Tasty Tamales

Don’t be scared kids.  These fun eats are a lot more user-friendly than you may think.  I will admit the recipe is a bit more labor intensive than I’d like, but the results are great! And when it comes to variety, tamales know no bounds.  So here’s the dish….

What you’ll need:
– Pack of dried corn husks
– 6 cups corn meal or Maseca brand corn flour
– 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
– 1 Tablespoon baking powder
– 1 cup veggie-shortening
– 4 – 5 cups water or vegetable broth
– 14 oz. of tofu, or seitan, or whatever you want!
– ½ Spanish onion, chopped
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– ½ Tablespoon garlic powder
– ½ Tablespoon chili powder
– ½ Tablespoon smoked paprika
– 1 teaspoon cumin
– 2 teaspoons black pepper
– ½ teaspoon salt
– ½ or whole jalapeño pepper, chopped and seeded (optional)
– About 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil (veggie, corn, or olive)

Step One: Prep the wraps
Soak the husks in warm water for about 1 hour (or until bendable).

Step Two: Prep the dough
Combine the corn meal, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl, and mix until nicely combined.  Mix in the veggie shortening by hand (the mixture should still be very dry). Add water or broth about 1 cup at a time, mixing by hand until the dough is the texture of Play-Doh (it should now be neither wet nor dry). Feel free to add more corn meal or liquid if needed.  Once it’s all blended, leave it alone.

Step Three: Make your fillings
Drain your tofu of excess water (putting the tofu in between two plates is an easy way to do this). While that’s happening, begin mixing your dry seasonings: garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Once the tofu is drained, break it into small crumbles and add to the bowl of seasonings.  Toss to coat.  For a crisper filling, you can now actually bake the seasoned crumbles in 2 Tablespoons of oil for about 20 minutes at 350°F (I like to just use the crumbles as is).  Start cooking the onion over a low heat with about 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large pan until translucent (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Now, add the tofu crumble and additional jalapeños (if desired).  Cook for a final minute or two so everything incorporates. Yum.

Step Four: Roll the tamales
Time to get rolling. Lay out the damp corn husks on a towel (try just a few at a time – being too ambitious here could equal disaster… or at least ugly tamales).  Spread about 2 Tablespoons of dough along the center of each husk. Now add a thinner line of about 1 Tablespoon of filling to the center with the dough. Now, use the husk to roll the dough around the filling (sushi-roll style).  Finish wrapping the husk by folding the bottom edge up. Tie it off with string or with any extra/ripped pieces of corn husks.  Don’t worry about closing off the top edge.  The open side will make for a cool look into what’s tasty.  Continue along until you have made more than you could ever want.

Step Five: Steam ’em
Arrange the tamales standing up in a steamer so that they fit snugly (keep the open ends facing up, or your stuffing may just melt right out).  Put the steamer in a pot with about 1 to 2 inches of water… enough so that it can cook with out getting the bottoms of the tamales wet. If need be, you can add more water halfway though the steaming process. Put the lid on and let ’em steam on a low heat for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. You’ll know they’re ready when the filling firms up and swells slightly.

Step Six: Eat’em!
Unwrap the tamales from their husks, and eat away! You can serve your tamales with green salsa,  butter,  or in a bowl of vegetable broth.  I found that even though it’s a full afternoon of preparation time, you can make enough to last for days of snacking. They’re sure to make you look good at your next food gathering, and when it comes to the filling, the sky’s the limit with choices. So get creative, and let us know what you come up with.

Pig out, amigos!

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