Tamales nortenos (part 2)

Yield: 6 Servings

Measure Ingredient
\N \N See part 1

While the meat is cooking, toast the cumin seeds on a cast iron griddle and then grind into a fine powder using a coffee mill or spice grinder and set aside.

When the meat is cooked tender, set aside to cool. Separate the meat chunks from the broth, reserving the broth. Shred the meat into small strands.

Heat 2 tablespoons of lard or shortening in a heavy pan, preferably cast iron. Add the chile seasoning and cumin and stir for a few seconds. Add the meat and fry for two or three minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the liquid level is reduced. The mixture should be soupy. Set aside to cool while you make the masa.

The Masa: The tamale dough, or masa, is made from masa harina, a corn flour that is also used for making tortillas. Masa mix can be purchased in Latin American markets or supermarkets that carry Latin American products. It can also be purchased by mail order if not available locally. It is NOT the same as corn meal.

I recently found a new version of Maseca brand masa that is specifically formulated for tamales. It is a little coarser than the tortilla masa and gives the tamales a better texture. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a large Hispanic population, you can buy prepared masa and save yourself the trouble of having to mix it from scratch.

Combine masa, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Dissolve the boullion in the lukewarm water to make a broth. Mix the broth into the masa a little at a time, working with your fingers to make a moist dough.

In a small bowl, beat lard or shortening until fluffy, add to masa and beat until masa has a spongy texture.

The Tamales: Remove a soaked corn husk from the water and shake to remove excess water. Start with the largest husks because they will be easier to roll. If you end up with a lot of small husks, you can lay two together, overlapping about ½" but this is a little trickier and may take some practice. Lay the husk flat on a plate and spread about 1½ to 2 tablespoons (depending on the size of the husk) of masa in the center.

Don't use too much! The easiest way to spread the masa is to spoon it onto the husk and spread it with your fingers. If the masa is sticky, wet your hands.

Add about 1 tablespoon of meat filling on top of the masa. Again, don't use too much.

Now comes the tricky part. Roll the corn husk so that the filling is enclosed in the masa. Don't worry if the filling is not completely surrounded with masa. When the masa cooks it will become firm and the tamale will be fine. Fold over each end. If the husks are very thick, you may find it difficult to fold the large end and get it to stay. If this is the case, don't worry about folding the large end and put that end up when you put the tamales into the steamer.

Load the tamales into a steamer standing them up vertically. I use a large pot with a steamer basket in the bottom. When all the tamales are rolled, and the steamer is full, cover with a damp cloth and steam until the tamales are done, about 2 to 3 hours. During steaming it is very important to keep the water at a low boil. Also, DO NOT let the steamer boil out of water.

TIP: Place a coin, a penny works good, in the bottom of the steamer with the water. You can tell when the water is boiling because you can hear the coin rattling around. If the coin stops rattling, the water has boiled away and you should add more.

After about 2 hours, you may want to pull out a tamale and sample it. Let it cool for a few minutes and then unroll the husk. The tamale should be soft and firm and not mushy.

Now you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Bite into one of these delicacies and you will know the answer to the question "Why am I doing this?" that you kept asking yourself while you were making them.

As I said in the beginning, tamales can be a lot of work, but they are worth it and I strongly encourage you to give it a try. If you have further questions, please send me mail and I will try to help.

Posted to CHILE-HEADS DIGEST V3 #133 Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 20:54:11 -0400 From: "Garry Howard" <g.howard@...> Garry's Home Cooking Website,

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