Jan 7, 2013
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I’ve mentioned before that since I’m not cooking as much at work, I’m really enjoying cooking at home much more.  I had the opportunity to prepare several meals over the holidays.  My favorite by far as tamales!

This was the first time I’d made them, so I did some experimenting.  Every traditional tamale recipe I found used enchilada sauce as a base.  The sauce is just ground red chiles, garlic, oil, flour, water & seasonings.  Basically you make a roux with flour & oil, then sauté the chiles in the roux, add the garlic & water and simmer until the consistency & flavor you desire.   My dad asked my uncle in Colorado to send us some good ground chiles. I was excited to try the sauce, and was very disappointed.  It turned out incredibly hot & bitter, with no real flavor.  I doctored it a good bit, then mixed some of it with braised, shredded pork for the first batch of tamales (the sauce by itself was inedible and hit the trash).  We decided it was the type of chile used in the chile powder.  I’ve ordered a ristra (a string or wreath of dried red Anaheim chiles).  It’s due in tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to trying the red sauce again next weekend.

The next major component of a great tamale is the masa.  Since there is a large Latin population near where I live, my local grocery store carries masa harina.  The recipe on the bag called for lard.  I just couldn’t bring myself to use lard, so I subbed shortening (any opinions on which is less unhealthy?  Animal fat or hydrogenated vegetable fat?).  The recipe itself is simple-beef broth (I used chicken), masa, shortening & seasoning.  You cream the shortening with a little broth until it’s light & fluffy, then whip in the masa, remaining broth & seasonings.   I had decided, in addition to the pork & red sauce tamales, I would make some with seriously sharp white cheddar cheese.  I wanted to do some of these with diced green Hatch chiles mixed in the masa, and some with plain masa.  

The rolling party was fun-we used tin foil instead of the more traditional corn husks-mostly for simplicity.  I let them all steam for about 45 minutes.

They turned out delicious!  The masa was perfect-light & fluffy with that wonderful corn flavor tamales are famous for.  The two types of cheese tamales were equally good, and the pork & red sauce were very tasty-in spite of the bad sauce!  

I had to buy a 5lb bag of masa, so I’ll need to make more tamales.  I think I’m also going to try to make tortillas.  I’ll let you know how they turn out!


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