Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Excellent Tamales

Lunch this week is the result of an ambitious collaborative cooking party we had this weekend.  I invited a bunch of folks over and we made tamales as a team.  Tamales are great to make with company, because the assembly is a little tedious and then you have to wait for two hours while they steam.  In the mean time you can chat, have a drink, watch a movie... and bam!  Tamales!

The tamale recipe we made is based on this one, with a few modifications due to vegetarianism.  The process is:
  1. Soak your corn husks in hot water for an hour or two.  You can put them in the hot water before you start making the dough & filling, and then  they'll be nice and softened when you're ready to use them.
  2. Mix 2 pounds of instant masa dough with ground cumin, ground chiles, paprika, garlic powder, and salt
  3. Mix in 2 cups of vegetable oil
  4. Add ~2 quarts of warm veggie broth (I just used the "Better than Boullion" instant stuff and warm water)
  5. Make your fillings.  We used cheese, roasted poblano peppers, roasted sweet potatoes with spices, regular old refried beans from a can, and tofu with Roman's Awesome Chili Sauce, which I will describe later.
  6. To roll a tamale:
    1. Lay a corn husk in your hand or on a cutting board with the flat, cut end closest to you.
    2. Look at the steamer you will cook the tamales in.  They have to stand up on end in the steamer, so the depth of the steamer pot is the absolute longest you are allowed to make tamales.  I'll tell you later how I cheated on this, but try to keep the length close to Spread masa dough on the corn husk, about 1/4 inch thick (depending on how fat you want your tamale to be), 2/3 across the width of the husk, and as far down the husk as you have room for in your steamer.  Cover the corn husk all the way up to one side edge, and leave the other edge empty.
    3. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of your chosen filling(s) on top of the masa dough, roughly in a line.
    4. Roll up the corn husk, starting from the side that you covered with masa.  The empty edge will continue to wrap around the tamale tube.  
    5. Fold the empty bottom of the corn husk up. 
    6. Done!  Stand it on end in your steamer pot, open side up.
  7. Cover the tamale-packed steamer pots with their lids.  If the tamales are too tall, use aluminum foil to cover them (tightly).  
  8. Steam them for 2 hours.  Check periodically to make sure they haven't boiled dry.
We ate these with a variety of accompaniments, including veggie chili and Roman's Awesome Chili Sauce.  By now you must be wondering how to make that sauce.
  1. Simmer some dried ancho and/or california chiles in water for like 20 minutes until they're soft and rehydrated.
  2. Strain them, and remove the stems and seeds.
  3. Puree the peppers.
  4. Heat some oil in a frying pan, and fry the puree in the oil.  Consider adding some salt or lemon juice (we didn't think it needed either).
Put this sauce on everything.  Cubed/mashed tofu makes a great taco and tamale filling when topped with this sauce.  The sauce is also good on tamales or when eaten with chips.  I bet it would be good on enchiladas.  You could use it as a base for chili.  Just imagine!


  1. When straining the chilies for Roman's Awesome Chili Sauce, do you have to remove the skins, too? Or do they puree nicely once re-hydrated?

  2. No, we left the skins on. There were some very tiny bits in the final sauce, but nothing I minded.