Monday, January 5, 2015

New Years Eve Tamales

    Linda and I are in the midst of a two week Christmas vacation visit with the Romeros in Rockville, Maryland. Several weeks before our arrival, my daughter, Lia, had expressed a desire to learn how to make tamales during our visit. We decided this would be a great New Years Eve activity.

   I did my homework before taking on this project. To start with I spent about 45 minutes discussing the making of tamales with Ethan, my personal Mexican food consultant.  He serves as the financial clerk in our ward so I count tithing with him after church about every other week. Between Ethan's hispanic heritage, his passion for Mexican food , and his service of a mission for the church in Mexico, he is the most qualified authority on Mexican food amoung my personal acquaintances.  Ethan stressed the importance that the masa is very well mixed so there are no little dry lumps in the tamales. I followed that counsel carefully and I know it contributed to a successful outcome. He also gave me advice on the steaming process and the value of using a tamale steamer.

    In addition to my consultation with Ethan,  I also watched a number of YouTube videos on the making of tamales. I love You Tube because I'm very much a visual learner. It's so much easier for me to do something after watching somebody else do it. That helped a great deal when it came to preparing the corn husks, spreading the masa on the masa on the corn husks and using the proper amount of meat and sauce for the filling. As Linda watched me add the filling she expressed serious reservations as to the relatively small amount of meat and sauce I was putting into the individual tamales. Having seen it done by an expert I had the confidence to ignore her well-intentioned "back seat driving." I'm sure if I hadn't watched the videos I would have used way to much filling.
The proper amount of filling per the you tube videos

    We had some initial difficulties locating a few key ingredients. First of all, we had to go to a genuine Mexican market in order to buy lard. I was surprised we couldn't find lard in the regular grocery stores where Lia normally shops. The visit to the Mexican market was well worth the trouble as while we were there we discovered a good deal on a tamale steamer. They also sold the dry feild corn used to make the masa, but Lia didn't want to start totally from scratch. We decided to buy the sauce in a jar rather than making our own. Part of that decision was out of concern that the tamales not end up too hot.  The sauce recipe we had called for dried ancho chiles and we were unsure as to the degree of heat we would have in the finished product.  We were also experiencing some serious time pressures as a youth dance and a Chinese dance performance at the DC Temple Visitor Center had also found their way onto the Romero family's schedule of New Years Eve activities.
I'm using an oiled plastic bag to spread the masa mixture on the wrapper 

     We boiled a four pound pork roast with onions and garlic, deboned the pork, and cut it into small pieces.  Lia's recipe called for water in the masa mix. One of my You Tube videos suggested using the stock from cooking the pork and the addition of the onion and garlic.  We both thought that sounded much more flavorful. We used an entire 4.4 pound bag of masa flour to mix up the masa as we were determined to fill our huge tamale steamer with about 100 tamales.  The recipe on the bag called for the following ingredients:

2 cups masa harina
2 cups water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard

        There were 14 cups of masa flour in the bag so we expanded that out to 14 cups of water (we used mostly meat stock), 4 2/3 cups lard, 7 teaspoons of baking powder, and seven teaspoons of salt. In for a penny, in for a pound.  About the time the pork was shredded and the masa mixed, Lia had to leave to drive Anthony and Sofia to a church dance in Germantown, MD.  I then spent about an hour making tamales befoer we too had to leave in order to drive to the Chinese dance performance with Cozette, Jonny and James. I only had time to get about fifty tamales made before we had to leave. Tony was staying home as he was coming down with a cold so he steamed the tamales.
The tamale steamer just half full

     The tamales turned out quite well. Everybody seemed to like them. I thought they were at their best when we first removed them from the steamer. When we reheated them as we ate them over the following days they weren't quite as soft and tender. That may be a reflection on our tamale rewarming technique as they were mainly microwaved. I will definitely have to get me a tamale steamer when I return home. As much as Linda and I both love tamales it seems like a good project to do once in a while.
Linda enjoying the finished product

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