Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tamale Party

Is there a food that your family treats as a big ordeal that generally takes a day to make? In my family, one food would be lumpia, or Filipino eggrolls. It takes some time to make the filling and allowing it to cool, prepping the wrappers, rolling each by hand, carefully packing them for the freezer and of course, frying some up to enjoy. Despite being an all day affair, it's worth all the time and effort to make lumpia, even if it's just an excuse to get together with family. Well Latin Americans can certainly relate to how my family makes lumpia. They go through a similar lengthy process when making tamales. Since I love hanging out in the kitchen with friends, I hosted a Tamale Party today where we sat around and wrapped up tamales around the table...

Everything was picture perfect at the tamale party I hosted. From the big batches of masa we all made, the fillings that I brought in, the large bowls of corn husks soaking in water, to the tables where we sat and made our tamales... but there's no point in being 'picture perfect' if you don't have an SD card on hand to be able to use your nice camera. Blah! So to make up for it, my pictures were taken here at home where I made some tamales for my family.

For the tamale party, friends brought corn husks to wrap our tamales in along with condiments. I brought the masa and 3 kinds of fillings including: Chicken Salsa Verde, Roasted Tomato & Pork, and Corn, Black Bean & Cheese (recipes to follow below).

Preparing the Masa
For the event, I used Maseca brand instant masa. This brand is gluten free and uses no lard. Simply follow the package instructions by combining the instant masa with water and salt. For added flavor, substitute the water for chicken, pork or beef broth (to match your filling) and/or add a little ground cumin in the mix for savory tamales! Once you have everything combined, you want to make sure the masa is a nice soft, dough consistency. If it's a little crumbly, add a bit more water or broth. If it's a little wet, add more masa. Another trick to check whether your dough is ready us to take about 1/2 a teaspoon of the dough and place it in a cup of cold water. If the dough floats, the dough its ready.

Preparing the Corn Husks
You can find dried corn husks at various stores including some supermarkets or ethnic markets. Friends picked them up from an ethnic market and asked the staff for them since its something they don't always put out. (It helps to know your neighborhood grocery staff too!)

To prepare the corn husks for tamales, you will need to soak them for at least 10-15 minutes in hot water to get them pliable and to absorb enough moisture so they don't dry out while cooking.
 Assembling the Tamales
There are so many ways to assemble tamales, but for my event, we kept it simple. To assemble, spread a heaping tablespoon across the widest part of the corn husk. Spread it to a nice thin layer. Down the middle of the masa, place your filling in a line, being careful not to overfill! Take the sides of the tamale and fold it over towards the middle. Fold up the narrow bottom and tie it with a sliver of corn husk. I'm sure if you did a search online, you'll find so many fun and different ways to package these tasty tamales.

If you need some visuals, here is a link with some step by step pictures and thorough explanations on how to make tamales.

Cooking the Tamales
Now that you have your tamales made, you'll want to steam them in a large pot with a steamer basket or even a colander. If you don't have a large pot with a steamer basket, crumple a large piece of foil into a ball and place in a wok, dutch oven or the largest/deepest pot you have. Place your tamales inside the pot and have it lean against the foil ball, all the way around. Carefully fill the pot with water until you have an inch of water or more - just as long as the water level doesn't touch the bottom of the steamer basket/colander. Cook over high heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, covered. Check the level of the water every so often to make sure it hasn't completely evaporated. The tamales are done when it peels away from the corn husk easily and the masa turns a slight shade of yellow.

Since a batch of tamales makes quite a bit, you can definitely freeze them to enjoy later. The tamales should be cooked completely before freezing. I recommended cooling the tamales completely before packing them into a freezer bag. To enjoy, remove from the freezer and run the tamales over some water to get the husks wet. Wrap the wet tamale in a paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until hot and softened.



Chicken Salsa Verde Filling:
1 large roasting chicken (about 4-5 pounds)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeno slices
1 1/2 cups salsa verde (any store bought brand or homemade)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a roasting pan lined with a roasting rack, place the chicken in the center. (Alternately you could use a shallow baking dish large enough for your chicken.)


Season the top of the chicken with all the seasonings (garlic powder, onion powder,, adobo seasoning, ground cumin, salt & pepper.) Drizzle with the oil and rub over the chicken. Bake in the preheated oven for 1-2 hours until juices run clear. Allow the chicken to cool.


When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove all the meat from the bones and place the meat in a large bowl. (Save the bones for stock by placing them in a freezer bag & freeze until you're ready to make stock.)


Add the jalapeno slices and salsa to the bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover and allow filling to chill overnight for flavors to meld.



After the chicken has chilled, process the chicken in batches in a food processor by pulsing to a mealy consistency. Or if you prefer, keep chicken as is for filling.





Roasted Tomato & Pork Filling:
1 large pork shoulder or pork butt roast (about 4-5 pounds)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 cups roasted tomato salsa (any store bought brand or homemade)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a roasting pan lined with a roasting rack, place the pork roast in the center. (Alternately you could use a shallow baking dish large enough for your pork roast.)


Season the top of the pork roast with all the seasonings (garlic powder, onion powder,, adobo seasoning, ground cumin, salt & pepper.) Drizzle with the oil and rub over the pork roast. Bake in the preheated oven for 1-2 hours until juices run clear. Allow the  pork roast to cool.


When the pork roast has cooled enough to handle, slice the roast and then dice up the meat. Place the meat in a large bowl.

Add the salsa to the bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover and allow filling to chill overnight for flavors to meld.



After the  pork roast has chilled, process the pork roast in batches in a food processor by pulsing to a mealy consistency. Or if you prefer, keep pork roast as is for filling.




Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Filling:
3 (15 oz) cans of black beans, rinsed & drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup diced bell pepper (red, green, yellow or mix)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cups shredded hot pepper jack cheese

Place half of the black beans in a large bowl. Place the remaining black beans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mashed. Add the mashed black beans to the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.