Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tamales Rock Your World

I love Mexican food.  Even before I lived in Texas, it was one of my favorite types of food.  I think I would probably have something Mexican three to four times a week when I lived in the US.  Now that I've living in Vancouver I pretty much have to make things at home if I want decent Mexican food.  People are always telling me about this "really great" or "authentic" Mexican place in town.  Then I go there and it tastes horrid.  There are a couple of places I can tolerate, but they have more of Canadianized Mexican food, definitely not anything like what I was used to.  Luckily, I love cooking this kind of thing at home, too so it works out alright.

Tamales, still wrapped with fresh guacamole, salsa and nopalitos (cactus).

I do find that some ingredients can be quite hard to find in this city.  That's kind of odd because there are so many different ethnicities living in this city that usually it's super easy to find most food things.  It wasn't until I was in Toronto for a wedding a couple of months ago when I finally saw some corn husks and Mexican chocolate.   I was stoked.  I'd been looking for corn husks for a while because I love tamales.  Pretty much immediately after we returned from the trip, that's exactly what I made.

I'm kind of lame lately and I keep forgetting to take photos of my food.  When I made the tamales I also made the Chocolate-Chile Mole Sauce from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan and Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa, but neither of those are in the photos so just pretend.  These pictures are actually from reheating frozen tamales recently so I just put some salsa on top.  I froze some of the mole, too, but I had completely forgotten that I did that when I reheated these.  Oh well, more for next time, I guess.  I'm going to give you my salsa recipe anyway because it goes really, really well with these.  Just pretend that you know what it looks like.

That being said - tamales freeze very well.  Just put some in a container or a freezer bag and you're good to go.  When you want to eat them again, just take out however many you want to eat and steam them again.  Easy peasy.  I won't lie, making tamales can be a little bit time consuming, especially if it's your first time.  They're really delicious and totally worth it, though.  Because they freeze so well, you might want to consider making a double batch so you have lots in the freezer for later.  It's up to you.  This already makes 15-20 tamales depending on how big you make them.

Unwrapped tamales with plain old salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips and nopalitos.

Update: Daiya put my tamale recipe on their site! How awesome!!! Go check it out by clicking here.


A bunch of corn husks
1 lb large poblano chiles (It's okay to use canned green chiles if you want.  Keep in mind these are NOT hot like jalapenos)
2 Cups masa harina
6 Tablespoons Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, softened
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/4 Cups vegetable broth
5 Cups corn (fresh or frozen)
3 Cups, packed vegan cheese (I use Daiya)

Soak a bunch of corn husks in a big bowl of warm water for about 2 hours.

In a heavy pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally char the outside of the chiles.  This will take a few minutes.  You want them to be black in places.  Remove the chiles from the pan and set aside to cool for a couple minutes.  Immerse the chiles in a bowl of really cold water and begin to peel the charred skin away.  Once you've skinned them, deseed them and chop the chiles into a small dice.

In a food processor, blend the masa harina, Earth Balance, sugar, salt, baking powder and pepper until combined.  Add the broth, corn and 1 cup of vegan cheese and blend until a moderately smooth paste is formed.  It's okay if there are still chunks of corn.  You want that, actually.

Now, take the largest corn husks and set them aside.  Tear some of the thinner husks into little strips.  you're going to use these to tie the ends.  In each husk, flatten 1/3 cup of dough and make a little indention in the middle.  Place 1 tablespoon of chiles and 1 tablespoon of vegan cheese in the middle and press the sides over it so you've created a filled tamale.  Wrap the dough in the corn husk.  Pinch the ends together and tie them off with the strips you've made.  This might take a little bit of practice, but don't worry, you'll get it.  It's okay if you have to use two overlapping husks to fully wrap the tamales.  You don't want ANY dough to be sticking out or you'll have a huge mess later.

Once you've formed all of your tamales, get some water boiling in a large pot with a steamer basket with a lid.  Place the tamales inside the steamer basket and once the water is steaming, start the timer for 1 hour.  You might have to do this in two or three batches depending on how large your pot is.  Try not to lift the lid while the tamales are steaming, but please make sure to check that there is still water at the bottom of the pot a few times during the process.  You'll probably have to add more water once or twice.

Once the tamales are done, remove them from the steamer and let them sit for about 10 minutes before you start unwrapping them.  You need to let them cool a little first or else the tamale will stick to the corn husks.  Wait just a bit and they'll come out beautifully.

Don't eat the husk!  Unwrap, smother with mole and/or salsa and enjoy!

Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

12 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2-3 serrano chiles, seeded
2 avocados, diced
1/2 Cup fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons lime juice (fresh if you can)

Preheat a heavy pan over medium-high heat, preferably a cast iron skillet if you've got one.  Cook the tomatillos, onion, garlic and chiles until charred about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a food processor.  Process until no large chunks remain.  Add the remaining ingredients and process a little bit more just to combine.  Chill for a bit until the temperature is to your liking.  Serve on top of tamales or even just on tortilla chips.  Yum!

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