Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Two Words That Will Change Your Thanksgiving: Stuffing Tamales

If you want your Thanksgiving to be an absolute slam dunk this week, serve this. You could burn the turkey, forget the pies, and substitute sand and shaving cream for the green bean casserole, but as long as you make these tamales, people will rave about how good dinner was for the next five years. I'm serious about this.

This a modified version from Tamales 101: A Beginners Guide to Making Traditional Tamales. Which is the most remarkable tamale cookbook I've ever seen. Go buy two copies after you make this recipe. 

You serve these tamales with good ol’ fashioned gravy as the sauce. SO GOOD!

Prep time: 4 cocktails (but can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen)

1 package dried corn husks
1 batch Masa from my tamale recipe
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (don’t use margarine or oil)
1 bunch celery, leaves included, chopped finely
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBSP fresh sage, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
8 cups day-old bread, (about 12 slices), cut into ½-inch squares and toasted
2 cups veggie stock

Start by soaking the corn husks in a big bowl. Submerge them in hot water and let them soak for at least a half hour. You’ll want at least 50 husks. You’ll also need something heavy to set on top of the husks so they remain submerged. I use a brick.

In large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Add celery and onions. Increase heat to high and bring to a fast simmer, stirring constantly. Now, reduce to medium low, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes stirring often and checking in.

Once the celery is translucent, add garlic, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook uncovered 5 more minutes. Add mushrooms, apple, raisins, and pine nuts. Cook 5 more minutes and remove from heat.  Let cool until it’s cool to the touch.

Now combine the celery mixture and bread. Toss well with your hands. Then add the stock ½ cup at a time, tossing the whole time.

Return this mixture to the stovetop and cook 5-8 minutes on medium heat, or until heated through. Now you’re ready to make the tamales.

It’s now time to assemble the tamales. This is the most time-consuming part of the operation and is a lot smoother if you can recruit a couple assistants and make an assembly line.

Take a fully-soaked corn husk and figure out which is the smoothest side. Set on the counter with smooth side facing up. The stuffing amount will vary depending on the size of the corn husks. Spread a thin layer of the masa dough on the husk, leaving about ½-inch space to the edges. Make sure there are no gaps or holes in the coating. Now spoon a bit of filling on top, stopping a bit short of the dough’s edge.

Roll the tamale cigarette-style. When you roll it up, make sure you the dough’s edges meet to enclose all the filling. Tie the two ends securely with the string. If you don’t have string, you can tear strips off soaked corn husks to do the job, but this takes a bit longer and the husk strips are easy to tear when tightly pulled.

At this point, you can freeze any tamales you don’t plan on cooking right away. Just stack in a large Tupperware or zip lock bag and place in freezer. You can later prepare frozen tamales by following the steaming directions (but add a couple extra minutes). Frozen tamales can also be steamed inside their husks right in the microwave (though most purists would pooh-pooh the practice). Microwave cooking times vary on size and number cooked, but typically ranges from 3-10 minutes.

To steam right away, use a bamboo or metal steamer. Stack the tamales so there’s lots of circulation space. Cover and cook for about an hour or until the masa gets nice and firm and doesn’t want to stick to the wrapper when you open it up. Don’t forget to check the water level occasionally! Steaming time varies from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on tamale thickness and how tightly they’re packed in the steamer.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Spencer! I bought the 101 Tamales book. It is terrific. I have been making tamales from it and now my own tamale recipes once a week, since the beginning of the year. I will be making these for Thanksgiving this year.