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Swooning over tamales

December 12, 2009
Have you ever had tamales? If you have and you don’t love them, you might want to stop reading. This may turn into a love letter. I’ve spent most of today making tamales and they’re steaming away on the stovetop right now. The smell in the kitchen is sweet, a little dusty, homey, warming.

The recipe I use is from Rick Bayless, whom I would run away with in a second if only he promised to cook for me every day (sorry, Hubby). I know, I know. I’m a faithless hussy. But seriously, withhold judgment until you try the tamales. And then even a little longer until you nose around on his website. The man is magic in the kitchen. But I digress.

Making the filling, making the masa dough, folding the husks… this all takes hours. Tamales are party food. Something to make when there’s a lot of hands on deck. They’re traditionally made at Christmas-time, and I’ve been making them most years since I discovered how much I love them, either for my in-laws or my own family.

I made today’s batch by myself. Hubby has gone to Lake Placid for the evening to see his sister and her family, and I’m working on my weekly detox from work. Something about being crazy busy and stressed at work makes me unwilling to socialize on the weekends. I am hoping that this ebbs in a couple of weeks and that I can return to the land of regular humans. But we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m doing lots of reading, lots of cooking, and trying not to think about how much damn work I have to do come Monday. And I make tamales.

I made red chili pork for the filling, and this is what I mostly do. However, chicken cooked with tomatillos is also nice. And I just saw a recipe for chocolate tamales. I think this sounds inspired but I didn’t have any chocolate today. Actually, I didn’t have corn husks either. And it’s a measure of my devotion to these things that I drove into Burlington to buy the damn husks. This is a 45 minute drive, people, and one that I make five days a week, and the last thing I want to do on the weekend. They’re that good.

Tamales are steamed. They’re a lot like dumplings actually. And they steam for a looooong time- more than an hour. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve ruined more than one pot by boiling it dry. My attention span is apparently something less than an hour and a half. On one memorable occasion, the smoke alarm went off and the pot heated to the point where the bottom actually melted to conform to the shape of my electric burner. I shudder to think how hot that pot was. We’d retired to the porch for a drink while we waited for them to finish steaming. Those tamales tasted like carbon. I think we ate them anyway.

Calamity aside, I love these things. And I wish you’d make them so that you’ll love them too. You now have the benefit of knowing how not to make them (by letting the pot boil dry) and the benefit of knowing how they make one northern girl swoon. So try them out. Tell me what you think. I bet you’ll be willing to run away with Rick Bayless, too.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenn McG permalink
    December 21, 2009 5:35 pm

    I would have killed to eat them all!!!!

  2. Andrea permalink
    December 21, 2009 6:29 pm

    Well, you'll need to drive on over, Jenn McG. We plan to eat the last of the frozen ones tonight but I'll make another batch for you!

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