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Chris Amirault

Tamales--Cook-Off 25

44 posts in this topic

More hands is good, as there's a lot of work. My wife's nana used to make about 80-100 dozen with her friends at their Bisbee AZ church each December, and virtually every woman of her age would turn out to make them.

And tamales definitely freeze well -- at least after being steamed. (I don't know about freezing uncooked ones.)


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think I finally have the needed ingredients and time for Diane Kennedy's tamales de puerco norteños (p 101 for those who have the newer [2000] edition of Essential Cuisines of Mexico, which is a revised collection of her first three books). The pork-based tamale has a simple ancho and garlic sauce, which I imagine I'll serve on the side.

I'm not yet sure what to serve with them. I'm thinking that simple beans a la ludja might make sense, especially as I have some good bacon and fresh epazote in the garden. Other ideas?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm gonna use dried masa harina and perhaps some coconut oil and stock for the masa. Then I'm gonna use some leftover cooked pulled pork that I made last night for a filling.

Sauce? Perhaps a quick mole made with chipotle, tomatoes, onion and garlic, all blackened first under the broiler and pepitas toasted.

I am getting in some practice because in a few weeks I'm going to have a dinner party where I plan on making two types of tamales -- vegetarian and meat ones.

What are your tamale experiences?

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my tamales worked out great. I beat the coconut oil and butter quite awhile to make it light, then I added the masa harina and beat it all. Then the liquid.

I did learn that you do need to tie them and that you shouldn't let the water run dry in the pot!

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Cross posting here cause Tamales are goooood! :biggrin:

In browsing the Southern Food Culture topics we happened along a topic by Mayhaw Man about the Mississippi Delta and its tamale culture. You can see it here SFA Tamale Trail Website is now serving, All Tamales, all the time!!. Eating the trail will be a good excuse for a 3-day weekend after the new year.

We used the recipe from the website Mississippi Delta Tamales.

One batch with chicken served with rice and red beans and a second batch with pork served with scalloped tomatoes and roasted okra.

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-mike


-Mike & Andrea

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I don't know if this is the place to do it, but I'll share my family's tamale recipe for any who want to try it. These are the tamales my grandma & mom & aunts used to make. They would gather in our kitchen and work and visit. It was surprising how many neighbors just "happened" to drop in while the tamales were cooking. My grandma would use a portable electric oven to cook the tamales. About a 1/2 inch of water was put in the bottom of the oven, then a rack. The tamales were stood up on their folded edge, leaning toward the center, and cooked with the steam. For smaller batches, a pot with a rack and lid would do. My mother always said the tamales kept better in the freezer if they were frozen without cooking. Of course, in those days, no one had a good freezer, so we would eat tamales until they were gone. :wink:

Edit in: I should mention this was considered, in our family, to be my aunt's recipe. But, she got it from her aunts who were from San Angelo, TX. Their parents, who were my great- grandparents, were from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Enjoy! I've made these and they're very, very good! I moved away from Southern California many, many years ago. About the only things I miss are access to fresh masa, and In-N-Out burgers!

Aunt Eloisa’s Tamales

MASA

10 pounds freshly ground masa

2 ¾ pounds lard

salt to taste

7 teaspoons baking powder

Knead until a chunk floats in cold water.

SAUCE

1 pound California Chiles (dry red chiles)

whole cumino (cumin) seed

8 to 10 garlic cloves

Boil California red chiles in water until tender. Remove stems, squeeze peppers with hands, and run through sieve.

Brown flour in lard. Add chile mixture to which cold pork roast broth has been added. Add cumino and garlic to chile. Add powdered or dried New Mexico chiles to taste (for hotness) while boiling.

MEAT

Boil 6 pound pork roast with 3 garlic cloves in water until tender. Cool. Tear apart pork roast with fingers and add to chile mixture.

CORN SHUCKS

Soak 1 ½ pounds corn shucks in warm water for one hour. Take apart and wash.

ASSEMBLY

Spread masa on corn shuck in a thin layer. Place spoonful of chile on masa. Fold sides in then bottom up.

Stand tamales up in roaster that has been lined with shucks –

Stand one tamale up in the middle. Lean other tamales against center tamale and away from sides. Put ¾ inch of water in bottom of roaster and place lid on roaster. Cook one hour at 375 degrees.

If you wish to freeze tamales, freeze them uncooked.


Edited by murraygrey (log)

Linda

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I'm looking for a good tamale recipe or several. Do you know any cookbooks/sources with multiple tamale recipes that are reliable and have some vegetarian options?

I had some excellent tamales in San Francisco that i've been hoping to emulate...flavors like summer squash and chiles or butternut squash with a masa mixture that was fluffy and light- not that horribly dense/waxy consistency.

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I purchased one of these masa spreaders at http://www.mex-sales.com/stillStartSpread.html once you get used to it, spreading the masa on the husk goes by much faster.

I make fresh masa using my kitchen aid mixer. I add a little of the marinade to the mix with some hot water. Usually from slow cooked pork cooked in a roasted chili, garlic, onion, cumin based sauce.

I have added butter to the masa rather than lard - but I'm sure if I rendered my own lard, it would taste great.

After steaming, I serve with fresh salsa and cojita cheese (Mexican crumbling cheese).

As for freezing the cooked tamales - they stay fresh tasting even after a couple months.

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I purchased one of these masa spreaders at http://www.mex-sales.com/stillStartSpread.html once you get used to it, spreading the masa on the husk goes by much faster.

It looks like a glue spreader for floor and tile work. A perfect multi-tasking device. :laugh:


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

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Spent Christmas Eve morning with several neighborhood ladies who definitely knew what they were doing!

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My first tamale!

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Shredded chicken and pork. Sorry, no recipe - the tamale expert told us all to just boil the meat, shred it, save the stock, and we brought it to her to season. I do know she used cumin, garlic, onion, salt, dried chiles. She then moistened the seasoned (cumin seed and paprika and I think chile powder) masa with the stock we had saved from boiling the meat.

Then she had a glass of wine while we folded a gazillion tamales. Not sure how many we made, I ended up with 8 dozen in my steamer when I headed for home. Hubby ate the first half dozen out of the pot (two hours later) dry! Later, when the kids came in, we served them with salsa verde, pink beans and rice.

I still have a dozen in the freezer. A real learning experience, and now I plan on keeping them in stock now that I have an idea of what the technique is like.

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I made tamales for the first time this weekend (twice, first batch: ok, second batch: really good).

I have a ton of masa harina left over and while I will make tamales again, I don't see myself whipping up a batch of tamales on a wednesday night very often :wacko:

Now, can someone explain to me the mysteries of tamale pie? I realize it's no substitute for tamales, but is it a good thing in it's own right? And why do the recipes I find online use regular cornmeal instead of masa?

Or... any other ideas what to do with my big bag of masa harina?

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Masa Harina will keep indefinitely in the freezer if well wrapped.

Thicken chili - areapas - tortillas. I have even used it as a cornmal sub in cornbread, but it is a bit fine for that.

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This past weekend a group of eGers gathering in my hometown for a few events including a tamale and tortilla workshop. Misstenacity posted THIS REPORT which includes a video of a demo. Enjoy!


Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM

A recent write-up in Dorado magazine

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After the tamale-making extravaganza the other evening in Silver City I have a couple dozen tamales tucked away in my freezer. Naturally, that won't last long: any tips on how best to cook them from their frozen state? Do I need to thaw them first, or just pop them in the steamer? How do I know when they are done?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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After the tamale-making extravaganza the other evening in Silver City I have a couple dozen tamales tucked away in my freezer. Naturally, that won't last long: any tips on how best to cook them from their frozen state? Do I need to thaw them first, or just pop them in the steamer? How do I know when they are done?

I was just coming in to chime in with a huge discovery I made in my tamale making last night, but first will answer Chris's question.

We always freeze them, and you can send them directly into the steamer. I have found that, sadly, they will never be as fluffy as they were the first time. I actually think the best way to reheat them is the microwave--it tends to steam them without getting them too soggy, and also gets the center good and hot.

Now, onto my new discovery for the fluffiest tamales I have ever made...I was using a mix of duck fat and lard, after having already used it once to confit the duck...And I stuck it in the mixer and gave it a really good whipping before mixing in the the mas(ec)a...I think having the air whipped in really helped with the fluffiness...I reccomend this highly--didn't even want to put sauce on top because the texture of the masa was so great.


Gnomey

The GastroGnome

(The adventures of a Gnome who does not sit idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages)

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This morning, I took a tamale class at the cooking school in a local grocery store here in Dall

Much has been said about the effort involved in making tamales. Now that I have direct, hands on experience, I know what is involved.

As far as the masa dough goes, I think using Maseca masa harina is OK. Not having a side by side comparison between ones made with those and ones made with real fresh ground masa, I can't know the exact difference, but I can say that the Maseca masa harina versions can still be very tasty. And a tasty tamale is better than no tamale that isn't made because you can't get your hands on the fresh ground stuff.

So, with that out of the way.. Here us my take on what I think are the four main steps in making tamales. Making masa dough. Making the filling. Assembling the tamales. Steaming the tamales.

Masa dough. This isn't so tough. A good stand mixer helps. But the process is simple for anyone who bakes regularly and works with doughs and batters and what not. Masa harinia. some sort of liquid (stock, broth, etc). fat. In our case, the instructor basically had a batch going as I guess it takes some time to beat it all together. The process was to rehydrate the Mesaca with hot chicken stock. That was set aside. Then, she put the lard in another work bowl and started to beat it. The lard used was the standard stuff you can find on the shelf of a grocery store. Not fresh rendered lard. Anyway, that was beaten for some time to get air into it. Then the reserved rehydrated masa was added in. Done. So, there may be varying techniques (I saw Rick Bayless add lard to dough), but it's really not very difficult.

Filling. This can be easy, too. And can be done in advance. We didn't see it, but the pork filling was made by simmer pork shoulder in water with seasoning. Cook it. shred it. set aside. We then made sauce with dried ancho peppers. That's easy. Combine sauce with meat. Set aside. Done. Again, can be done in advance. The chicken filling was already cooked chicken (use leftovers or buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store) and combine with a simply made green sauce. Even easier.

So, the two components IN the tamales are done. And they aren't hard to do. But now comes the fun part.

Assembly: This is where the bulk of the real work is. Rough side vs. smooth side of corn husk? They usually seem the same to me. some are thin. Some are thick. The right size husk is important too. Now, here is the tricky part. Getting the masa on there. Not too much. But it's a pain to spread just right. how close to the side? All the way or leave a border? How much of a border on the top (pointy end) and bottom (wide end). I'd love to hear a detailed discussion about this. Once the masa dough is on, the filling goes in. this is not too hard. But don't but too much. Might be hard to fold. or roll? Which way?

Steaming: After slaving away assembling, it's time to steam. Do us a "special" pot or do you jurry rig something? In the class, they used a special pot. It was tall, and had a little indentation towards the bottom. This accepted a flat plate with holes in it. This suspended it a few inches above the bottom of the pot, allowing for a lot of water to be placed in the pot. loading in the tamales seemed tricky just to keep them upright. At home, I had to steam some of the ones made in class. I tried to rig up something with a disposable pie plate and my "large" stainless dutch oven. But with the inverted pie pan in there, the tamales wouldn't stand up with a lid on. Plus, I only had four.. So, really, there was no way to prop them up. The class actually steamed a bunch in advance, but did them flat in steamer pans for their commercial steamers. What I rigged up at home worked. Sorta. I am not sure exactly why, but they took almost two hours to steam. and even them, some didn't seem "done". Maybe they "stewed" in their own juice cause they didn't drain away? I dunno. If I make these at home, I suppose I could use my large 20 quart stockpot and rig up a steamer for that.. really, it seems you want a flat platform that is the diamer of the pot. and the pot should be tall enough so the tamales can stand on end.

This was an interesting class. I'm glad I got some hands on experience with this.Now, I have to decide if I want to attempt this at home. I can tackle the masa dough and fillings without issue. Nothing about that is really unusual or difficult for me. But the rest? I can certainly see how you need helpers. And of course, by kitchen is small. Not much space for helpers. I would have to drag the components to some other place. Which is doable. If I can convince someone to host it. :)

So, tell me more about your techniques for assembling and steaming the tamales. What does everyone do?


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I let mine steam for two hours before I even test them so your timing sounds fine. Now for reheat, thirty minutes is plenty of time in the steamer.

I did purchase a tamale pot. It is just a tall, "speckleware" sort of pot, with an insert n the bottom like you describe. The "Mommy's" I know in the neighborhood all use something similar, it's cheap. If I don't have enough to pack the steamer tight, I use empty Mason Jars with the lid off to take up the space in the bottom of a steamer. I suppose any other heat safe type of item would be fine - measuring cups, pyrex dishes, etc.

I keep the pointy end of the husk pointed towards my body, spread the masa with a small spatula with a 2/3 by 2/3 coverage leaving the pointy end out of the masa rectangle. A third left clean at the top, and third left clean on the right. Roll, and flip the point up to make the bottom. The elaborate little packages that others make are attractive, but usually it is just me and hubby doing assembly.

I made two batches over the summer - one for a picnic, another for a funeral I was attending. I have two batches planned for December. One for my husband's potluck at work, the other for Christmas Eve.

As long as you set aside two days, no problem. :biggrin:

Only four tamales? I would feel deprived.

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Steaming: After slaving away assembling, it's time to steam. Do us a "special" pot or do you jurry rig something?  In the class, they used a special pot. It was tall, and had a little indentation towards the bottom. This accepted a flat plate with holes in it. This suspended it a few inches above the bottom of the pot, allowing for a lot of water to be placed in the pot.  loading in the tamales seemed tricky just to keep them upright.    At home, I had to steam some of  the ones made in class.  I tried to rig up something with a disposable pie plate and my "large" stainless dutch oven. But with the inverted pie pan in there, the tamales wouldn't stand up with a lid on. Plus, I only had four.. So, really, there was no way to prop them up.    The class actually steamed a bunch in advance, but did them flat in steamer pans for their commercial steamers.  What I rigged up at home worked. Sorta.  I am not sure exactly why, but they took almost two hours to steam. and even them, some didn't seem "done".  Maybe they "stewed" in their own juice cause they didn't drain away? I dunno.    If I make these at home, I suppose I could use my large 20 quart stockpot and rig up a steamer for that.. really, it seems you want a flat platform that is the diamer of the pot.  and the pot should be tall enough so the tamales can stand on end.

The special cooking pot for tamales is called a tamalera and many Mexican markets in the U.S. sell them. They aren't very expensive and are usually made out of galvanized metal, or at least most of the ones I've seen have been galvanized. The benefit is that they usually have an opening somewhere on the side that allows you to pour more water in to replenish it as needed without having to disturb the tamales that are being steamed.

That said it is entirely possible to jury rig your own tamalera and if you've got a 20qt stock pot, that's a good start. Those collapsible platform style vegetable steamers will work just fine; even better are the perforated vegetables steamers (with a handle) that come with many soup and stock pots these days. Pasta cooker baskets will also work, but they're usually too deep, so you either have to fill the bottom part of the pasta cooker with something to take up space so your tamales don't end up in the steaming water. Those round, bamboo Asian steams also work, particularly if you've got several of them and can leave the bottom one empty for steam to pass through. Your objective in setting up your own tamalera is to ensure that you've got space for enough water on the bottom and/or a way to add additional water during the steaming process, while keeping the tamales out of the water so they don't end up water logged.

If you've got extra corn husks, line your tamalera with them. It'll provide some heat and steam insulation by trapping the heat and steam in and round the tamales. If you don't have extra husks, don't worry about it. Drop a few coins in the bottom of the pot with the water. When the water reaches a simmer or boil the coins will make a clinking sound, if the clinking stops or diminishes it's time to(carefully) add more water.

No, tamales do not need to be steamed pointed end up. If the narrow end of the tamale has been sealed they can be loosely stacked flat and steamed. Don't stack them in tightly you need to leave room for the heat and steam to circulate. A lot of tamales cooked in banana leaves are folded into packet shapes and steamed flat.

Tamales do take a long time to cook. 2 hours is probably about right, even for only 4 of them.

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Thanks for letting me know two hours is a good rule of thumb.

In the class, I think they mentioned a time to shoot for, but I can't recall what it was and it doesn't seem to be written in our information/recipe packets. I did a quick search on-line for a time, and that's where I got the 60 to 90 minutes figure. So, when it got to 90 minutes and the masa still wasn't setup, I was getting worried. But at least they did show us how to check for doneness.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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    • By gfron1
      A friend gifted me a book written by someone I know of but only loosely. The acquaintance is a former missionary who has lived in Oaxaca for 15 years and co-authored this book with Susana Trilling (famous Oaxacan cooking instructor). The book is self published and really surprised me with its quality. The whole thesis is saving the indigenous foods of the area and combatting GMO infiltration of the area. Those of you who know the area might know of one of my hero restaurants - the like-minded Itanoni in Oaxaca City - surely they all travel in the same circles.
       
      Recipes are average fare - not fancy - clearly recipes from regular local folk, but very authentic, not fusion. They start with basic fresh masa, run you through all sorts of things including molé  and salads and end up with stuff like yucca and egg tacos. The chapters include: Wild Greens (purslane, amaranth, etc), Beans & Squash, Salsa, Nopal and Maguey, Food and Fiesta, Medicinal uses. About 300 pages in all (so figure 150 in English and 150 in Spanish).
       
      This book is not available through Amazon. It is bilingual. I highly recommend it. 
       
      Side note: Quite frankly these guys are goofs. They don't know how important and well produced this book is and aren't marketing it worth crap. Go buy it. Tell them I sent you. And enjoy this book.
       
      HERE
       
       
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