I made tamales for the first time when I was in Junior High. We went over to my dad’s friends’ house and made tamales with them just before Christmas. It was my first experience making or eating tamales and it was, unfortunately, wasted on me. I was an extremely picky eater. I enjoyed the tamale-making process, but as far as I remember I only ate one tamale and I didn’t really even eat it. I just picked at the masa.
My next tamale-making experience was last summer in culinary school. We only got to make three tamales, though, because it was just for the learning experience. Having a new-found love of tamales I wanted to have a big tamale-making day like so many people do leading up to Christmas. I promised my friend, Marky, we would make them together. Since everyone was so busy leading up to Christmas we instead had a New Year’s Eve Tamale Party!
A few of my friends brought over Mexican food side dishes and I provided all the tamale ingredients. I mixed the masa and lard ahead of time. Oh yeah, I wanted to go totally authentic so I used lard, and it was delicious! We spent the evening laughing, chasing around the kids, and making tamales. It was a good night.
We made, and ate, lots of tamales. Queso fresco, chicken, roasted poblanos and chorizo were the stuffings of choice. We ate so many that I spent the next two days making more tamales to give to my family and to just have on hand. I now understand what a huge undertaking tamales are. It’s not that you have to make so many at a time. It’s that you want to! They’re so good and so easy to consume in large amounts that you have to make enough to freeze so that you have them for months to come!
Not wanting to waste anything I even made little tiny tamales out of the little tiny corn husks I had left over.
Makes 40 Tamales
50 Corn Husks
-Soak in water for at least 20 minutes prior to using so they become pliable.
-Remove from water and pat dry just before assembling. If they become too dry before you get the chance to use them just place them back in the water for a few minutes. I leave mine in a large bowl of water next to my work area and take them out one at a time.
-Tear 10 of the corn husks into 1/4 inch strips. These strips will serve as ties to hold the tamales closed
If you are afraid of lard you can use vegetable shortening instead. It just won’t be quite the same fatty deliciousness.
3 Cups Fresh Masa
1 Cup Lard
(You can find fresh masa at tortilla-making places or at Mexican markets. Some larger chain grocery stores carry it, as well. Look for packages labeled “Coarse Ground Masa” or “Masa Para Tamales” Do not buy the package labeled “Masa Preparada Para Tamales” that one has a bunch of stuff already mixed in and just isn’t the same as doing it yourself.)
1 Teaspoon Salt
-Using an electric mixer, beat together all ingredients until light and fluffy
3 Cups Masa Harina (This comes in a package like flour and is a powder)
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Cup Lard
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
-Mix together the masa Harina and chicken broth to form a thick dough
-Using an electric mixer, beat in the lard
-Add the salt and baking powder
-Continue to mix on high until dough is light and fluffy
To Assemble Tamales
-Remove corn husks from water and pat dry
-Lie flat on a cutting board or sanitized work surface
-The corn husks have a natural curve to them, allow the curved ends to point up. This will make it easier when folding the tamales
-The corn husks will look like a triangle. Place the widest side towards you. The narrow top will be folded down later to close the tamale
-Spread a thin layer of masa across corn husk leaving a 1/2 inch border on one long side and about an inch at the narrow top of the corn husk
-The thickness of your masa will determine cooking time and masa-filling-ratio. If you like a lot of masa then lay it on thick. If you prefer more filling then make a thin layer of masa. Don’t go so thin that you can see the corn husk through the masa.
-Place filling ingredients in a line down the center of the masa-filled corn husk
-Fold over in thirds using the 1/2-inch border as the top layer of the tamale
-Fold down the narrow top towards you and tie with a corn husk string
-Place the tamales, open side up, in the top portion of a steamer – lay the tamales against each other like fallen dominoes to get as many in the steamer as possible
-Steam for one hour or until the masa falls off the corn husk when gently pulled
Tamale filling ideas:
Roasted and peeled Poblano Peppers
Queso Fresco (this is the best cheese for tamales because it doesn’t melt)
Salsa (I like Herdez Salsa Verde with tamales)