Potato and Adobo Tamales
- 30 corn husks
- 1 3/4 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup peas
- 3 ancho chiles, dry
- 1 1/2 pasilla chiles (or chile negro), dry
- 1/2 cup liquid from soaking chiles
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 onion
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- pinch of cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/3 cup vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 4 cups masa harina (corn flour)
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- Soak corn husks in hot water for an hour.
- Add diced potatoes to salted cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are slightly tender, about 6 minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to large bowl. Add peas.
- Boil a small pot of water while removing the stems and seeds from the chiles. Add chiles to boiling water and turn heat to low. Soak chiles for 10 minutes.
- Remove chiles from water and place in blender. Make adobo sauce by adding 1/2 cup of chile soaking liquid, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 onion, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, pinch of cloves, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/3 cup vinegar, salt, and pepper to blender and process until smooth.
- Add adobo to potatoes and peas and mix.
- For the dough, beat the 1 1/2 cups of vegetable shortening on medium-high until it has doubled in size, about 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and beat for 1 minute.
- Add 2 cups of masa harina and 2 cups of vegetable stock and mix. Add remaining massa harina and stock and beat on low until mixed. You should have a dough the consistency of a thick cake batter.
- Remove husks from water and blot dry. With the smaller husks, line your steamer and pull 24-48 thin strips off of the husks to use to tie the tamales together.
- For each husk, dry off excess water and hold tapered side up. Add 2-3 tablespoons of dough to husk and form a rectangle 6-8 inches wide by 3-4 inches tall. Add 1 1/2 tablespoon of filling to center of dough.
- Bring the two sides of the husk together and wrap them around the tamale in the same direction. Fold the tapered section down to form a closed bottom. Tie the tamale with a corn husk strip.
- Place the tamales in the steamer with the closed bottom down. Ensure the entire tamale is in the steamer. Cover with corn husks and place lid on pot. Bring water to a boil. Turn heat to medium and cook for 40 minutes.
- To check that tamales are finished steaming, unwrap to see if the tamale easily separates from the husk. In some instances, the tamale may separate easily from the husk and appear soft. If this is the case, they are finished and will firm up as they cool.
It is your heritage
This post is a shot out to my hometown, Lake Station. While being from the Station doesn't always feel like a gift, growing up in a culturally diverse neighborhood was certainly a bestowal of new experiences and learning opportunities that I wouldn't trade for a childhood in Valparaiso or Munster.
According to city-data.com, 28% of the Lake Station population is Hispanic. Two of my first friends in elementary school were Hispanic. I remember them teaching me about carrots, lime juice, chili powder, and salt at snack time in first grade. My mind was blown. Who knew you could eat carrots that way?
Two doors down lived a boy who taught me about eating eggs with tortillas and hot sauce. We were in elementary school at the time, so he also made sure to brag that he knew what Ginger Spice was saying in "If You Can't Dance". And, man, when his family grilled out and had arrachera, I was in heaven. I learned about horchata, chicharrón, elotes, and that Mexican style tacos are better than American style.
There was always a Mexican grocery store on the "S curve" and usually one or two on the west side of town, as well. The one that opened up in the old florist shop had the BEST guacamole I've tasted. They would leave the avocado pit in the guac and I learned that this helped it stay fresh longer. I believe it also contributed to the distinctive taste. The carnicero on the "S curve" had tamales worth dying for and we bought dozens at a time. Tamales, I was told, were an all-day affair, and it was best to buy them pre-made. So, that's what I did.
It was indeed an all-day affair. I clocked 6 hours, albeit we can assume an hour or so for naiveté. Or ingenuo? Here are the lessons I learned:
- While not a lesson specific to tamales or this recipe, it is a valuable one: adjust everything to your taste. When I made the adobo sauce following Dora's recipe, I felt there was too much vinegar. I added sugar to even out the acidity and then added asada with chipotle seasoning. Also, the filling seemed really wet, and reducing the vinegar will help that.
- If you want your tamale to have a lighter and fluffier texture, let the dough rest in the fridge for an hour. When you take it out, re-beat it and add more stock if the dough is too thick to easily spread on the husk.
- Wipe the water off every corn husk. At first I thought the husks would be fine. Nope. If you don't blot it down, the dough won't stick and you'll just end up pushing the dough around your spoon.
- Don't be afraid. It's just a fucking tamale. I was delicately applying the dough to the husks in the beginning, focused on making the perfect rectangle. Get over it and man handle that thing.
- When applying the dough to the husk, the height of your rectangle should not exceed half of the husk's full height. I made this mistake a few times in the beginning. If you apply dough beyond the half way point, you can't fold the tapered section down. And if you do have enough husk left over to fold it down, that tamale probably won't fit in your steamer.
- You may need to tie two husk strips together to have enough length to tie the tamale. It was way easier to spend the extra 10 seconds doing this than fighting with a strip too short for a minute.
- Make sure you can fit your lid on your steamer. Remember when I said that thing about the height of the rectangle not exceeding half of the height of the husk? That wasn't just geometry garbage. Real-life proved those too-tall-tamales turned out to be a problem in my average sized steamer. I ended up overcooking a few because I couldn't get the top part steamed.
- As mentioned above, sometimes the tamale may seem soft when you check it. Soft does not mean it isn't cooked. This nuance is another reason I ended up overcooking a few. It will firm as it cools.
All in all, tamales are not difficult. They do take some time, so follow the lessons learned above and save yourself some time. Extra time you can spend eating. Because you're going to want a lot of that.
Just like growing up in a Hispanic community, one discovery often led to another. I learned that you can experiement with the flavor of the tamale dough. I swapped the salt in the original dough recipe for jalapeño salt, yet it gets so much better:
- You can make dessert tamales with chocolate, coconut, or whatever you want! Who knew you could eat tamales that way?
There's always a perspective that you, and I, haven't heard. Seek out people with differences. You'll learn a thing or two. And my bet is, it'll be damn tasty.