Chili Today, Hot Tamale

Ta da!

From Sue Lange:

As I said in a previous post, on a whim I bought a package of corn husks at the grocery store not knowing what I was supposed to do with them. Turns out they’re for tamales. So I set out to make some.

Keep in mind I’ve never been good at making anything that gets stuffed. Not raviolis, not dumplings, not pigs in a blanket or intestines (otherwise known as sausages). I’m just not good at wrapping. I can’t seem to figure out the filling to envelope size ratio.

With much trepidation I embarked on my odyssey into the world of tamales. In short, the boat sank.

I’d found a recipe at eatsmarter.com, a website with a lot of sketchy ads attached that will take you  quickly to pornography or popup messages warning you that you’ve been hacked and need to spend $19.95 for a software that will clean your hard drive. That should have been my first clue that anything from this site was not going to go well. In spite of all that, I sailed ahead.

The recipe was fairly inscrutable with few pictures and fewer instructions. Suffice it to say that now that it’s all over I think I figured it out, but at the time I was out on the edge of a cliff and nowhere to go but down.

Another clue that there could be trouble was when they said you could substitute tin foil for the corn husks. In other words if you can’t get the hang of the traditional wrap, modernize, i.e., cheat. You’ll notice in my photo above that I did, in fact, cheat with one of the tamales. It just fell apart in my hands as I was trying to tie it. I had no choice.  Call me a sinner if you must, but if I had to do it all over again, I would do the same.

I also resorted to strings instead of the thin strips of corn husk. They weren’t long enough to go around the package, even when I tied a couple together. I think I misunderstood the technique. At any rate,  since that tragic episode I’ve  checked around the Internet. There are many other ways of wrapping,  all of which I will try because I’ve got a lot of husks left and I swear these things, these tamales, shall not defeat me!

Aesthetically pleasing Swiss chard. (inset: cut into strips)

Here’s the recipe in a nutshell:

  1. Soak the husks for three hours.
  2. Cut a pound of Swiss chard into thin strips. Not sure if you’re supposed to use the rib. It looks a lot like rhubarb which I’m not fond of, so I cut the ribs out. It’s a beautiful vegetable. Sort of hated to do it, but there it is. Blanch for 15 secs.
  3. Chop up 8 tomatoes and 8 cooked, peeled potatoes. That’s about about five times more than I needed. I think I should have used plum tomatoes and smallish potatoes. I had a you-know-what ton left over.
  4. Shred some cheese. Recipe calls for 8 Tablespoons. Seriously? Dump to your own taste. You know how much you like and how constipated you’ll get. No one else knows that about you. Personalize.
  5. Peel and devein some nice-sized shrimp. Like, 3 per tamale.
  6. Put a bit of everything together in 3 overlapping husks. Drizzle on some olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste (how are you supposed to do that before you cook it?)
  7. 8 diced tomatoes; 8 peeled, diced potatoes; blanched Swiss chard

    Wrap and tie with think strips of husk. Yeah right. 

  8. Steam for, oh, 15 minutes.

I’m not complaining mind you. These, these things, these tamales were truly tasty, even the one in the tin foil, but I’m going for a simpler recipe next time. Or maybe one with an instructional video. We’ll see how it goes.

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  1. Vicki Shavler says:

    As much cooking as I’ve done in my life, I’ve never attempted a tamale. I always figured this should be left to the experts! Good on you for trying — and for inspiring me to try!

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