BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Tamales for the First Time

with 5 comments

dsc02656Texcoco native and veteran tamales maker Maria Ortiz demonstrates how to knead the masa dough.


Then we soaked dried corn husks for five minutes before spread their surface with the risen masa dough. Be sure to get extra wide, unbroken husks, simply wrapped in cellophane in a stack of five dozen, from your local Mexican store.

The grocery store ones are often cracked and too small to properly wrap. You can also substitute banana leaves, parchment paper or even aluminum foil for the husks. Then you just spread the dough across the top half of the husk and put a tablespoon or so of your filling in its middle. We used shredded chicken and pork with the two salsa and made a third Rajas-style one (my new favorite!) with sliced poblano pepper strips and fresh tomatoes, chopped onions, jack cheese and a sprinkle of the aromatic herb, epazote (found in Mexican stores, it cancels out the gas-creating properties of cooked beans). I want to grow the stuff in our garden (hey, Michael Pollan does). Mexican food goddess Diana Kennedy has a “Tamales Con Rajas Y Queso” recipe I’d like to try.

dsc02647The hour and a half the tamales had to steam went by faster than we expected. We actually all had time to try some before the four hours were up. Everyone went home with a bag of tamales to share, and we still managed to raise money for the new free community dinners planned for low-income residents in South Corvallis. Using a church kitchen meant we couldn’t serve alcohol, so I made the traditional beverages of tart Jamaica (hibiscus) tea and limonada instead. Now I just need to practice making tamales again at home. But the process was definitely demystified. You just need a posse of folks to help you fill and wrap. (See Maria Ortiz’s tamale recipe below):

“Texcoco Style” Green Chile Chicken, Pork and Rajas-style Tamales
By Maria Ortiz

-One package dried corn husks (found in Mexican stores)
-One pound of green tomatillos, husked, rinsed and boiled.
-3-inch-long Serrano chilies (al gusto), steamed for three minutes and blended with the tomatillo, large bulb of garlic, 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/3 of chopped onion, and some water.
Blend until it gets smooth.
-Boil and shred cooked chicken, beef, or pork. Boil the meat for about one hour with garlic and onion. You need almost one pound of meat.
Optional: You can fry the salsa for 8 minutes with the cooked meat and add one bag of frozen vegetables. The salsa can be prepared one day in advance.

-1 1/3 cups lard or solid vegetable shortening, or butter.
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt (omit if masa mixture contains salt)
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (omit if masa mixture contains baking powder)
-4 cups freshly ground masa harina flour for tamales (34 to 36 ounces) and add 2-4 cups chicken broth (or 2 1/4 cups warm water.)

To prepare the dough:
-Combine masa for tamale, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add broth or water.
-Mix with your fingers to make soft moist dough. In a bowl beat lard until gets fluffy, add the masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture. Taste for flavor and salt and water, if necessary.

Wrapping the tamales:
-Pour hot water into a big container and soak corn husks for 5 minutes. Rinse well.
-Unfold each husk and spread the dough evenly over its surface. Then place one tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of the masa.
-Fold from one side to the middle. Placed in the steamer with water.
-Cover with a wet cloth and steam for approximately 1 ½ hours.

Written by baltimoregon

April 28, 2009 at 1:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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5 Responses

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  1. I love it when people learn how to make tamales. It’s a lot of work. As a gringa married into a latino family, I learned how to make them with my mother-in-law. It went on for hours and hours and hours: the joke in our family is my experience doing that, and how I finally just quit at Hour 8. I was done. It only makes me appreciate them more.


    April 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm

  2. Great anecdote! That makes me feel better then that we completed our tamales in four hours. But it was a hectic mad rush!


    April 28, 2009 at 2:10 pm

  3. Epazote is where it’s at. I’ll have to try growing it in my backyard, too.


    May 3, 2009 at 7:33 am

  4. Oh let’s both try our hand at growing epazote, and see if it fares better in Baltimore or here in the Pacific Northwest. Wonder where we get seeds to grow it. It’s the best. Anything that reduces gas from beans is a positive in my book!

    Miss you already, Hans! Thanks so much for hosting and driving us around.


    May 4, 2009 at 10:55 am

  5. […] dulce” is traditional for Christmas and Easter. Norma, from Texcoco, Mexico, is the niece of Maria, who taught that wonderful tamales-making class for Slow Food Corvallis a few years back. Speaking of Baltimore and tamales. When available, I think I prefer the moister […]

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