Real Food for Real Life

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I love these darn things...

Tamales de puerco con salsa roja, frijoles negros y ensalada de maíz
Pork filled tamales with red sauce,black beans and corn salad

I love tamales and have fond memories of the sweet tamales (tamales dulces) I had in Mexico, some filled with a sweet corn mixture and some with pineapple.  I have never tried to make a sweet tamale at home, but will make savory, usually filled with pork.  As much as I love them, I don't usually make them more than once a year because them are time such, when I do make them it will usually be a double or triple batch (they freeze fairly well).

I was in the midst of a severe craving for tamales last week, and with leftover pulled pork in the fridge and masa harina in the pantry (a staple), tamales were going to be had.  I served these with a corn salad (or relish) and black beans made with  adobo and beer.  A note about tamales is  that as long as you have the basic technique for making them, you can put whatever you like in them...and the corn husks?  When I first started making tamales (quite a few years ago now) I used to have to seek out the husks, but now they are easily found in any large grocery store (or your local Aldi).  This recipe makes 12 to 15 tamales, but I advise soaking a few extra husks, because if you are anything like me, you will tear a few in the process.

adapted from Zaeela Martínez, found in In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs

 20 (or so) dried corn husks
2 1/3 cups masa harina
1 tsp. salt
2 cups warm water or chicken stock 
4 oz. shoetening
2+ cups of filling of choice 

Soaking the corn husks:  Place the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let soak at least 1/2 hour.

Making the masa:  Combine the masa harina and the warm water or stock in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir to combine well.  Place into the mixer and start beating while adding the shortening by spoonfuls.  Continue beating for 3 or 4 minutes (longer if beating by hand or with a hand mixer) until the mixture is very light and fluffy...this is important so that the finished tamales are not heavy and dense.  

Forming and filling the tamales:  Remove the corn husks from the water and gently squeeze out the excess, then pat dry with a kitchen or paper towel.  Place the corn husks on the counter with the rough side down and the narrow end pointing away from you.  Spread a scant 1/2 cup of the masa over the bottom 2/3 of the husk in a rectangle, leaving the narrow end uncovered.  Spoon a few tablespoons of your choosen filling into the center of the masa.  To enclose the filling, fold the sides of the husks together...the masa will come away from the husk and you can form it over the filling.  Fold the sides of the husk in, overlapping them tightly, then fold up the pointed end in, leaving the wide end open.

Steaming the tamales:  Arrange the tamales in a steamer with their open ends up, placing a ball of foil in the center to act as a prop.  Pour one inch of boiling water into the pan (or up to the bottom of your steaming basket) and lay a clean, damp kitchen towel over the tamales (this helps hold in the steam).  Cover tightly and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to maintain a gently bubbling and steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour, replenishing with boiling water if necessary.
When are they done?:  The tamales are ready when the masa is firm to the touch.  Remove from the steamer and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  The tamales may be served in their husks, or unwrapped and placed on individual plates with sauce and sides.


  1. Now You have me wanting to go back to Tijuana! The mission now lives above the goat shack....they built a second floor and all volunteers stay there!

  2. This is one cooking adventure I've never had -- and I really want to! You make them sound worth the effort!

  3. So much work, would love to have the patience. A recipe I have for sure got to try.


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