It's a running list that includes blog ideas, that is, of course, organized alphabetically. And since very early in the writing of the list, the "T" section has included: "tamales."
It has long been something I have wanted to try, but have avoided due to all of the stories and cautions.
"They're time consuming."
"They're not to be tackled alone."
And while all of these things are true, tamales are also fun, and totally worth the effort. Especially if you have an enthusiastic partner in crime.
My friend Kate fits that bill perfectly. We have been wanting to cook together pretty much since we met. So when our schedules finally coincided and I suggested tamales, she accepted without hesitation.
As for the title... "ABC Tamales"... that was derived from the fact that we simply couldn't decide on just one main ingredient for the filling. Or even two for that matter. In the end, we used adobo sauce in the masa mix, and a trio of ingredients for the filling, which included butternut squash, Bosc pears, and chard. The filling was also seasoned with ancho chile powder and cumin. (Oh, and we also topped them with an ancho chile sauce).
And because we couldn't stop there (or more accurately, Kate wouldn't let us), we made a whole second batch using just the leftover butternut squash mixed with a can of drained black beans.
Hence... ABC Tamales.
Both were delicious and somewhat different, so I can't tell you to pick just one. Now that I am a little more comfortable with the process, I would definitely like to try tackling a meat tamale in the future. However, if you use veggie broth, these particular tamales are actually vegan, so that's a win if you're into that sort of thing.
First thing's first though. You need some corn husks. This is a must in my opinion, and it took some tracking down on my part. I eventually found them at a grocery store that had a pretty decent ethnic aisle... but these were actually located in the produce section. (Always ask before you give up!)
They will need to soak in hot water for 30-60 minutes, so I say get this process started first. Grab a big bowl and pour boiling water over the top. (An electric kettle is a great tool here if you have one). I then weighed them down with a plate and a big can of tomatoes to keep the husks submerged.
The "masa," or corn dough, is made simply from Masa Harina (found in the Mexican food section of many grocery stores), baking powder, salt, warm water or broth, and some sort of fat. Traditional tamales are made with lard, but that sort of scared me for some reason (yes, more than the actual tamale process). We instead opted for coconut oil, based on a recipe I saw on Happy Yolks.
Additionally, we seasoned the dough with a little Mexican oregano and some adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles.
Mix everything until a dough forms. Cover and set aside until you're ready to rock and roll. (See what I did there??)
Once you've mixed up your filling and your husks have softened, you are ready to get your tamale on. Take a scoop of dough (maybe 1/3 of a cup) and press it into your husk so that it's about 1/4" of an inch thick. I found that it worked best to leave a little space on the top and the bottom of the husk, and on one of the longer sides. On the other long side, the dough can go almost right up to the edge.
We learned that not all corn husks are created equal. Some are the perfect size, (at which point you feel like doing a little dance at the excitement of finding it), some are torn, some are small. For the torn or smaller husks, you can either turn them into strips for tying (see below), or you can slightly overlap them to make them the desirable size or "patching" the rips.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling down the center. Roll the tamale by starting with the side that does NOT go all the way to the edge. Roll it lengthwise, and let it sort of peel off from the husk. Then bring the other side so that the corn dough meets and slightly overlaps. Wrap the remaining part of the husk around the tamale.
Fold up the bottom, and secure with either some kitchen string or strips from some of the spare corn husks.
If you have a special tamale steamer, then... well, you probably don't need to be reading this post.
If you're like me, I instead opted for my rarely used giant stock pot with pasta insert to serve as my tamale steaming contraption. It worked like a charm. Fill the bottom with water and place the pasta insert filled with tamales on top. Cover and steam for 45-60 minutes.
*To freeze: allow steamed tamales to cool on wire racks. Place on a large sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and flash freeze for 2 hours. Remove and place in large gallon freezer bags. Will keep up to 6 months. To reheat: defrost in refrigerator and heat in microwave or again on the stove by steaming.
See? That wasn't so hard, now was it?
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: steam entree vegan gluten-free vegetarian black bean butternut squash chard Mexican fall
Ingredients (20 tamales)
- corn husks
- masa (see below)
- filling (see below)
- red chile sauce (see below)
- cilantro (optional, for garnish)
- avocado (optional, for garnish)
- 3 cups Masa Harina (found in the Mexican section of most supermarkets)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 cups warm broth (veggie for vegan/vegetarian tamales)
- 1 cup melted coconut oil
- 2.5 tablespoons adobo sauce (can take from a can of chipotle chiles)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 pears, diced
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced
- 1 bunch of chard, ribs removed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin (optional, adds more of an Indian flavor)
- 2 cups roasted butternut squash
- salt, to taste
- juice of one lime
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 cups roasted butternut squash
- 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
- 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
- salt, to taste
- 8 dried ancho chiles
- boiling water
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt, to taste
In a large bowl, pour boiling water over corn husks. Weigh down with a plate and/or heavy object to keep husks submerged for 30-60 minutes.For the masa:
- In a large bowl, mix together the masa harina, baking powder, oregano, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine warm broth, melted coconut oil and adobo sauce. Slowly pour in warm liquid, stirring constantly until a soft dough forms. Cover and set aside until ready to use.
For the filling: (butternut squash, pear, chard)
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add diced pears and jalapenos and saute a few minutes more. Add chard and saute until wilted, covering with a lid if needed. Stir in seasonings and roasted butternut squash.
For the filling: (butternut squash and black beans)
- Combine butternut squash and drained black beans. Season with ancho chile powder and salt.
For the sauce:
- Pour boiling water over dried ancho chiles and cover. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove stems from chiles and discard. Reserve soaking water. Place softened chiles in a blender, and add a little bit of the soaking water and puree, adding more soaking water as needed. Season with garlic powder and salt, to taste.
For the tamales:
- Lay out a corn husk, overlapping a second husk if needed. Spread about 1/3 cup of masa dough onto the husk and press into a square, about 1/4" thick, leaving room around the edges. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of desired filling down the center. Carefully roll one side, allowing part of the dough to peel off and meet the other side. Wrap husk around, fold up the smaller bottom end and secure with string or piece of husk.
- Place tamales upright in a large steamer basket and steam on the stove for 45-60 minutes. Serve with sauce, and garnish with additional cilantro and avocado.
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