Today I’m here to dispel some myths. Just call me Mythbusters. Or don’t. I can’t handle being sued by another cable television franchise (Did you hear that, Ina? I said I was sorry). But, be that as it may, I’m still up in this gig busting some myths. I want to tell you that a) magic is real b) Santa Claus is not and c) homemade tamales are not as difficult as the mainstream media would have you believe (I’m trying to improve my SEO by referencing the mainstream media. Like a lot).
For those sad few of you who don’t know what a tamale is, it’s a delicately steamed pocket of cornmeal and meat and/or veggies that has developed a reputation as a food you’d never attempt at home. Many skilled tamale makers capitalize on this by trotting tamales out once or twice a year and sending the fearful consumer into a tamale-buying tizzy. I’m talking a separate deep freezer devoted exclusively to tamales. Welp, the jig is up, tamaleras! I contend that tamales are incredibly easy to make, and at the risk of jeopardizing my own personal safety at the hands of angry abuelas and tías, I can show you how.
The only truly difficult part of the tamale-making process is ensuring you pair good flavors–both the filling (meat or veggie) and the masa need to stand on their own. And, I’m a bit of a sauce queen (hey, gurl), so I definitely recommend pairing with our crema and/or salsa verde. The next key element is time, which is technically an abstract concept we all have access to, so, get in that kitchen and start making those tamales! These can be made ahead, chilled, and steamed later when you want to serve them for dinner. I personally don’t freeze them simply because I consume them too quickly; however, I’m certain you could store them this way in a freezer-safe bag for up to a month but probably until the end of all time or your newborn’s quinceañera. So what are yo waiting for? Prove the mainstream media wrong by breaking the record for most tamales consumed in one sitting. Let’s call this a myth busted, dear reader.
- 3 Anaheim peppers, seeded and diced
- 2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
- ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small yellow/white onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ cup tomatillo salsa
- ½ cup crumbled queso fresco, or panela cheese
- ⅔ cup shortening or lard
- 2 cups Masa harina
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 to 1 ½ cups good stock (I like chicken stock, but if you want to keep it vegetarian, use vegetable)
- Corn husks, soaked in water for at least one hour before prepping tamales. Once soaked, remove from water & dry. Take a few husks and tear them into small strips for tamale bowties.
- Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until all ingredients are softened. Remove from heat and stir in the salsa. Allow the mixture to cool in a separate bowl, and then mix in the queso fresco.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the lard or shortening, and beat on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes, until fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix the Masa Harina with the baking powder, chili powder and salt. Add to the shortening/lard and incorporate. With the mixer on low, add the stock slowly so as not to add too much. The consistency of your mixture should be dough-like, soft and fluffy, and come away from the sides of the bowl easily. It should also spread easily over the corn husk. You may find you need to add a bit more stock while filling the tamales if your dough is too stiff.
- Spread the masa on the center of the corn husk, about ¼ an inch thick, and leave room at all ends, at least ½ an inch. Place a small spoonful of the pepper + cheese filling in the center of the masa, and carefully fold one side of the husk over, then the other. Fold the bottom firmly over the middle, and then the top. Using a strip of corn husk, tie the tamale into a small package. Set aside and repeat.
- Place a steamer basket in the bottom of a large stock pot. Fill the bottom with about 1-2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add tamales, reduce heat to low, and cover. Steam the tamales for at least an hour, and then start checking them in 15 minute increments to see if they are done. They will be ready when the masa peels easily away from the corn husk. Because I cook large batches of many small tamales, it can take up to 2 hours to steam mine. Your mileage may vary. Make sure while cooking that the water does not actually touch any of the tamales.
- Serve with crema or salsa, and enjoy.