Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tamale Time

My mother in law came here to America the same day I did. Not with me, but thats a different story altogether. Anyways, while we were both still in Honduras, I had made a promise to her that once we were both here, I would make her some tamales, because I refuse to make them in Honduras. Why do I refuse? Well to be honest, its because I am lazy, LOL. Not really lazy, but tamales are a bunch of work, here in America. In Honduras the work load becomes even bigger, and really there isnt time with everything else that is going on in a normal day for me to make tamales.
So this past weekend I made two tamales for my mother in law. One was a homemade pork tamale, and one was a recipe from Emeril. A Raisin and Spice Tamale.

I'm not going to post anything on the Raisin and Spice tamale because you can click on the recipe and see how its made, and because I didn't think to take pictures or anything else while I made them. But I did sortof take pictures while making the pork tamales.

To start out with, I make th meat for the tamales the night before. Just so that in the morning all I have to do is cook the masa, then assemble the tamales. Sofor the meat, I bought a big pork picnic something or other that had a little bone in it, but not that big of a deal. I cut the meat down into small peices, rinsed and drid the meat real well, and seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and some goya seasoning - the kind in the orange envelope.

In a big pot, I put some oil in to heat up, added some onion, green pepper and cilantro cut up and once the onion was sort of translucent, I threw in the meat. After letting the meat cook a little bit, I then added four cans of hunts tomato sauce - the basil, oregeno something kind, a big can of tomato sauce and some tomato paste. After letting it cook for a bit more, I tasted it then just added seasoning as needed. (My mother in law, who came the next day while I was assembling the tamales tasted the meat and told me it needed more salt. But once everything was done and put together and cooked, there was enough salt in the tamale.) I then put the lid on the meat and set it aside until the next morning.


The next morning, I got up and had to drive to four different stores to get some banana leaves because in my original shopping trip there were no banana leaves to be found.

So anyway, I got the banana leaves and headed home to get cookig. My original plan was to have the tamales started by 8AM. Not sarted cooking, but started assembling them. However it was almost 10AM befor I was able to get started. Isnt that the story of my life???

So here it is 10AM and I am just starting to make the masa for the tamales. To make the tamale masa you need water, maseca, shortening, cilantro, goa seasoning in the orange envelope, salt and whatever other seasoning you may want to add. First mix up the masa and water until it is about the consistency of slightly thick pancake batter. In a big pot (big enough for all your masa, and then some) scoop out a bunch of shortening. Maybe a cup or so? I am guessing here because I dont measure, its all done by sight. So let the shortening melt some and add in the masa batter. Mix it all up real good and add in the cilantro - which should be just the leaves, and cut up in a rough chop - salt, and seasonings. The masa should be slightly on the salty side. Mix it all up and keep stirring it over medium heat or so until it thickens up. It should be like a thick batter when it is done. Again, sorry I can't be more help as its all done by sight and feel for me. And alot of guessing is involved in my cooking. As in... Um, I guess this much goes in here, I guess this might taste good, I guess I can substitute this for that. LOL. Once the masa has thickened now comes the fun part.


Oh wait, no it doesn't. First you have to prep te banana leaves. Ok, these leaves come frozen, and they saw to thaw them out in the fridge overnight. Yeah, Im not that organized. Its called cut across the top of the package, fill it with warm water, and 5 minutes later you have ready banana leaves. Much easier. So I open up the package of banana leaves and cut them to the right size. Whats the right size you say, well for me, its whatever size the end up being is the right size, LOL. I would say about 8 inches wide or so. Maybe more, maybe less. Who knows. Again, its all about sight, feel and guessing when you are cooking with me.


While you are at it, pull off a bunch of foil strips as well. I start with 20 strips of foil at a time. They are about 18" long or so.


Ok, now comes the fun part. I like to have everything set up in front of me in an assembly line so that it makes life 10000 times easier. I will set up a bowl of mixed veggies (frozen peas, corn and carrots), a bowl of sliced potatoes - think mini french fries when you are cutting them, a bowl of garbanzo beans, and a bowl of rice - already cooked.

When you cook the rice, make sure you are careful when you check it so that you dont end up with a steam burn like I did.

Unfortunately, that wasnt the only injury of the day. When I made the raisin tamales, I dropped the sugar on my toe. That hurt.

but at least now my toe matches my toenails, LOL. And here around these parts, if Im cooking, the day isnt complete without at least one injury.

Ok, back to assembling the tamales. So I have all the bowls lined up about an arms length away from me, and in front of it I lay down the aluminum foil, long ways. Or with the short end facing me, foing long ways to the back, away from me.


On the foil, I place the peice of banana leaf, and then add a scoop of the maseca batter. On top of that I add a bit more than a pinch of mixed veggies.


Then add some potatoes, some garbanzo beans and some rice.




I then add a scoop of meat and make sure that there is a bunch of juice in it too. I hate dry tamales.


See how the foil is on these picture, thats how I was trying to explain it earlier.

Now comes my favorite part. Wrapping them up. I know, Im a dork. What can I say?

When I first made tamales, I had a hard time wrapping them so that they were tight. Im gonna show you some pictures, and try to explain it as well. Maybe between the two I can get my point across.

Take the side of the foil closest to you and fold it over the tamale so that the edge hits about 2/3'ds of the way up. With your hand press (iron like) the masa into the tamale shape from the edge of the foil down, and from the sides in. Make sure that you dont have masa coming out the sides.


Pressing down on the sides, flip/roll the tamale over and over until it is all rolled up. You have to keep pressing on the sides to keep the tamale tight in the foil.


Then tuck under the sides.


After that, stick them in a pot big enough to hold them, add some water, add the lid and put it on to boil/steam. Once I get the pot filled up with the tamales, I add water to about halfway up, that *usually* is enough to make it through until they are done. But you have to keep checking it to make sure that the water doesnt all evaporate.

Here they are cooking.

the black pot has the pork tamales

the silver pot the raisin tamales

facial anyone??

the raisin tamales

As they cook, they will plump up some. It usually takes about 2.5 hours or so of steam coming out of the pots for them to be ready. Then they have to sit and cool a bit to firm up.

Here is the final product on my plate. I didn't let them cool long enough, so they fell apart a bit. But still edible.


And the raisin one - on a dirty plate, as I just put it on the same plate as I ate the other ones on. No dessert plate for me.


If you follow Emerils instructions, your raisin tamales wont look like this. This was one of the last ones where I had a bunch of raisins left over, so I just mixed it into the batter. There were other times that I have made them that way too, just mixing the raisins in the batter so then all I had to do was scoop out the masa and wrap it up.

Buck the rules baby, thats what cooking is all about, LOL

Oh yeah, and the best part about it - I now have a weekly order for tamales. I took them to work to share, and everyone kept saying how good they were, almost as good as their moms, and when would I make more so that they could buy them. What a great compliment.


The Mom said...

That is an awesome compliment!! How flattering.
How are you doing, other than the obvious (you're here instead of there). I have more clothes for the kids and magazines for you here in Nebraska, if you're interested. Shoot me an email if you get time:

Leidi said...

Looks good. You have given me plans for the weekend meal.

Amie Vaughan said...

i have a friend who is originally from arizona, and for christmas she ordered all the makings for tamales from a mexican grocer site and had them shipped to her in aberdeen (you cannot get any good mexican food here) so she could make tamales. they. were. awesome. but they are a lot of work. you could come make some for me, if you wanted. ;)

Lynette said...

you don't make it look so bad, but I'm afraid to step in the making tamales world.

Live Simply Love Strongly said...

I commend you, making tamales is a BIG job, too big of a job for me!

Anonymous said...

The singular is a tamal, not tamale, but you probably say Tiajuana too

Anonymous said...

Jen-Thank you so much for posting the recipe for those!!! My husband LOVES those tamales and I don't have anyone I can ask on how to make them. Especially in English. lol. I rarely venture around in the kitchen so this will be something special! There's going to be one happy catracho in Denver next weekend!!

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Stephanie said...

Great article, recipes and photos but I have to say that I just LOVE your approach to cooking! I refer to my style as the "aim n fire" with a dash of "wonder what will happen if"... Drove my kids crazy when they were learning to cook as I don't measure anything and regard recipes as simply an idea of where to start. Thanks! Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Well I will be making the tamales tomorrow for my catracho, I'm cuban and ths thanksgiving and christmas I want to do ths for him. I have a feeling that they will be very tasty. And about the measuring I dont eigther. I go with the feeling and taste let me know what flavor I'm looking for. By the way I will be posting in the next few days on how my talales came out.... :)