Thursday, December 1, 2016

Taking On Tamales

My sister-in-law and I have been talking about making tamales for for-ev-er

It's been a thing.  We keep saying that when we get together we're going to make them because we've both always wanted to try our hand at them.  And we both like to eat.  And we both like to have fun in the kitchen.

And we were both slightly intimidated by the idea of making them on our own.

And since she's a teacher if she's reading this she might be thinking to herself that I started a bunch of sentences with conjunctions right there.


So we had family coming in for Thanksgiving again this year and we decided that the day after Turkey Day would be the perfect time to finally follow through and do this thing.

I found all kinds of interesting tamale varieties to try but my brilliant in-laws pointed out to me we were going to have boatloads of extra turkey on hand that we might as well use.
Like a lot of extra turkey.
I bought another 23-pounder guys.  For nine people.

I don't know what it is about buying a turkey but it always feels like one of those "go big or go home" scenarios.  :-)  Thank goodness for extra freezers.

My husband smoked the turkey again this year, because he's the Grill King.  Just like last year we (*ahem* I mean...the other ladies...I busied myself with all things kitchen that did not involve raw poultry...) spatchcocked the turkey (just try to say that word without giggling.  It's the best culinary phrase ever.) and left the rest to my guy.

Thanksgiving dinner was delicious- though I have to admit something...I didn't eat turkey.
I probably should have remained a vegetarian.  I did however stuff myself with everything else from stuffing to mac and cheese- all with a healthy amount of cranberry sauce.

Sorry love.  I know from what we did with the turkey leftovers that your turkey was scrumptious!
The next day the ladies and I woke up and got to work.  A Google search for turkey tamales brought me right back to- big surprise- Allrecipes.

Most recipe searches do, to be honest.

I had the masa.  I had the corn oil (this recipe didn't use the more traditional lard).  I had the spices.  I certainly had the turkey- in spades.  The only thing I had to buy was corn husks, and those things are super inexpensive.

A lot of the tamale recipes I came across didn't have much seasoning in the masa, so I really liked that this recipe took as much care to season it as it did to season the filling.  We decided to use the stand mixer to make up the masa.  Our only real question there was how thick to make it since we had never done this before.  The recipe said to make it the consistency of thick peanut butter...which turned out to be a harder consistency to be sure about than we thought it would be.  We just had no point of reference for this stuff.

We did a quick Google search and watched a couple of videos that showed tamales being assembled just to make sure that our masa was what it should be.  Once we figured it out the rest of the process was very simple.  Here's a link to a video so you don't have to go Googling- :-) if you're just looking for assembly tips skip ahead to the 4:34 minute mark.  We made our masa somewhat thinner than in the video- based on another video we watched- but her method worked perfectly for us.

After soaking the dried corn husks in warm water to make them pliable we spread the masa on the smooth side of the husk.  It can be kind of difficult to tell the smooth side from the ridged side sometimes and it's not the end of the world if you use the wrong side.

The masa is topped with filling and rolled, kind of like a little soft taco.  We tore the corn husks that were too small to use into strips with which to secure the tamales.  When you're done assembling the tamales it's time to steam them.  We learned a couple of things during this process.  First of all, we made two batches of tamales; the first batch had masa that was slightly more liquidy than the second. The first batch took longer to steam- in fact, towards the end we decided to remove the lid from the pan to dry them out a little.
We're not experts by a long shot, but it seemed to work to dry them out a little.

Second, when we Googled why some of our tamales still seemed too squishy we found that the tamales can still seem a little squishy before they cool.  Good to know!  After they sat for a bit they definitely firmed up.

All in all, it was a learning experience.  We played with the masa consistency and the cooking time/technique but there was a pretty small learning curve.  In the end we wound up with TONS of tamales.  They were delicious and the ones that we didn't eat right away have frozen and defrosted beautifully.  When you're ready to eat the frozen tamales just throw them in a steamer basket again until they're heated through.

We topped our tamales with a super-delicious sauce my sister-in-law made from dried New Mexico chiles- I am so sad that we ran out of the sauce before we ran out of tamales.  Then we topped the sauced-up tamales with crumbled queso fresco.


I think I've caught the tamale bug.  I need to make more.  I need to make all the tamales.  Pork tamales.  Beef tamales.  Vegetarian tamales.

Not so sure about the dessert tamales out there...but you know.  Maybe one day.

I can't believe it took us so long to make these.  They're not hard to make at all, they're amazingly delicious.  The leftovers are built in.

I'm officially hooked.

1 5-ouncezTamale Dough:
3 C masa harina
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 C corn oil
1 qt turkey broth, divided

Turkey Filling:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 C finely chopped cooked turkey
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

1. Soak corn husks in a bowl of warm water until softened, about 1 hour; drain.

2. Mix masa, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon chili powder, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt together in a bowl. Stir corn oil into masa mixture. Measure 1/2 cup turkey broth and set aside. Add remaining broth, 1 cup at a time, to masa mixture until dough is smooth and the consistency of thick peanut butter.

3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; saute onion and garlic until softened and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and add turkey, 1 teaspoon paprika, oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir reserved 1/2 cup turkey broth into filling until moistened.

4. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon dough in the center of each corn husk. Top filling with 1 heaping tablespoon filling. Roll husk around dough and filling, tucking bottom of husk into tamale. Tie a corn husk strip or string around each tamale to secure.

5. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Stand tamales upright in steamer, cover, and steam until cooked through, about 1 hour. Add more water as needed.

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