Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tamales

My earliest memory of tamales was when I couldn't have been more than four or five. My grandfather's sister, my Tia Koncha, was a crazy woman. She had so many plants that I used to think she lived in the jungle. I don't think she knew how many cats she had, and she had an amazing parrot that lived in her laundry room (in a cage) and spoke fluent Spanish- well according to five-year-old me who knew even less Spanish then than he does now. She had a TV in every room of the house (not exaggerating) and reeked of perfume. I never understood a single thing that came out of her mouth, but she was one of the sweetest women I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and honest to God she made the best tamales I've ever had. My only real memory of them was the anticipation I would have in the car when my parents would tell me that she was making tamales for us and then the sheer pleasure I got from eating them. I couldn't tell you what type they were or how she made them, and I know there's no written recipe for them, but that's okay, because nothing I could make could ever compare. My only hope is that one day when I have kids and grand-kids, one of them looks back on my meals and is inspired to cook them for their families.

Normally tamales are made by many hands. Not only is it a long process, but it's also a pain in the ass to do by yourself. My Tias make tamales each year and invited me to help once, but I couldn't make it due to school, so instead of the loving care of my family, I had to turn to the cold disinterested attention of the internet for the basics. Fortunately I'm a boss in the kitchen, so they didn't turn out too badly. They're not my Tia's, but they're a start.

Tamales



Filling



3 Onions
3 Tomatillos
8 Cloves Garlic
1 Poblano Pepper
1 Bunch Cilantro
3 Jalapenos
2 Tomatoes
2 Large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1.5 tbsp Cumin
1 Lime
Salt and Pepper

Boil the Tomatillos, Garlic, Poblano, Jalapenos, and Tomatoes. Liquify with Cilantro and Onion in a Blender. Add the Cumin. Boil off a lot of the liquid and cook Chicken Breast in small pieces in the Salsa that you've just made. Shred the Chicken and Salsa in your mini-food processor. Salt and Pepper and Lime to taste. Set aside.



1 can Black Beans

Boil off most of the water from the Beans and mash as if you were refrying them- which is to say: Hulk Smash!

Masa



??? Masa
1.63 lb. Pork Lard from the Mexican Grocery Store
1 Lime
2 tsp Baking Soda
Salt

I didn't measure the amount of Masa I used, but mix it with the Baking Soda and Salt. I just used enough to fully absorb all the Pork Lard and feel moist, but not wet. Kind of like a when you're with a girl and you're- never mind. Squeeze in the Lime. Why? Why the heck not?

Wrapper

x Corn Husks

Soak however many corn husks you intend on filling in warm water. This will make them pliable and will keep them from cracking. I made about 30 tamales and ran out of Masa before I used all of the filling.

Now comes the fun part... Smear the Masa mixture on each Corn Husk. Scrape some beans on them. Slap some Chicken mixture on them. Roll them up.



This takes forever, so try to enjoy yourself. Like do this part naked or something; you're not working around a flame or knife, so hukuna matata. It's fine if you're not getting a super thick layer of Masa on each Husk- when you steam them they puff up a lot.

Ideally you want your tamales to fit snugly in your pot, but since I was using a giant brewing pot, I rubber-banded them in half-dozen batches.



This worked pretty well. Make sure your tamales aren't sitting in the water. They should be on a perforated surface above the water. I improved this with random pans and crap that I had in my cabinet. I'm pretty you you could come up with something involving tin foil if you were really in a pinch. Steam them for 60-90 minutes. I don't know how to tell when they're done. Just don't worry about it, they'll turn out well.

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