Monday, September 1, 2008

Recipes to Rival: Tamales!

The tamales were due to be posted on August 27, but I had a rough week and wasn't able to get it done in time. At least I'm still making them, since I was really looking forward to this challenge!

I think that someone somewhere didn't want me to do this challenge. I wanted to make this while at my grandfather's cottage, like I did the eclairs, but my very picky eater father nixed that. Turns out I might not have been able to do them up there anyway as I couldn't find the corn husks. I completely forgot about banana leaves, but didn't see them anyway. I was going to spend the weekend before posting day doing an even wider search for corn husks, but I had some family stuff come up. I'm lucky to have some great people in the Recipes to Rival group and both Meg and Jen offered to send me some corn husks as they had loads extra.

Anyway, I finally go around to making the tamales today. It's definitely a project for the weekend or a holiday, unless you prep for several days in advance. I can completely understand why this is a traditional Christmas dish in Mexico.

The first step I did was to prepare some stock for the batter. I made a large vat of veggie stock (well, I used veggie bullion) and divided that into three parts for an ancho chile (smoked poblano) stock, chipotle (smoked red jalapeƱo) stock, and left one plain vegetable. All I did for the chile stocks was to take one dried pepper of each type and place it in three cups stock. I let it simmer until the chile was rehydrated and the flavor was infused in the stock.

I just love the ancho chile flavor and I wanted to have that flavor in other parts of the tamales. I made the bell pepper compote from a pork recipe I like, the rice and chili from the Southwestern Chili Lasagna, and a variation of the bean recipe from Debyi, our wonderful host this month. Since I haven't posted the bell pepper compote before, and I didn't use the bean recipe as written, I'll put those recipes later on in the post.

Since Lee had the car today, and I just wasn't thinking before today, I made a list for him to buy some ingredients for the fillings while he was at work today. He came home on his break today with the ingredients, so I couldn't get started until after 1:00.

First, got started on the chili. Usually, Lee is guilty of buying too much food, so I didn't even think that he would buy less than 2lbs. ground beef. I guess I should have thought of that. I ended up texting him to bring home some more ground beef when he came home from work. I got the rest of the chili started and allowed it to simmer, figuring it was better to get most of it ready while waiting on the other pound.

Next, I made the bean mix. I had some dried pinto beans in the cupboard, so I soaked those overnight. The recipe called for shredded carrots, and my box grater hadn't been cleaned since I used it to grate my Lush bubble bath, so I ended up just using my vegetable peeler to get thin shreds of carrot.

I was ready for the part where I am supposed to toast some coriander seeds (the seeds of a cilantro plant) and cumin seeds. I didn't have any cumin seeds, so I just toasted some coriander seeds. Well, I THOUGHT I didn't have any cumin seeds, but as I was making the bell-pepper compote, I found a jar of cumin seeds right front and center of my spices. Oops!!

The bell pepper compote and the rice went off without a hitch and were quickly finished.

Now it was time to fill the tamales. I had soaked the corn husks, and I divided the batter into batches. I used 3 cups masa, 1 cup shortening, and 3 cups stock to make each type of batter. I couldn't really taste much for the ancho chile dough, but once I made the chipotle dough, I could notice a big difference in flavor.

Lee helped out with putting the tamales together. He spread the masa on the husks while I filled and folded them. Spreading the masa on the husks was a bit frustrating for us. Neither one of us had eaten, nevermind made tamales before and had no clue how thick to spread the masa batter. I know other rivalers had problems with too much masa and I wanted to avoid that problem, but didn't want it spread too thinly either.

I didn't have a steamer big enough for the job. Actually, my steamer doesn't even really fit any of my pots, so I really have to be careful what I put in it. I knew tamales wouldn't work because they would be too heavy and would fall over. I was reading blogs and Lan had mentioned fashioning a steamer out of a colander and a large pot. I decided to go that route. I also read Temperance mention putting some stock as her liquid for steaming. I decided to use some of my vegetable bullion in the water for my steaming liquid. One last precaution for avoiding the dry tamales some people complained about was to take a tip from a site I visited (can't remember which, but it wasn't someone from R2R). I took my baster and squirted some of the plain vegetable stock into each tamale to keep them moist.

Since we had too many tamales to steam at once, I steamed the batch with the ancho chile batter first. While that was steaming, I made the chipotle batter and Lee and I assembled those ones.

I didn't realize how many corn husks were in one packet! We ended up with 24 tamales and we barely made a dent in the package of corn husks. We also only made about 2/3 of the total batter. I'm glad I had reduced the portions of the fillings because we would have run out of room in our freezer!

We ate a couple for dinner tonight and I plan to have some for lunch tomorrow, but there are just too many to eat in one week, so we'll freeze the leftovers. To reheat from the freezer, defrost and steam in a microwave oven or wrap in foil with some moist paper towel and heat at 350°F.

We didn't have any problem with dryness, but ended up not being too thrilled with them. We didn't like the masa. I'll eat up what we have, but besides that, I don't know if I'd make this again. They're a lot better with some sauce over the top. If I could figure out how to make the dough a lot thinner, it would be better, but I think we made the dough as thin as possible.

Although we didn't end up liking these as much as we'd hoped, I'm really glad I made them since I've always wondered how they would taste.

Tamales Made:

  1. chipotle batter with bell pepper compote
  2. chipotle batter with pinto bean filling
  3. ancho batter with rice filling
  4. ancho batter with chili filling
  5. ancho bater with chili and rice filling

See the Recipes to Rival Blog for the official recipe.

Bell Pepper Compote

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon Mexican oregano 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. Add peppers and onion.
  3. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Cook until vegetables are soft, but not brown, and the balsamic vinegar scent has dissipated and flavors come together.
Pinto Bean Chipotle Filling 8 oz. pinto beans, rinsed 1/8 cup of shredded carrot 1/8 red onion, minced 1 cloves garlic, minced 1/8 tsp. chipotle powder 1/8 tbsp. ancho chile powder 1/8 tsp. whole cumin seeds 1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds pinch of salt 1 tsp. of olive oil Option: 1 cup of soy chorizo
  1. Shred the carrot.
  2. Mince the onion and garlic.
  3. Rinse the beans.
  4. Combine all of these together in a bowl.
  5. In a small pan, toast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds on a medium heat in the 1 tsp. of oil until the coriander seeds start to pop or the cumin seeds turn a deep brown color, whichever comes first.
  6. Mix the chipotle powder, ancho chile powder, cumin, coriander, and salt together.
  7. Toss this into the veggie mix.


Made by Lena