Saturday, March 20, 2010


Amber's family makes tamales at Christmas.  They're amazing.  They have the most delicious pork filling with olives and the masa dough is made with pork lard (I think).  Let's just say there's nothing vegetarian about them.  But Niall thinks about them a lot and asked if we could please try and make vegetarian tamales.  We finally were able to get some more Mexican food ingredients and gave it a try.

Let me be clear.  These are not authentic.  The only thing they have in common with Amber's family's tamales is corn husks, masa and olives.  But, none the less, here's the recipe.  (P.S.  Tamales take forever to put together.  Props to Amber, Ashley, Alisa, Alicia, Aarica and all the other A's in that family that put together hundreds of tamales every Christmas!)


Corn husks
Boiling water

1 1/2 cups Masa Harina
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chili powder (optional)

Tomatillo Filling
1 package Quorn chicken pieces
1 cup green salsa

Adobo Bean Filling
1 package Quorn chicken pieces
1 (15 ounce) can of black beans
3 generous Tablespoons Adobo sauce
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon taco seasoning

Rinse the corn husks.  Soak the corn husks in a large bowl filled with boiling water for at least an hour.  (Ideally it would be longer, possibly overnight, but I'm not great with patience.)  Here are the husks just before the water is added.

Make the filling.  We tried two different kinds.  For the tomatillo filling, I simmered the Quorn with the green salsa in a saucepan until most of the liquid had evaporated.

For the adobo and black bean filling, I added all the ingredients together (including the liquid from the black beans) and simmered until reduced.  (About 20 minutes.)

While the filling is simmering, make the dough.  Real tamale dough has lard, but this mostly has vegetable stock with a little vegetable oil.  I made one batch of dough with the chili powder and one without.  Either way seems to work.  Mix all the ingredients for the dough together in a bowl with a fork and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Once the dough and the filling are made, it's time to assemble to tamales.

First, take a soaked corn husk and pull off a piece about 1 cm wide.  (To create a string to tie the tamale.)  Repeat as each tamale needs two ties.

Take the corn husk and lay it flat.  Spread the masa on the corn husk so it's about 1/8 inch thick.  Leave about 1/4 inch border on the lateral edges and 1/2 inch on the ends.

Add the filling (do not overstuff.)  For the tomatillo stuffing I added the cooked filling and then olives on top.

Roll the corn husk to fold the masa over the the filling till the masa just overlaps.

Fold the ends under the tamale.

Tie the corn husk strips around the ends to secure the tamale.

Repeat (this is where all the time commitment comes in!)

I think each masa batch made 10-12 small tamales.  We froze some of them, and steamed the rest.  If the tamales are not frozen, steam for 20 minutes.  If they're frozen I'm going to guess 25 minutes will work.  (I haven't cooked frozen ones yet.)

Once the tamales finish steaming, unwrap and eat!  I'm secretly glad that Niall has no idea what Amber's family's tamales taste like.  Why?  Because he has no idea what he's missing and was happy with these.  The verdict is still out, but I think the tomatillo with olive stuffing wins out over the adobo and black bean filling.


AM said...

I bet these are lovely. Did you know my grandmother regulates how much meat you add to the masa? We keep telling her the Great Depression is over and we're all filthy rich so please can we add more meat. . . but she never relents.

Wait - can you read the sarcasm when I was saying we were rich?

alisa said...

Oh I am so proud of all of you! You know, you can cheat and add a can of red chile enchilada sauce to the masa and the filling. I have a freakin' vegetarian over here too now... Aarica has been a vegetarian for a year and half! You can take frozen mixed cubed vegetables and add enchilada sauce to them with a little monterey jack cheese and ortega diced green chiles for a yummy vegetarian tamale stuffing. Also, no need to tie them, just spread the masa on 3/4 of the husk and then roll and fold the end. Cook, standing up so the stuff doesn't fall out. Way easier! Also, only 1 olive per tamale! That's a tradition.