Wednesday, June 13, 2012


A tamale looks nothing like what the name sounded like to me as a kid.

Same thing with sweet breads, Candlestick Park, and anyone with the name Carmen. I'm not entirely sure what I thought a tamale would look like based on name-sound alone, but the sound of "tamale" was exotic to me. Exotic in a "no way I'm eating that" 8 year old's kind of way. Like guacamole. "why the fuck*" kid me wondered "would would anybody eat guacamole? It looks weird, and that name..." ** Sight, smell, name, or just because-- I was a picky kid & nothing was going to stand in the way of me not trying new things. I could handle a lot-- baths, not being allowed to drive or make most of the family decisions, but not progress.

But with tamales it took a long time before I saw one & someone was like "no dummy, that's a tamale". I knew only that it sounded like more than I was up for. So when I finally really saw one, I was pissed off....

Why didn't anybody tell me tamales looked like this? I'll eat that shit. They should really change the name to something that doesn't sound challenging to an eight year old's palate. This looks like a wet, shiny, meat & cornbread bar. That sounds good. Why didn't they call it that? I'm going to pull Bernadette's hair & blame it on someone else.


What did I know? Children are dumb, everyone knows that.

Anyway, not to hyperbolize, but tamales are good. This was my first stab at making them, so I looked around & followed the basic concept here . I was very happy with the result. Not pinche bad for a gringo.
Oh and this is a sweet potato tamale. About that. Stay with me, weiners. The sweet potato flavor was mild and the texture was strictly tamale. No funny business (maybe second base). The sweet potato was a great ingredient, because I just mixed it into the tamale dough. In a meat or bean tamale, you've got separate layers to roll together. Easier. good.

sweet potato tamales
(8 or 10 large ones)

corn husks
1 sweet potato, cooked & mixed with cumin, cinnamon, chili powder & mexican oregano
1 3/4 cup instant masa
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup lard (don't use lois for this)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chicken broth
soak the corn husks in water for a few hours before you start your dough.

play the waiting game, or better, yahtzee. if you play yahtzee, you wanna get that 35 point upper bonus. trust me.

pour the water in the masa in a bowl & mix it together until it gets the consistency of moist brown sugar.

in another bowl, beat together the lard, baking powder & cooked sweet potato.
add the masa mixture, a bit at a time, to the sweet potato mixture.

when the masa is fully mixed with the sweet potato mixture, add in the chicken stock and BEAT. go to town. you want to get some air into the mixture.

when the mixture is light enough that a pinch will float in a glass of water, it's ready.

spoon about 2 tbsp of the mixture onto a corn husk & roll up the husk, folding in one end.

stack the tamales on end in a steamer***

steam for 2 hours with the lid on. check it every 15 minutes & add more water if needed. it will be needed.

after two hours, take one out and check it. If it looks like canned pumpkin, put it back in and check in 15 minutes. repeat until you have a firmer texture that resembles, oh i don't know, a tamale. I had to do this a couple of times, so don't get discouraged-- you will lose your tamale virginity with grace. The end.

*yup, even as a kid I liked working the blue. Who knew kid me & adult me would have something in common? Small world.
**Amazingly, it didn't taste like a cat's asshole when I finally tried it 15 years later.
***or as much on end as you can get them. I have a regular basket steamer, so it was hard to get them to not lay on one side. The result was that one side looked prettier than the other, but the texture and taste wasn't affected.

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