Having lived in Houston for several years, I was exposed to flavors, tastes and cuisines I hadn't experienced growing up in the Midwest. For all the things I didn't like about Houston, it was a foodie heaven and I miss that part of it.
Homemade tamales are a part of living in TX. Especially if you are an elementary school teacher (which I was). A holiday gift of tamales was always something to look forward to. I even made tamales one time at a party and it is something I have wanted to try again. If you think tamales are too difficult for you to make, take a look at the steps below.
Being me, I wanted to try something a bit different then the traditional meat-filled masa. So I combined a few recipes to come up with this one. Also against tradition was the way they were cooked - in the oven on top of a water filled broiler pan for a baked/steamed combo. More on that later.
I started out making the dough then letting it rest a bit. I then patted it into the corn husks that had been soaked and drained. Kind of like playing with play-dough!
Next step was adding the filling. Trying to make things easier, I had prepared the filling the night before. I added a heaping table spoon down the side as instructed. After all the dough had been filled, I used the additional to add more. More can't be a bad thing!
After that, things came together quickly. Using the husk, I folded the dough then tucked the corn envelope closed. They were added to the oven where they steamed/baked for almost an hour. I opened one up to cool and try. Tasty, however there is room for improvement.
1. The filling should go down the middle. It would make a much prettier presentation
2. One heaping tablespoon of filling isn't quite enough.
3. Baking/Steaming tamales is easy, but it doesn't produce the same moist product.
I will be making tamales again. Bo really wants some with meat. I look forward to opening my Rick Bayless cookbook and using a more traditional recipe.
Basic Masa Dough (Adapted from Cooking Light)
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
3 3/4 cups masa harina
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chilled lard or shortening
Combine broth and corn in a blender; process until smooth.
Lightly spoon masa harina into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine masa harina, salt, and baking powder, stirring well with a whisk.
Cut in lard with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add broth mixture to masa mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
Tips: Prepare this dough up to three days ahead, and refrigerate in an airtight container.
Black Bean and Goat Cheese Tamales (Adapted from Cooking Light)
16 dried corn husks
15 can black beans, mashed slightly
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites
1 (3-ounce) log goat cheese
3 oz low fat cream cheese
2 cups Basic Masa Dough (I used most of the dough)
2 cups hot water
Place corn husks in a large bowl; cover with water. Weight husks down with a can; soak 30 minutes. Drain husks.
Preheat oven to 450°.
Combine beans and next 6 ingredients (through cream cheese), stirring well to combine.
Working with one husk at a time, place 3 tablespoons or more of Basic Masa Dough in the center of husk about 1/2 inch from top of husk; press dough into a 4-inch-long by 3-inch-wide rectangle.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon (or more) cheese mixture down one side of dough. (NOTE: Try putting it down the middle) Using the corn husk as your guide, fold husk over tamale, being sure to cover filling with dough; fold over 1 more time. Fold bottom end of husk under. Place tamale, seam side down, on a damp towel covered with another damp towel. Repeat procedure with remaining husks, Basic Masa Dough, and filling. When all tamales are filled, remove them from the towels and place on the tray of a broiler pan.
Pour 2 cups hot water in the bottom of a broiler pan; top with prepared rack.
Steam tamales at 450° for 55 minutes, adding water as necessary to
maintain a depth of about 1/2 inch. Let tamales stand 10 minutes.