I’ll always remember my first tamale, and the dicey looking man I bought it from. I was living in Houston when this questionable looking man shows up at the back door of the fine dining restaurant I worked at with a cooler of hot tamales. The entire kitchen staff (including the snooty executive chef) happily bought tamales from the tamale man. Now, call me weird, but I have a serious problem buying food from random people who pull up in a truck. You will never see me on the side of the road purchasing food. I just don’t do that. However, I love food and I was intrigued. So I figured if the snooty Belgian Executive Chef bought one, it must be good, right? So I was brave and bought one. Luckily, I didn’t end up in the emergency room with food poisoning, instead I developed my love for the tamale.
I used a spicy pulled beef filling, but tamales are also delicious with chicken or even veggie filling. Just make sure you have plenty of time, as the preparation is quite time consuming.
1 c shortening
1 tsp salt
3 c masa harina
30 oz water or broth
20-30 corn husks, soaked in cold water at least 30 minutes
1. To make the masa, place the shortening and salt in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the masa harina one cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
2. Add the liquid, one cup at a time, blending well after each addition. The dough should be almost as firm as play dough. If too firm, add more liquid. If too soft, add more masa harina.
3. Remove the husks from the water, and pat dry. Place a heaping tablespoon of masa on the corn husk and spread into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of the masa. Fold one side of the husk to the center to cover the filling. Fold the other side back over to fully encase the filling, like a cigar. Now fold from the bottom up to finish the shape. I like to leave the tops open. Place completed tamale standing with the open end up in a steamer basket.
4. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. A spaghetti pot with an inset steamer is the best pot to use to steam the tamales. If the steamer is not full enough for the tamales to stand up, add a ball of aluminum foil to fill the pot. Add at least an inch of water to the pot and bring to a simmer. Steam for about an hour. Check often to ensure the pot has not boiled dry.
Spicy Shredded Beef Recipe
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb lean beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes
3-4 canned chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, finely chopped (Optional-VERY SPICY)
1/2 c water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy oven proof pan. Brown beef cubes in batches for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not crowd the pan or the beef will not brown well. Reduce the heat, add the onion, garlic, salt and cumin. Cook another 15 minutes.
2. Stir in the can of tomatoes and chopped chipotle peppers and bring to a simmer. Cover, place in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
3. When the meat is very tender, let cool, then shred the meat using 2 forks.
Note: The chipotle peppers in adobo sauce can make the dish VERY spicy. Only add one or two peppers if you only want a little spice. If you add the whole 4 oz can and it will be crazy spicy. Omit the peppers completely if you want this to be mild.