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Yo Quiero Tamales!

Posted Jan 28 2010 4:10am
I didn’t really feel like making tamales. I was going to buy all that masa flour for nothing. I was going to end up having that darn bag sitting in my cupboard forever; but, Phillip never had tamales before. Nope. Never. Never had he ever experienced the thick melt in your mouth texture of masa dough. That had to change. I recall, way back when I thought I was healthy, I ate at this restaurant called Don Pablos, which had utterly fantastic Mexican food. Sure, I later found out it was a franchise; however, it still beat the pants off of Taco Bell that doesn’t even offer tamales. How hard can it be? Well, it’s about as hard as tying your shoe. That’s how complicated a tamale is. The difficult part, for me, was to find a pot big enough to steam them in. After I had completed the steaming, I thought, “Well, I bet I could have used a steamer bag”, but I jimmy rigged a steamer basket that worked perfectly. The result was Phillip’s response, “..This is awesome.”

Now, the boy has sampled tamales. Of course, tamales aren’t the only things you can create out of masa, which I didn’t realize until later. You can also make pupusas, tortillas, arepas, and much more. Mascea is the brand of masa that I use and I know that is certified as masa de harina, no wheat/gluten contamination at all. Will my bag of masa go to waste? I don’t think so. Tamales are as customizable as an omelet. You can turn anything into tamales. Oh the tremendous possibilities…oh the many tastes.

This one happens to be a simple eggplant and mushroom tamale that I, must say, merged very well together. I paired this off with some Spanish rice and fresh salsa. It was a perfect meal.

Eggplant Mushroom Filling (For 2)
1 small Chinese eggplant. Chopped into ¼ inch cubes
½ cup mushrooms, chopped
¼ onion, minced
1 tsp nondairy margarine
Garlic powder
Ground cumin
Chili powder

I found a new way to cook eggplants since I love them roasted. I dry fry them until the exterior becomes evenly charred the add liquid to cook them the remaining of the way. Once they are semi-cooked, which you can identify by the color, add the onions and sauté until soft.

Once the onions are “wilted”, so to speak, add the mushrooms, followed by the seasonings, little bit of margarine, and salt and pepper to taste. Once the mixture appears dry, take off the heat and set aside.

The Tamales (For 4)
4 corn husks, plantain leaves, or bamboo leaves
1 cup Maseca instant corn masa mix
1 ½ cups of water or more as needed
¼ cup melted nondairy margarine
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak your leaves in warm water until they soften..about ½ an hour to 1 hour or longer.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the margarine and water. I can’t remember how much water I exactly put in, but the masa dough absorbs a lot of water and I know it was nearly two cups. After adding one cup of water followed by the margarine, gradually add more until you achieve a soft playdough like texture.

Now, (using corn husks as an example) once yourhusks soft, spread a ¼ inch thick layer of masa dough up till ¼ of the edges. Spoon about 1 to 2 tablespoons if your mixture into the center of your tamales.

Fold over one side of the tamale towards to the center of the husk and gently peel back the husk just slightly; it should come off easily. Overlap the other side of the tamale dough on top of the other. Let the loose flap of the husk overlap the other side of the husk.

Now, there are many ways that you can secure it, depending on the type of “contraption” you have to steam them. I tied both ends with twine because I was using bamboo leaves. This site has a better visual and explanation of using corn husks and how to steam them in a large double-boiling pot.

Me? I used one of my dehydrator trays over a large pot of boiling water with a lid. It worked out remarkably well, even though the tray got warped. That just means that its now my designated tamale tray until I get my old double boiler pot back.

The tamales, I found, were done faster than the site states. Mine were done in half an hour, because I had less than what they do and more room for the steam to surround the tamales.

The tamales will be dry. All tamales are dry, even from what I recollect from restaurants, so, prepare a sauce. If I had enough time, I would have smothered these babies in a spicy tomato-cheese sauce; but, I just made salsa. Phillip and I both love tamales now. They shall be a staple. I’m already craving them now!
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