Yield: 1 Servings
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Tamale Making From "The Cuisines of Mexico", By Diana Kennedy ISBN 0-06-012344-3.
This is the definitive book on authentic Mexican cooking. I highly recommend it to anyone who want's to learn to cook Mexican food as it is prepared in Mexico.
Notes on Making Tamales
1. The corn husks. It is usual for corn husks bought here to be trimmed and flattened ready for use. But if by chance you have some in their rough state, just as they were when removed from the ear, cut off the cupped part at the bottom of the leaf and trim off the pointed tip. When you get them the husks will be dried out and papery. To soften them ready for use, pour plenty of very hot water over them and leave them to soak for several hours. Shake them well to get rid of excess water and pat them dry with a towel.
2. Making the tamales. Smear a thin coating of the tamal dough over the broadest part of the husk, allowing for turning down about 1½ inches at the bottom broad part of the leaf and about 3 inches at the pointed top.
Let us say, for a good-sized tamal spread the dough over an area approximately 3 inches wide and 3 ½ inches long.
Spread the filling down the middle of the dough. Fold the sides of the husk together firmly. Turn up the pointed end of the leaf and fold the broader end over it. Tear some of the husks lengthwise into narrow strips, and use one for tying each tamal across the top flap. The husks are water repellent, and since the dough is to be steamed, the idea is to form a water-tight package so that when the dough is cooked through it will be light and spongy. If moisture gets in it will be soggy.
3. Cooking the tamales. The most convenient way to cook tamales is a conventional steamer. You can, of course improvise, but improvisations are not usually as efficient--a lot of good steam escapes and the cooking is not as even.
Fill the bottom of the steamer with water up to the level indicated and bring to a boil. Line the top of the steamer with corn husks, covering the bottom and sides well. Stack the tamales upright, with the tied-down flaps upwards. For the best results, they should be packed firmly but not too tightly, because the husks swell out as the dough cooks. (I always find that a small batch of tamales, not firmly packed in the steamer, do not cook as well or as quickly and are more likely to absorb the condensed steam.) Cover the tamales with more corn husks. Cover the top of the steamer with a thick cloth--a piece of old toweling is best--to absorb the condensation from the lid of the steamer. Cover the steamer with a tightly fitting lid.
As the water in the bottom part comes to a boil, put a coin into it, put the top part of the steamer on, and let the tamales cook for about 2 ½ to 3 hours over a medium flame. Keep the water bubbling, but not boiling violently. That is the reason for the coin. You will be able to hear it dancing about, and it will tell you if the water goes off the boil or is getting dangerously low. If the water is allowed to go off the boil the tamales will be heavy. Keep a kettle of water simmering so that you can refill the steamer when necessary.
To test the tamales for doneness, remove one from the center, and one from the side of the steamer. As you open the husks, the dough should come away easily from the husks and be completely smooth. To make doubly sure, open up the tamales and see if they are spongy and well cooked throughout.
4. Serving and storing the tamales. Once cooked, tamales are very good tempered. They are wonderful eaten right away, straight out of the husks, but after they cool off they are also extremely good heated through very gently in their husks in an ungreased heavy frying pan, or on a griddle.
Just keep turning them so that they heat through evenly and the husk gets slightly browned but does not burn. They can be refrigerated, and will keep well stored that way for about a week. It is best, however, to freeze them.
To reheat, they can be wrapped in foil, put into a 350 degree oven still frozen, and heated through for about 30 minutes.
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