sure flies. Hope to see you again in challenge #3 :)

    Shelly

    ReplyDelete
  11. Those are some hot tamales! Best of luck in round two!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. These are great! Your step by step photos make me think-gasp-even I could make these! Got my vote.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great post and good luck with round 2!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Im loving the photos Crystal! Great job!! Im voting right now!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great step by step instructions and pictures. It looks like you really went out of your comfort zone and it paid off. You got my vote and good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I haven't had a tamale in so long! And I have never made them myself. These turned out really great - perfect! I like your tutorial too. I'm wishing you the best of luck for this round!

    ReplyDelete
  17. seriously great job! they look like perfect little packages! :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Your tamales look very professional!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oooh, tamales are one of my husband's favorite foods! You're right about a long task like this being more fun with company. :) Nice post, and good luck in PFB!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Your tamales are beautiful....and the photos of you are too cute! love it - I love that this competition has introduced me to so many new and wonderful blogs - good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wow, this was a great effort, and I am glad to see all your steps since I have always wondered how to actually make tamales! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I waited until my grandma was able to show me how to make tamales before I would brave them. Kudos for taking them on by yourself!

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below. Due to increasing spam comments I no longer accept anonymous comments.