There are many different kinds of tamales found in Central America, some use more masa, some are round, some wrap with banana leaves, the list goes on. Allyse was lucky enough to grow up making tamales with her mother, I grew up eating them from the Trader Joes frozen section, but what we have in common is that we both LOVE tamales. Making tamales is truly a labor of love, but once you make them yourself, you will never buy them from the store again. The ingredients are relatively cheap and it's a fantastic way to stretch what you have in your fridge. We hope you'll love our tamales as much as we do.
Hojas (dried corn husks)
Sliced Black Olives
Green Chiles (whatever heat you desire)
Cheese (block or shredded)
Pre-Cooked Meat of Choice
First and foremost, get your hojas soaking! Get a large bowl or container, dump in your package/s of hojas, then add warm/hot water until they are submerged. Rotate them every so often to make sure they're all getting a good bath. They will need to be very pliable to make the tamales, so soak them well, usually for an hour will do. Now that you have your hojas soaking you can focus on the masa. Begin by bringing 1 1/3 cups chicken stock or water to a boil. If you don't have stock, you can season the water with garlic powder, onion powder and salt, or better yet, some adobo if you have it on hand. Next add 2/3 cup shortening to the pot, we like to use Spectrum organic shortening. In a large bowl, add two cups of tamale masa, 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt and mix by hand. **We usually double or triple the the recipe, depending on how many tamales you want. You can easily make 20 tamales with a single batch.** Once the shortening has melted into the stock, take it off the stove and pour into the masa mixture. Mix by hand until everything is incorporated, then flatten it out and let it rest for a good 20 minutes so that the masa can absorb all the moisture. You may need to add more liquid or masa, depending on consistency, you're looking for a texture that's spreadable, not too dry, but not wet enough it doesn't adhere to the hoja (corn husk). Speaking of hojas, it should now be time to drain them. Transfer them into a strainer over a bowl and remove any corn threads that are still attached. It's time to make tamales! When rolling tamales, we've found using sticks of cheese cut from a block is easiest. You can use any cheese you have on hand, shredded, sliced, that's the best part about tamales, you can really do no wrong. For the meat, I usually make a big pot of pork verde or colorado in advance and then shred/chunk it up for the tamales. You can use whatever pre-cooked meat you like. We also like to add sliced black olives and even green chiles in some (hatch if you can find them).
1. Grab a drained hoja from the strainer, pat dry with paper towel if need be.
2. Turn the hoja smooth side up on your working surface, and apply a thin layer of masa to the top 2/3 of the husk. The bottom (narrow portion) will be left open for rolling.
3. Add meat, cheese and any goodies desired to the center of the hoja. Don't add too much or you won't be able to roll it up!
4. Grab the edge of the husk closest to you, and wrap it around the filling, tucking it slightly underneath, then roll it all the way up. Grab the bottom of the husk that was left empty, and fold it up the back side of the tamale. One down, 99 to go!
5. Grab a large pot with a steamer rack, and fill with water until it barely touches the underside.
6. Arrange your tamales in concentric circles, working from the outside in, open side upwards, until all tamales are in the pot.
7. Put on the lid, and turn on the fire, let the tamales steam for a good hour, the masa should be firm to the touch when they are ready.
8. Using tongs (trust me), remove each tamale one by one, and place on a flat surface to cool down.
9. Once cool enough to handle, open one up and enjoy the fruits of your labor! We like to garnish with sour cream, cilantro and salsa, or better yet, mole if you have some. Buen provecho!