Last night I went out and bought all the things I need to make tamales. Carlos has gone to work, and the niños to school. The house is quiet and empty, unlike a traditional tamalada.
I mentioned in my last post, Galletada, how I don’t have family to make tamales with. Some of you recommended inviting friends, regardless of whether they’re Latina or not. I think that idea is bien chévere. The only problem? My friends are spread across the world.
So, here is what I’m going to do – I’m going to “live blog” my tamal making with you! You’re all invited to my tamalada. Visit throughout the day as I update. Chat with me here in comments, or over on Twitter!
8:20 am – I boiled the chicken last night so it would be ready. I’m going to go shred that first.
9:35 am – The chicken is nicely shredded. Unlike Suegra, I didn’t include bones in my mixture. Chomping into a hueso while trying to eat a tamal, I find very disconcerting.
What do you think of my apron? Do I look like I’m ready to make tamales or sell them at the mercado? ;)
10:36 am – The filling mixture is almost finished. I’m tasting it with Hoja Santa to see if I like it. I heard that Hoja Santa is used for tamales in regions of México and that it gives a distinct flavor. It smells like root beer or licorice. Qué rico! …
While researching the herb, I found out some interesting things. First, the FDA isn’t a fan of Hoja Santa because it was found to be carcinogenic in animals. Carlos thinks I’m loca for trying it just based on that, but cigarettes are carcinogenic to HUMANS and yet the FDA doesn’t have a problem with them, so I put my faith in the Mexican people on this one. They’ve been using this herb since the times of the Mayans and Aztecs, and they have less incidence of cancer than those of us in the U.S.
The story behind its name – Hoja Santa, (Holy Leaf), is that the Virgin Mary used to dry the diapers of baby Jesus on the wide leaves of the Hoja Santa plant. (Providing a place for them to dry, as well as leaving a nice scent.) … Qué cute, right?
Okay – going to upload a video for those who are asking!
12:36 pm – Getting tired and I haven’t even assembled the things! … I finished the filling quite awhile ago, (video below!), and just now I finished making the masa. This is the first year I used manteca (lard) in the masa. The idea gave me the heebie jeebies but I tried tamales last year which I liked, which had algocito that my tamales didn’t have – and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Well, it was manteca, of course. I had Carlos call his co-worker, Armando, last night – to ask what his wife put in her tamales. Te juro, I tasted queso in the masa, but they insist that it’s just manteca.
So, anyway, I made the masa with manteca and the smell made me a little queasy. The masa is resting and so am I for a few minutes, but I really need to get a move on. The day is half over!
Here is the video of me making the filling earlier:
2:26 pm – All the tamales have been made and are on the stove. Very tired and ate so much of the filling que no tengo ganas de comer tamales. Bleh. Ojalá, Carlos and the boys will like them.
I’ve posted my recipe in comments before, but I will post my recipe here according to how I made them this year.
Latina-ish Tamales Recipe
What you need:
Dry corn husks
MASECA (instant corn masa flour for tortillas)
1 whole chicken – boiled, (remove skin and bones and shred into small pieces)
Chicken broth – (use the broth from the chicken you cooked. Seems to be more flavorful than canned/boxed broth.)
1 can chick peas/garbanzo beans
1 medium onion (minced if you have the patience, otherwise, chopped is okay)
3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 cans of uncut green beans
2 cans of diced potatoes
1 can of chiles in adobo sauce
achiote molido (annatto powder)
achiote entero (whole annatto)
1 cup of lard
1/2 cup cooking oil
1. The filling: In a large pan, heat a few tablespoons of cooking oil. Add 1 tablespoon of achiote entero. Cook briefly until oil turns orange-red. Remove from heat. Remove the achiote with a spoon and discard so that all that is left in the pan is the oil. If you don’t have achiote entero, just heat some regular oil.
2. Put the pan back on the medium heat, saute onion and garlic until tender. Remove from heat. Add the drained cans of potatoes, chick peas and green beans as well as the chicken. Combine. Add salt, adobo sauce from the can of “chiles en adobo”, and hoja santa to taste.
3. For the masa, I used this recipe. Only changes – I added a tablespoon of achiote molido along with the salt to the dry MASECA. Then, after completing the recipe, I added a 1/2 cup of cooking oil.
4. Fill a big bowl with hot water in your sink. Submerge the corn husks in the water to soften.
5. Rip off 40 squares of aluminum foil, (about 1 foot by 1 foot each.) … This will be used to secure the tamales while cooking if you have trouble folding them securely closed. (Some people tie them closed. Look up methods online, but I’m telling you, foil makes it way easier.)
6. If you don’t have a large steamer pot, you will need to loosely crumple foil balls enough to cover the bottom of your largest pot with a tight fitting lid, (or an upside down metal pie plate works.) Once the bottom of the pot is covered in foil balls, fill it with water – BUT the water should not be higher than the foil balls. The foil balls keep the water off the tamales since the tamales are not boiled – they are steamed. If you have a steamer pot and know how to use it, all the better!
7. Now for assembly. Take a corn husk from the water, making sure it isn’t too small or ripped, and shake it dry a bit. Put it on a square of foil. Spread a big spoonful of masa (dough), onto the husk in the middle, spreading it out in a sort of rectangle shape, but don’t go too close to the edges. (There are tamal tutorials online, so look around for them. Video would be the best way to learn this.)
On top of the masa, place a spoonful of the chicken mixture.
Now fold the corn husk closed, (again, hard to explain, so look online for a tutorial if you don’t know how.) … Then I take the extra step of enclosing each one in foil so they don’t open up.
Repeat this until you run out of either corn husks, masa, mixture, or energy — This made about 40 tamales when I ran out of masa, but I had enough filling mixture for at least 2 dozen more.
Stack them all in your steamer pot on medium to low heat with the lid closed. They take between one and two hours to cook. Check once in awhile, (though not too often as you’ll lose your steam), to make sure there’s enough water in there – if not, add a little.
To be sure the tamal is done – best to take one out, unwrap the foil, and let it cool for a little bit to give the masa a chance to become the right texture. Then you can unwrap the corn husk and check to see if the masa is properly cooked, (it shouldn’t be too mushy – it should be firm…difficult to explain exactly. I know you’ve eaten tamales so just judge the doneness based on personal experience of what it should look/feel/taste like when cooked.)
5:46 pm – Tamales were taken out of the pots over an hour ago and have cooled. Carlos loves how they turned out. Now for a nap. Thanks to all of you who chatted with me here in comments and on Twitter! This one is for you…