C’mon who doesn’t want some flavorful filling encased in a yummy cornmeal-like dough and wrapped in an adorable little husk-package? They are so cute and tasty, to not like them would just be silly.
I am going to start off by warning you that if you are already experiencing hunger pains, it is not a good idea to start making tamales. They are a little bit of a project and it would be great to make them with friends a couple hours in advance as a leisurely social activity, if you’re into that sort of thing. Unfortunately I am not a great planner, and have only been known to organize one such event- a dumpling-making party. It was fun, but only further proved my control-freakishness in the kitchen, as all my friends stuffed and folded while drinking wine and laughing in the dinning room, and I stood glued to my station in front of the frying pan and steamer turning out batch after batch as though my life depended on it.
Last night, at 7 pm (after a heated debate with myself over the idea of ordering out– which I lost), I heated up some leftovers for my hungry husband, fried an egg for the little one and began preparing tamales for myself. I ate at 9:15.
The good news is that not only do we have plenty of leftovers that can be re-steamed for tonight, they were also extremely well worth the wait. Don’t be intimidated my the dough-making process, just throw the ingredients in the bowl, mix ’em and let it sit while you make the filling. Finding dried corn husks and the Maseca (dough mix) can be tough if you don’t have a latin grocer nearby, but you can order everything you need to make Tamales at mexgrocer.com. Also, if you do not have a Tamale or seafood steamer, you can use a pasta pot or a vegetable steamer. If you do not have any of those, you will have to buy/borrow/acquire one– I suggest checking your local goodwill store!
Chipotle Vegetable Tamales, adapted from Veganomincon
2 six ounce packages dried corn husks (you can use fresh husks, but try finding nice looking corn, with fully intact husks in February in Boston…)
4 cups masa harina corn flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil or good quality, unrefined corn oil
Chipotle bean filling
2 olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper or poblano pepper seeded and diced (I liked using a poblano here, it made the filling a little more spicy and savory, just be careful not to add too much chipotle because the heat can get intense)
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1 15-oz can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup veg broth
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced, plus a tablespoon or two of the sauce
1 plum tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Place the corn husks in a large pot or bowl and cover completely with warm water, allow them to soak for 20 minutes until the husks are soft and pliable. Keep husks in water until you are ready to use them.
Prepare the tamale dough: In a large bowl, combine the masa harina (“maseca” is a brand name), broth, salt, baking powder and oil. With an electric hand mixer, beat until a dense moist, fluffy dough forms and the sides of the bowl are clean. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or some plastic wrap and set aside.
Prepare the filling: In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the pepper and carrot, and saute for three minutes then add beans, corn, broth, chipotles, a little adobo sauce, the chopped tomato and the cumin. Simmer until most of the liquid evaporates ~ 5-7 minutes. Salt to taste and allow to cool before assembling tamales.
Depending on the size of the husks, and the size of your steamer pot, you will need to use 1-2 husks per tamale, and you may need to trim them, height-wise to fit standing up, in the pot.
Take a corn husk and lay it flat; spread about 2 tablespoons of dough off center, leaving a 1 1/2 inch margin from the top and bottom of the husk. Spread a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the dough, then top with one more tablespoon of dough. Carefully roll up the tamale, making sure to completely encase the filling in the husk. Tie both ends with a strip of husk (you will need to sacrifice a couple of husks for tearing into tie-strips).
Loosely pack the tamales into a large steamer basket. Steam for 35-40 minutes. The tamales will expand and feel firm to the touch when done. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before serving– they will be HOT when unwrapped. Sever with salsa and guacamole.