Monday, September 13, 2010


There is one product at Trader Joe's that I would cry for, were it ever to go away. I'd write a petition. I'd whine and harangue.

The soy chorizo.

Oily, tasty, slightly spicy. Easy to pile on not-firm-yet eggs, for a torta. Lovely in a quiche. Awesome tossed with soon-to-be-Fajita veggies. And the best tamale stuffing. Ever.

I get on these obsessive kicks. I've made tamales three times in a week - only once for work. I'm planning on making a double-batch for an upcoming potluck. So here's what I have to share today - an easy-peasy tamale recipe from a woman obsessed.

The filling that's easiest is the one described below, but there are so many variations. Requeson (a Mex-style ricotta) and roasted Poblanos is killer. Mushrooms, slow roasted, and goat cheese, insane. Pickled jalapenos, avocados, queso fresco, muy bueno. Do your thang and make it yours, or follow the directions below.

Chorizo and Cheese Tamales


3 cups masa for tamales (buy cornmeal labeled specifically for tamales)
2/3 cup corn oil
3 1/3 cups vegetable or mock chicken stock
1-2 tsp salt (depending on how salty your stock is)
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
2 tsp baking powder
Epazote, for steaming
25-30 corn husks, for wrapping


1 package TJ's soy chorizo
Queso Fresco, crumbled
1 can black beans, drained well
Chopped cilantro and jalapeno, to taste

You'll need a large stock pot, a plate that fits just inside it, and a small, round quiche pan or another heat-proof bowl to keep everything out of the water with. Or, use your steamer. You know how we roll 'round these parts.

In a stand mixer or in a large bowl, mix your salt, masa and baking powder. Make a well in the center and add your stock and oil while continuing to mix. Beat the mixture for a few minutes, thoroughly, to get some air in. Set aside for 20 minutes.

In another large bowl, pour hot water over your corn husks. Press them down into the water with a plate to submerge them all.

In a small bowl, mix your filling ingredients together. Taste for heat and salt.

Take 4-5 husks out of the water and tear them into strips, 5-6 thin each. Set aside.

Pull a husk out of the water. Shake a bit of the water off of it. Grab about 1/2-2/3 a cup of masa and press it into the husk, spreading it into a squarish shape near the top edge of the husk. Add about 1/3-1/2 a cup of filling, pressing it into the masa. Now grab both sides of the husk and roll the masa towards the center of the filling, letting it peel from the husk a bit. Press the sides to seal, and tightly roll the tamale together, first one side, then the other. Fold the spare husk at the bottom of the package up and tie it together with one of your strips using a single knot.

Like many cooking techniques, this process can best be described in visual form:

Keep in mind that the size of the husk should dictate how much masa/filling you use for each tamale. Keep in mind also that traditionally, the filling and the masa amounts used in each tamale are close to equal, with maybe a little more lean to the masa side.

Start piling them on a plate on the side, until you've made 'em all.

In a large stock pot using the set up described above, or a steamer, add hot water. Place your tamales open side up around the edges of the pot, filling in the center as needed. Use any spare husks to stuff in and around the tamales, mixing a sprig or two of epazote in as well for aromaticity. The husks also infuse the already super-corn flavors of the masa, and help them to stay standing up for the duration of their steam bath.

Now to keep the steam in! Take 4 husks and lay them over the top of the tamales, tucking them in around the edges. Put your lid on top as well, pressing down to "seal" everything in place.

Tada! Turn up the heat to high until you hear a boil, then turn down to medium-low and simmer those suckers for an hour. Some people wet a small kitchen towel and cover the entire get-up to ensure as little moisture loss as possible (you reaaaallly don't want to have to open the thing up and add more water halfway through).

The first time I made tamales, I was a little nervous - looked full of things that could go wrong (water boiling over and getting the bottoms wet, cheese melting all over the place, mushy instead of firm, package falling apart, etc etc). I've made 10 or so batches now, and while things have gone wrong here and there (see above list) none of them have turned out un-delicious. I'd like to try a batch with untreated cornmeal sometime soon - the guys from this farm are selling fresh 'meal at the Yorkmont market these days. We'll see!

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I'd like to try this tonight...alittle intimidated b/c I lack experience...Could you please explain your steam setup? I think I'm surposed to put a plate upside down in a stock pot then, put another plate right side up on top of that with the tamales in that? I add how much water? Or do I have this all wrong?
    Thanks for the tips! VA