Thursday, June 7, 2012
I was really bored with cooking last month. So one day I decided to make something less ordinary: tamales. I learned how from 2 ladies. One, my dear husband's Abuelita, who I visited in Mexico. Two, my mother, who learned from her Mexican neighbor. My goodness! Tamales are tasty--there's a reason they are traditionally served at Christmas time in Mexico. Yum Yum, food you'll dream about for days after. Tamales are time consuming to make, and your feet will really hurt by the end-- so your best option would be to bring me gifts and beg me to make them for you. If, however, you don't like kissing up, here is what to do:
You will need:
2lb pork roast, any cut
3 large Poblano Chiles
masa harina (specially made corn flour)
1 1/3 cups butter softened
and a steamer or pressure cooker with a metal steamer plate and a crock pot.
NOW we can begin:
The night before you wish to eat the tamales, put the pork roast in your crock pot with 1 or 2 cups of water and let it cook on low all night. The next morning, shred the pork with forks and add salt until it tastes good. My sister likes to add chicken base (bouillon).
Put that in the fridge to cool.
I generally begin actually making the tamales about 2 hours before I want to serve dinner.
1. Turn the broiler in your oven on high. Take the Poblano Chiles and place them about 6-8" from the top of the oven. Sometimes I put them on a cookie sheet and sometimes I just set them right in on the oven rack. After about 3 minutes, check the chiles. When their skin is pretty uniformly blistered on top, grab them by their stem and flip them over to blister the other side (3 more minutes).
Take them out of the oven and put them back into that produce bag you put them in at the grocery store or a ziploc bag and let them steam inside it for 10 minutes. Those white walmart bags supposedly leak toxins, so don't use them.
2. Take the corn husks and put them in a bowl of warm water to soak and get soft.
3. Now you are going to make the masa (the corn mush part)
4 cups Masa flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
Use your fingers to work 4 cups lukewarm water (or leftover pork broth from cooking above) into the flour to make a soft dough.
Now you have a choice about how to add the butter:
1 1/3 cups butter (authentically, this would be lard, but trust me, butter is yummiest)
Choice #1: Using your mixer, whip the butter until fluffy and then add the masa and beat it until the dough is spongy. This is the authentic way. My dear husband's Abuelita wanted me to beat the masa dough (by hand with a wooden spoon) until it was fluffy enough that a pea size amount would float in water. Warning: it may burn out your mixer.
Choice #2: melt the butter and stir it in with your hands, like you did the water. Guess what! The dough will become spongy & fluffy as you mix in the butter.
4. Take those poblano chiles out of their steam bag and peel the blistered skin off. Open them up and remove the seeds & membranes inside. I do this under cool running water at the sink. Chop them up into 1 inch squares.
5. Get the pork out of the fridge and skim off any fat you can. Stir the poblanos and sliced olives into the pork.
6. Take a corn husk and spread a couple of heaping spoonfulls of masa on it.
7. Add a couple of tablespoons of the pork.
8. Roll up the corn husk and twist and flip the bottom--like you do with a bread bag when you are too lazy to get a twisty tie for it.
9. If you want to get really fancy, you can take a skinny strip of corn husk and tie a granny knot bow thing around your tamale to hold the twisted end in place. I usually don't do this unless the corn husk seems small to me, like it might not stay closed if I don't add the extra support. But they do look pretty all tied up in their little corn husk packages.
10. Now you are going to place your tamales in your steamer or pressure cooker. If you have a steam basket pot (sometimes called a spaghetti cooker) or a bamboo steamer (see picture at the beginning of this post) you can steam the tamales in that for 1 hour. Remember to check that your water hasn't boiled dry or they will burn & you might ruin your steam pot.
If you have a pressure cooker with a steam plate, it only takes 10 minutes to steam the tamales, once you have brought them up to pressure. This is how Abuelita taught me to cook them. She placed a clean empty tuna fish can in the bottom of her pressure cooker and set the steam plate on top of it. She filled the can and the space around the can under the steam plate with water. (I use this same method to steam corn on the cob).
Now line your tamales around the pot so that they rest on each other --like that party game where everyone stands in a circle and then sits on each other's knees. It is a little tricky to keep the thing balanced at first so that your steam plate doesn't tip into the water, but you can do it.
Now fill in the middle
Bring to pressure and pressure cook for 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn yourself when you open up the pot!
I like to serve tamales with mexican rice and fresh salsa on the side.
This recipe makes about 32 tamales.
Yes, they are good cold the next day (or reheated, your choice)
I borrowed the Poblano pictures from here: http://whatscookingamerica.net/CynthiaPineda/CornChili/ChilePoblano.htm