Archive for August, 2012

August 2, 2012

Homestyle Gringa Tamales!

On August 13th, River Road Community Organization, of which I am a part, is hosting a Tamale Fiesta (follow that link for details). The idea is to bring neighbors together and improve our culinary skills by learning and teaching how to make tamales.

I volunteered to help organize the event, and I thought it appropriate to try to make some tamales at home before lending my skills (or lack thereof) to others.

The internet abounds with recipes, so I’ll just share my photos from last night’s experience.

To set the scene: My domestic partner was working late, my kitchen was already 85 degrees, not even the cat would hang out with me, but I did have some beer in the fridge and a some speakers through which to pump Pandora’s Reggaeton mix.

In my possession: A bag of masa harina (the corn flour which constitutes the tamale dough), a tub of lard (the other main ingredient in tamale dough), various cheeses, various garden veggies, and some dried California chilis (chilis pasilla) which my recipe strictly instructed only to handle with gloves.

Not in my possession: gloves.

One hour later:

Prepped tamale ingredients, from left to right: cottage cheese; chopped summer squash, tomato, cilantro, onion and garlic; prunes; masa harina dough; chili sauce; grated cheese; corn husks for wrapping.

Don’t worry, dismantling the chilis and cooking them into sauce didn’t cause my fingers to bleed or anything like that. The sauce actually wasn’t spicy at all. The recipe said just to boil them in hot water awhile and puree. I “gringa-ed” up this boring sauce with some spike, cumin, Tapatio sauce and cilantro. Much better!

Most tamales are made with meat. I’m not a vegetarian but I am a poor-atarian, so I used some veggies I picked up at the farm the day before.

To fill a tamale, all you do is put some masa harina dough down on the corn husk like you’re making a sushi roll. Then you put your other fillings on top, but not too much or you’ll never get the thing shut.

All wrapped up in their little husks. Aren’t they cute?

In my pressure cooker with a rack underneath them, they steamed for an hour. They expanded a little while cooking, but held together pretty well anyway.

Just before they went in my stomach: Tamales with chili/sour cream sauce, home made refried beans and Spanish rice.

The veggies cooked perfectly inside the tamales (the slice of squash in this pic is an escapee). The two cheeses were great together, all cooked into the masa harina dough.

Sweating from steam and improvised Salsa dancing, I sat down to a delicious and satisfying meal. This camera phone picture even speeded the arrival of my dinner partner (and a couple of co-workers). Just in time to wash the enormous pile of dishes.

The end.