Frankly, I had no idea that making tamales was a Christmas tradition.
However, even though we are not Hispanic, my Mom did make tamale!
I remember vividly asking for tamales and potstickers for my requested birthday dinner. I was told that those things didn't go together, but nevertheless, she made them. Thanks Ma!
It was when I was fully an adult (at least in age...) that I was introduced to "Christmas tamales" when an employee brought me a still hot batch of tamales on Christmas Eve. I worked retail then and was the store manager (which is why people are working on that day.... sigh). The tamales were so good. My managers and I were so happy to have a delicious, hot lunch! A life saver!
So a couple of years later, when I was blissfully out of retail, I decided to make some of our own tamales for the Christmas holiday. Now it's a tradition for us to do together on Christmas Eve. Grab your peeps and set up an assembly line to make them and have some fun.
I've just shown the technique below and given me recipe for the dough, you can use a variety of fillings:
- Leftover shredded pork (moistened with a bit of broth if it seems dry)
- Cheese, or cheese and a sliver of jalapeno
- I used leftover pork Chile Verde, cooked and stirred until it falls into shreds.
Makes about 24 medium size tamales
4 cups masa harina
2 1/2 cup beef broth
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup lard
1 (16 ounce) package dried corn husks
First thing, soak the corn husks in warm water for 30 minutes.
Some are nice and big and whole, perfect for tamales. Other husks are small and tatty, perfect for pulling into thin strips to tie up the ready to cook tamale.
I used my food processor to mix the masa flour, the salt, baking powder and lard first. Then added the broth while the machine was running. I used a spatula to push the mixture down once or twice to make sure it was fully combined.
NOTE: If you want to taste the mixture, go ahead and microwave a small amount for about 20-30 seconds. Let cool and check that you are happy with the seasoning.
Spread a little mixture on the wide end of the soaked and drained husk.
Spread the mixture all the way to one side, leaving a 1/2" inch on the other.
Use a sheet of plastic wrap to keep your hands tidy and make sure you get a nice flat surface for the tamale mixture. It should be between 1/2 inch and a 1/4 inch.
Using a spoon, add some of the filling down the middle. I used shredded pork, but cheese and jalapeno strips would well too.
Starting at the edge where the mixture is all the way to the outside, start to roll towards the center, folding the other side over the top.
Turn up the thinner end of the tamale, and use a thin strip of the husk to tie it shut on that end. You will steam the tamales upright, sitting on this tied end.
Use your pasta steamer basket over a large pot of bubbling water. Don't pack them too tightly as they do expand as they cook. Cook for about 1 hour.
Keep warm and covered and eat right away. They are easy to reheat, but I don't recommend microwaving them as they can get tough as it takes a while to get them hot all the way through.