Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hot Tamale

My favorite food of all time are tamales. Of course this hasn't always been the case. When I was a kid I claimed my favorite food was pizza. I was a teenager and being a normal teenager, I liked pizza. I have since gotten over it. Although I still enjoy a good slice, tamales are by far the more superior food. Unfortunately they are not nearly as easy to make as picking up the phone and calling the neighborhood Dominos. I didn't let that stop me.

The other night around 9 pm, I decided Saturday would be a tamale making Saturday. Of course, I had no idea on how to make tamales. So the first thing I did was search a recipe out on the Internet. Internet recipes can be a little sketchy because all you have is the list of ingredients to go from and maybe a picture. Who knows if it'll taste good or not. Anyone can put a recipe out there. This is the recipe I used.

Meat Filling For The Pork Tamales Recipe

7lb pork butt roast, prefer boneless
1/3 cup chili powder
96 oz. chicken broth
1 Tbs. + 2 tsp cumin
2 heaping Tbs. Garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. + 2 tsp chicken base
2 triangles of Ibarra chocolate
6 heaping Tbs. flour
3/4 cup cold water

Fill the stock pot with the chicken broth and add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, chicken base and chocolate. Heat to boiling then cover and simmer on low while you cut up the pork. Cut the pork into 1 inch cubes. Trim as much fat off as you can. Add the cut up pork to the boiling sauce. Partially cover and simmer on low for 2 hours or until pork is tender. When the pork is tender, combine the 3/4 cup cold water and flour with a whisk until well blended. Turn the heat up to high and when it is boiling, slowly add the flour mixture to the pork. Stir the pork continuously to avoid lumps. Continue to slow boil while stiring for about 3 to 5 minutes and then turn the heat off.
Before you make the masa, soak the corn husks in warm to hot water in a bowl for 30 minutes or until they become pliable. Gently separate the husks so as not to tear them. If some are torn you can use two husks and over lap them before putting masa on them.

Delicious Masa Recipe

4 cups MaSeCa Instant corn Masa Mix
3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (no salt)
1 cup fresh corn oil
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Put the masa, salt, and garlic powder in a large bowl and combine the dry ingredients.Then add the corn oil and mix with your hands. Add the chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time.Continue to mix with your hands and adding the broth until you get the consistency of cookie dough.You should have a consistency that you can spread with a knife or spreader. If you add too much liquid you can always add a little more masa to thicken it up.

Putting The Tamales Together
The corn husks should be soft and pliable. Take a few out and pat them dry with a paper towel or towel. Take a spoonful of masa and spread it on the corn husk. Place several chunks of pork down the center of the masa. The idea is to put just enough meat so that you can encase it in masa and not leak out. Now roll it up. Continue to make tamales and when you are done place them in a steamer with the open end pointing up.

Steam The Tamales
Place the damp cotton towel over the top of the tamales and cover with the lid. Make sure you add just enough water to the bottom of the pan so the water doesn't touch the tamales. Check it often so the water doesn't run dry. Get the water to boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer/steam for 1 1/2 hours. Check the tamales by removing one and letting it cool for 5 minutes. Open the hot tamale and check that the masa is firm and not mushy. If need be, cook a little longer and check every 15 minutes until done. When tamales are done take them out of the pot to cool on the counter.

I quickly wrote down a shopping list from the recipe and I was off to the store. Some of the ingredients seemed a bit strange. It called for chicken base (strange because I wanted to make pork tamales), 7 pounds of pork (that's a lot of pork), and chocolate. I never thought I would attempt to make something spicy by adding chocolate to it. The recipe said it would make about 20 - 30 tamales. So I decided to buy two of everything to double the recipe. That 14 pounds of pork if you're keeping track.

I got back from the store at about 10 pm with all of my tamale making loot. I knew making tamales would be an all day adventure, so I decided I would prepare the pork filling right away. I could refrigerate it over night, and not have to worry about it on Saturday. I immediately set to trimming the fat off the pork. I don't use a lot of pork in my cooking, so I'm not sure what the raw pork is supposed to be like. Maybe someone can fill me in. I started trimming away, but the pork was much more slippery than chicken or beef. Maybe my knife was dull or something, but it seemed like it wasn't cutting very well. It was all I had, so I perservered. By now it was 11 pm and I only had one of the pork roasts trimmed. I was determined to get some meat filling prepared before I went to bed so I opted not to prepare the second roast. After the pork was trimmed I cut it up in to more managable pieces and started cooking it. It took another 2 1/2 hours to get it fully prepared. Not something I expected or planned for when I realized it was 2 am.

Saturday I invited Andrea over to help me roll the tamales out. I made the masa and we proceded to begin rolling the tamales. It didn't take long before we realized that there was a lot more meat than there was masa. So we made a second batch of masa. Then we made a third. And half of a fourth batch before I ran out of masa mix. I was expecting to have about 20 - 30 tamales. By the time it was all said and done, I had made 4 and a half dozen, with enough pork to make another 18. A total of 6 dozen tamales was way more than I expected.

So I did what anyone one with that many tamales would do, I attempted to sell them. Okay, not really. But I did feed just about anyone that came over to my house of the weekend and tamale or two. They turned out really well and I got quite a few compliments, which always makes a cook feel good. Next time I make tamales, I'll make sure I'm more prepared.

The tamale masa

The pork filling

The corn husks

Pre-steamed tamales

The last step

The finished product

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