Mattoni's Cooking Blog

A veg*n cooking blog with photos, recipes, hints, secrets, and street cred. Get with it, sucka.

May 07, 2006

Tamales for your whole town

I'm not going to lie to you. Tamales are a pain in the a**. My grandmother makes them once a year, and now I understand why. Of course, it's best to make a lot when you do. Tamales are not something you would just make one or two of for lunch. I made 40 because our Cinco de Mayo party (Brandon's birthday) was the day after.

Tamales are basically a Mexican handheld version of what Americans call a "sandwich." The ingredients can vary but there are thre main staples of the tamale -- filling, masa and corn husk.
For the filling in these tamales, I simmered some black beans in a generous helping of ancho chilies, onion, garlic, molasses, and hickory smoke flavoring. From there, I got a little creative.

Filling (somehting a bit thicker than chili, possibly some TVP with your favorite spices)
Masa (I'm using's speedier)
Corn husks
Twine or some good, durable equivalent

You will also need a big pot to steam them in.

Make sure your filling is all ready.

The instant masa usually has instructions for making tortillas (or tamales if you're lucky) on the bag. The kind I used only needed water for the recipe. Mix the masa according to the instructions.

During this time, boil your corn husks in some water. You don't have to cover them, just put a few inches of water in a big pot and turn it up high. These things have to boil for a few minutes so don't wory about hurrying through the next step.

Now you can cut up the mango into 2-3 inch slices. Mango is obviously not a traditional tamale ingredient but this was for Brandon's birthday so I let my hair down a little. Haha...get it? It's funny because I shave my head...meh, tough crowd. Actually, I;m using mango because I'm on this "contrasting yest complimentary flavors" kick and the sweet mango goes great with the spicy/bitter ancho chile.

Once your corn husks have been boiling for a while and are fairly pliable, take them out a few at a time and lay them on a towel. This will let them dry off a little while you make the tamales.

Each corn husk should get a little ball of masa. You can press the masa down with your fingers. I've seen examples of people using something that looks like a plaster knife to spread the masa but I'm not made of money and I'd rather use my hands. You want to spread the masa over the middle 3/5 of each corn husk.

On the flattened masa, add a spoonful or two of filling and a slice of mango.

Each tamale needs to be hand rolled first, then folded up from one end (the pointy end), then tied with the twine. After a few, you will learn how to position the masa to best accomodate this.

I think it's a good idea to have a bowl set aside to place the finished tamales in before you steam them.

Once you've had your fill of making tamales, you neeed to steam them, every single one. Put them all in a big steaming pot, making sure the water level doesn't reach the bottom of the tamales. You will have to steam them for a while to thoroughly cook the ingredients, so have a glass of water handy to replenish the pot when all the water evaporates.

Your finished tamales will be the talk of the town, and of any Cinco de Mayo party. Who knows, they might even get you a date.

Not everyone is familiar with making tamales so don't try to get too creative. If you are going to experiment with anything, do the filling. I would say the spiciness of the filling can span a pretty wide range. Ancho chilie has relatively little heat compared to other chilies. Dare you try the japone? Dare you?


  • At May 15, 2006, Blogger Virginia Pereira said…

    Dear friend, nice cooking recipes blog, i loved it!!
    I have also a gastronomy blog in Brazil - that presents notices, literature and more too!!
    If possible visit me.
    Kisses and happy week!!

  • At May 15, 2006, Blogger Kalyn said…

    Very impressive. I've watched people make tamales but haven't attempted it.

  • At May 17, 2006, Anonymous Toni said…

    beautiful presentaion,,and they taste good too!

  • At July 03, 2006, Anonymous Maralee said…

    I miss tamales so much. I used to make them a couple times a year and freeze them. Super excited about this!! Thanks!


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