Recession-Proof Recipes: DIY Tamales

I’ve noticed that after you’ve been blogging for a while, you find that your commenters often come up with even better material than you do. Oh, how I love online community!

A couple of my favorite blog comments can be found at the bottom of this post, in which commenter M. delves far beyond my sci-fi depth and in this post, in which an anonymous commenter has an astoundingly deep knowledge of butter.

This weekend, I received a very cool note from wine wizard Eric Hazard, who convincingly pitches this week’s Recession-Proof Recipe: Homemade Tamales. What a gift!

Just about the only thing he doesn’t provide is a wine pairing… although I think I’d prefer these little guys with horchata or an icy lager, myself.

From the man himself:

So, here’s something to consider, since it is great way to extend meat and it is just so much fun to make: tamales.

Being from South Texas, I have long ago given up trying to find good tamales in NYC. So I took to making my own last year, and I’ve got it pretty well down.

Even though they look extremely difficult, the base ingredients are really simple.

Most crucial is Masa Harina . I had a devil of a time finding it in Manhattan, I’m sure it would be easier to find in the ethnic food markets in the boroughs. If not, $20 will buy plenty via Amazon. Corn husks can also be ordered, but this time of year, corn is plentiful so why not save the husks to be used later? (Plus, how cool is it to find a use for what most people would just throw away).

Tamale masa is basically a combination of the masa harina corn meal, lard, baking soda, salt and chicken stock. This forms the basis for whatever meat (or vegetable) you wish to put into the tamale. It is really tasty and really filling, making the more expensive ingredients inside go a long way.

For my filling, I use pork, cooked with green chilies, diced tomatoes, garlic, onion, cumin, chili powder, and enough chicken stock to keep it honest as it slowly boils. Once finished, I run it through the food processor to chop it up and evenly distribute the flavors.

Then it is a matter of spreading the masa on the moist corn husks, laying down some filling and rolling up. The batch is then steamed for 45 minutes and you’re done.

Really filling, really tasty and you can make a ton to freeze and save for later. If I had to take a guess, I’d say I can make a dozen for about $10. Most of that being the cost of pork.

As an extra bonus, the Homesick Texan just recently posted about making your own lard, so you could really go to town on the DIY path if you were inspired.

As far as quantities for the batter, you should probably go with about a cup of fat to every four cups of masa harina. These are really easy to make dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan, depending on your audience.

DIY Tamales (Yield: about 35 tamales. ) 1 cup lard or vegetable shortening
4 cups masa harina
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

You’ll also need
Your filling of choice (stewed pork, cheese, chicken, veggies, etc.)
About 40 corn husks, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
Twine or kitchen string

  1. Blend lard or shortening, masa harina, soda, salt and stock together.
  2. Spread about 1/4 cup of tamale batter across the center of each husk.
  3. Spoon about a tablespoon of filling along the center of the batter.
  4. Wrap the batter around the filling, rolling in the sides and tucking the bottom of the husk. Bind top (and bottom, if necessary) with lengths of twine or kitchen string. Repeat this process with the remaining husks, batter and filling.
  5. Place two or three dimes in the bottom of a large pot fitted with a steamer basket (while it boils, they’ll jingle, letting you know there’s still water in the pot) and add enough water to meet the basket base, but doesn’t let that level rise above it.
  6. Stand the filled husks in the basket, keeping them upright, but not cramped.
  7. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to keep the water simmering gently. Steam about 45 minutes.

If you really go crazy for homemade tamales, you should definitely try some Brownie Tamales while you’re at it.

Invite a few amigos over. Bust out the cervezas. Have a fiesta on the cheap!

Muchas gracias a Señor Hazard por una buena idea!

Salud a todos!

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