Monday, July 13, 2009

Vegetarian Tamales

Howdy all!
So here is my first food post. I hope you enjoy it!

Vegetarian Tamales
5 ears of corn
1 canister of cornmeal
Lime Juice
Garlic Powder

1 can of frijoles negros (black beans)
6 Tomatillos
1 Onion
Chili Powder
2 Jalapen
Cheddar Cheese

Kitchen Equipment
Cutting Boards

Medium Bowl
1 can of frijoles negros (black beans)

Large Pot

Metal Caulinder
Pan for soaking

Music Listened To:
The Rough Guide to Irish Music

So Tamales are a pretty intimidating dish. That's why I'd never attempted them before now - everything I'd heard made them sound pretty difficult, and they're supposed to take forever to make.


It actually turned out to be pretty straight forwa rd. It all broke down into 3 basic steps of 1) prepare masa 2) prepare filling and 3) put masa and fillings in husks and steam for 2 hours. If I can make them, you bet your butt you can too.

Part I: Making Masa
So if you have a nearby place that will sell you true masa, go ahead and buy it and prepare it according to package directions. That is, if you want to be boring. The way I chose was far more amusing to me.

1. First of all, I shucked my five ears of corn, being careful not to tear the husks. Set these aside to soak in a pan, bowl or sink.

2. Cut the kernels away from the cob into a bowl. Be generous - every bit of corny goodness helps. The cobs can just be thrown away.

3. This is the part where I felt simply deranged. If you have a blender and want to be boring/sane, go ahead and use it. I, on the other hand, used the nearest available equipment, and bashed the hell out of the corn with a can of black beans. Aside from taking half an hour, it was actually quite fun. Don't waste your time pounding up and down, though, as fun as it is - pressing straight down and twisting the can back and forth to grind the kernels is much more effective. Do this until the kernels are barely recognizable as kernels.

4. There should be a fair amount of liquid in the bowl at this point. To make the consistency more masa-ish and to get rid of the liquid, start adding cornmeal and mixing it in. Keep adding it until you get something resembling the consistency of chunky peanut butter (probably about 2 cups of cornmeal, give or take).

5. Mix in some lime juice, a generous amount of salt (at least a teaspoon) and a generous amount of garlic powder. Congratulations, you now have masa fresher and yummier than anything you'd get in the store. Set it aside.

Part II: Making the Filling
The nice thing about making vegetarian tamales is that, since tamales are normally made with meat, there is no standard of what to put in them. Pick whatever veggies or cheeses you want. The important thing is to get plenty of cumin and chili powder in there. Being a fan of beans, tomatillos, onions and Jalapenos, I used those. If you prefer tomatos, avocados, bell peppers and Japanese eggplant, go ahead and use those.

1. Chop your veggies, grate your cheese, all that good stuff. Make sure to throw away the tomatillo husks - they aren't edible. If using hot peppers do NOT stick your finger in your nose after chopping. Seriously.

2. Start cooking the onion first, then add the tomatillos and beans. This stage of the process looks really pretty. Put in plenty of cumin (at least a tablespoon) and plenty of chili powder (at least two tablespoons). Stir in your cheese and Jalapenos towards the end. That's all for that section, folks!

Part III: Assembling and Steaming Tamales
Here's where things get fun (well, funner, at le
ast. It's hard to beat bashing the corn though...) Use the pictures as a guide.

1. Put your pot with a little water on the stove to boil.

2. Take a corn husk and hold it open in your palm. It should be nice and pliable after soaking. Take a few forkfuls of masa and spread it around th
e husk, leaving 1/3 of it on the right side clear, and probably only covering the bottom half of the husk. If it is a small husk, feel free to cover the whole thing and down the line use another small husk to finish the wrapping bit.

3. Take a light spoonfull of the filling and make a little trail of it down the center of the masa. If you put in too much, the tamale will be difficult to wrap shut. If you are Emily or generally sympathetic to her love of cheese, feel free to add some cheese on top of the filling.

4. Wrap the tamale into a cylinder, using the uncovered third of it to cover up any exposed masa or filling. There should be a little "tail" of husk that doesn't have any masa or filling in it. Bend the tail so that the tamale can sit upright. Set it in the caulinder vertically (most recipes call for a real steamer, but hell if I'm going to spend $40 on a pot and steamer so I can make tamales). Repeat steps 2-4 until you have as many tamales as you can fill.

5. Set the caulinder on the rim of the pot and leave the tamales to steam for 2 hours. Use this time to watch a bad movie, snuggle and/or make a side dish (we did spanish rice, you could also do rice and beans, or whatever you want, really).

And there you have it, folks! Veggie-friendly tamales! Definitely something to do when you have a few spare hours to do cooking - not just a weekday dish, but it's definitely worth the time. Enjoy!

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