When Grace was about ten she was into the American Girl books and discovered their line of matching cook books, each one with instructions for making food suitable for each character's heritage. How glad I was that one of the girls had Mexican ancestors because otherwise we would have been stuck eating things like hasty pudding. Hmmmm . . .
But as it was Grace wanted to make all the Mexican food Josephina ate and that meant tamales. I'd never made them before and I had this vague notion that they were really, really hard and time consuming because I'd heard about little old women standing in hot kitchens, making tamales all day long for the evening meal.
Apparently I was misinformed because they're really, really easy. As in pie. Grace makes them up and we slurp them right down and we're all very happy about the situation.
Anyway, all a tamale is is a batch of cornmeal dough, usually a combination of masa, lard and water, wrapped around a bit of slow cooked and savory meat spiced with chilies which is tied up inside a dried corn husk just like a little Christmas package and steamed to perfection.
When you unwrap them the cornmeal dough has cooked around the meat and it's oh so tasty. I cook them in my vegetable steamer but you can use any kind of steamer to do the job. I've seen all sorts of recipe variations too--some using mushrooms and some using vegetables--I've actually got this theory that you could make sweet versions, maybe with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled in the dough and a bit of caramel or jam or sliced apples in the middle. I don't see why you'd be limited to just beef and chilies--cornmeal has a certain amount of sweetness as it is so putting applesauce or even some chocolate in there shouldn't be too off-putting.
Anyway, here's Grace's recipe.
For the dough:
6 cups masa harina
5 cups warm water or chicken broth
2 cups lard or shortening
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix masa with water or broth and let set for 20 minutes to soften. Then with mixer mix in the rest of the ingredients until it's a dough consistency.
3 cups shredded beef
8 large roasted chiles- skin, seeds and veins removed and coarsely chopped.
1 white onion- peeled and coarsely chopped.
6 cloves of garlic- peeled and crushed.
1 jalapeno- seeded and diced
1 cup homemade chile sauce or store bought.
Roast the above ingredients in a casserole dish at about 300 degrees for several hours until nice and fragrant.
To prepare the tamales, soak dried corn husks (you can get them at the Mexican section of the supermarket) in warm water for about ten minutes. Then dry them and put a couple tablespoons of the masa dough in the husk. Spread it out a bit then put a spoonful of filling in the middle and cover it with the dough. Wrap the corn husk around the package as you see here and tie with a strip of corn husk.
Steam them for about 90 minutes. To eat, you unwrap them and enjoy the treat inside. Serve with a bit of reserved sauce or you can freeze them for later.
I had this awful moment yesterday when I realized that I completely spaced drawing a winner for last weekend's Sugarhouse Ink giveaway. So today I've got two winners to announce. First, Norma was the winner of the $50 gift certificate to Sugarhouse Ink and then Sondra was the winner of the $60 Mikarose gift certificate. So sorry to have slacked off.
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