One of my very favorite Christmas traditions is making tamales with my friend and neighbor Gabby. We get to catch up while we roll tamales and eat way too much. Tamale day gets better every year as we get our routine down and we always think our tamales turn out better than the year before. Today we made a traditional beef filled tamale and this version; which is the perfect tamales for both beginners and vegetarians.
This simple version takes just minutes to mix up and since you skip the filling step they roll up quickly. Last year we filled our masa with the chilies and cheese but found the cheese melted right out of some of the tamales. Nothing is sadder than an empty tamale. By shredding the cheese and mixing the corn and chilies into the masa the flavor and texture is much more consistent.
Tamales are not hard at all; you just need a few supplies and go step by step through the recipe.
First, you’ll need a couple of packages of corn husks or hojas to wrap your tamales. They are crucial to give tamales an authentic flavor and texture. I find them in many grocery stores and our local Hispanic market. Two packages should be more than enough. Soak them a few hours or overnight in a bowl or pan of warm water to soften.
There are several different masa varieties available. This time we used instant masa. It cooks in far less time than non-instant varieties and makes for an earlier lunchtime. This is important to us. =D
You’ll also need a steamer. The tamales need to steam over simmering water. The steamer basket needs to sit an inch or two above the water. You’ll need to make sure there is plenty of water in the pan so that it doesn't boil dry.
While we waited for the last of the tamales to finish we worked together to make a hat for Gabby's sweet little girl. Oh, she looked so adorable trying it on.
We listened to our sons playing video games together and it cracked us up listening to little Ev keeping up with Marc and Joe. They went out to play Frisbee in the unseasonably warm sunshine and we, of course, followed them out and watched them while we sat on the porch. The best part - whenever a car drove by they had to get out of the street and wait. What did they do while they waited? They danced. All three of them danced!
Mike brought Olive over after nap time and we walked the dogs and laughed as Ev sang an alien Christmas song over and over and over. It was a perfect day.
I think tamale day has to come more than once a year.
Tamales with Chilies and Cheese
Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
In a heavy duty mixer place:
8 ounces Pepper Jack Cheese, Shredded.
4 cups Masa
1 quart Vegetarian (gf) Broth – room temperature
2 t. Baking Powder
1 ½ t. Cumin Powder
1/8 t. Garlic Powder
Mix at low speed until well incorporated. Add:
1 ½ cups Corn, canned, fresh or frozen
1 7 ounce can Diced Green Chilies
Mix again. You may need to hold your hands on the sides of the mixing bowl to keep the mixture in the bowl; I did. Stop mixer when all ingredients are evenly distributed.
Now you are ready for your corn husks. Take about ¼ cup of the masa mixture and put it right smack dab in the middle of the corn husk just as Gabby is doing, right. Fold over the left side and then fold the right side over. Tuck the bottom under and stack in the steamer basket. Keep filling, folding and filling the steamer basket until it is full but not tightly packed. You want the steam to be able to circulate.
Once the steamer is full; set it in the pot and cover. With my pots I have to use heavy duty aluminum foil to cover the steamer basket as tightly as possible.
Steam about one hour or until steamed through – to test take one of the tamales out of the steamer and open. If it still sticks to the corn husk and is gummy and soft you’ll need to give it a few minutes more.
Today we had them with salsa and guacamole and some hot sauce.
Thank you, Gabby for taking such great photos. You can certainly tell which are yours and which are mine. =D