Tamales is one of those foods that I couldn't possibly live without. A lot of people have experienced the deliciousness of this regional delicacy, but some have not. Boy are they missing out! Also, some people have made them at home and a lot have not.
Here in El Paso, as in other Southwestern or Hispanic communities, we hold what is called a "Tamalada." This is where you invite family, friends and neighbors to come over and help make dozens and dozens of Tamales, some of which will be going home with them. Though Tamales are not really difficult to make, they are time consuming, especially if you're trying to make them by yourself. They're worth it though.
Because the instructions I have on making Tamales are extensive and way too long for a single post, I'm going to break it down and give you the various steps to making your very own tamales at home over the next few posts. It's traditional in the Southwest and its' popularity has spread far and wide. The cost of purchased tamales last year had risen to $21.00 a dozen. This is for "good" tamales. Sure you can buy them cheaper, but you get what you pay for. You can save yourself money and know exactly what's going into the tamales when you make them at home. So, start your own tradition and have a "Tamalada" starting this year. You'll have fun and make memories along the way.
Today, we'll go through HUSK preparation and making the CHILE SAUCE for your tamales.
Cornhusks are usually sold in 8-ounce packages, approximately 50 husks per package. They can be purchased at any supermarket that sells Latin American groceries or go to a Hispanic or Latin market to buy.
Sort through husks, removing extraneous silk strings and any other materials you may find. (Though messy, silks can be removed a lot easier when husks are wet. If you try to remove silks embedded in the husks when they are dry, you will end up tearing the husks.)
Place husks in a large pot or pan and cover with warm water to soften. Weigh the husks down with a heavy object. You'll notice I used a botle of wine. :) Leave husks in water anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight. Separate husks and rinse once or twice more. Remove any remaining silk strings at this time.
Stand the husks in a large pot or basket (I found that a clean dish drainer works the best) and allow the husks to drain. Pat husks dry when actually ready to spread with masa.
Chile Sauce Preparation
Red Chile Purée
9- (about 3 ounces) dried New Mexico or California red chiles, hot or mild or a combination of both
2- cups water, or more, to cover chiles completely with water in pan
1- small onion, chopped
2- cloves garlic, chopped
Roast chiles on a large baking pan for approximately 4 minutes. Let cool slightly and then remove seeds and stems. IMPORTANT! Wear rubber gloves when handling chiles. If you accidentally rub your eyes when handling chiles without gloves, it will really sting. In a 4-quart pan, combine chiles, water, onion, and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) until chiles are soft (about 30 minutes). Remove from heat and cool slightly.
In blender, whirl chile mixture till smooth. Run through sieve (strainer) to discard residue and any unprocessed chile skins. Purée can be refrigerated (covered) up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups.
* If you want a hotter tasting chile sauce, try adding 1 or 2 "chile de arbol", stemmed and seeded, to the chile in the water simmering step.
Green Chile Sauce
1/3 cup salad oil
2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 can ( 7 ounces ) diced green chiles, or use roasted fresh green chiles
2 cans ( 13 ounces each ) tomatillos, drained
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
Cook onion in oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in green chiles, tomatillos, broth, lime juice, oregano, and cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whirl in blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
The recipe and instructions on Tamale making are found in the "Aprovecho A Mexican American Border Cookbook". For a peak at the book go here:
Aprovecho: A Mexican-American Border Cookbook (Hippocrene Cookbook Library)
Next post we'll go over Filling Preparation and discover all the various types of delicious fillings that can used in making tamales. From Savory to Sweet, you'll decide what kind of tamales to serve at your next holiday party or family dinner. Hasta luego mis amigos.
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