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Step-by-step guide to the best Holiday Tamales!

Step-by-step guide to the best Holiday Tamales!

The word tamal comes from the Nahuatl tamalli which means wrapped. This delicious dish is of indigenous origin, prepared with cooked corn dough and wrapped in leaves of different plants (banana, corn, maguey, among others). Stuffed with vegetables, chili, sauce, meat, chicken or fruit, sweet or savory, for all tastes! Tamales are the most popular among Mexicans.

They say there are between 500 and 5,000 different tamales across the country. Can you imagine all those flavors?

It is a delicious part of the Mexican traditional dishes, In Mexico we eat them on many important occasions, like the Day of the dead, when life and death are celebrated, tamales are put on altars as offerings to the dead and enjoyed in the company of our loved ones. We also celebrate Candlemas day; On February 2, the person who receives the Baby Jesus figurine in their Rosca de Reyes needs to invite everyone for tamales.

These are some of the tamal varieties from all over Mexico, the possibilities are really endless, they estimate that per year the production and sale of tamales around the country is in the hundreds of millions!

Holiday Tamales Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Tamal leaf
  • Tamal Flour Maseca 1kg
  • Isadora Beans
  • Rajas Jalapeño
  • If you chose the filling rajas con queso: 200 gr of white cheese (we recommend queijo flamengo, gouda or mozzarella)
  • 4-5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of shortening veg or pork lard, you can also sub with a cup of oil
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 2 liters of water
  • Fine Salt 

Equipment Needed

Below is the list of tools needed to make the recipe,

  • 1 large tall stockpot (for steaming the tamales)
  • Steamer basket
  • 2 large bowls
  • Electric Mixer (optional for whipping the shortening/lard)
  • 1 small pot (for making broth)
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting board
  • Knife

Prep for Tamales:

Step 1: Soak the corn husks tamal leaf

Rinse the corn husks to remove any debris, then place into a large bowl and cover them with cold water. Let them soak for at least one hour.

Step 3: Prep your broth

If you’re making fresh broth, please prepare before hand, if you’re making broth from bouillon cubes make sure its cool to touch by the time of the workshop.

Step 2: Whip your shortening or pork lard

Make sure the vegetable shortening or pork lard is at room temperature for easy handling, the traditional way to whip the shortening/lard to achieve fluffy tamales is to do it by hand which takes 10-15 minutes, but to simplify this step use an electric mixer on medium to high speed for around 2-3 minutes. If you don’t have an electric mixer, you can whip the shortening/lard by hand, the technique is to melt it with the warmth of your hands, by squishing it and tossing it back on the bowl, repeat this for 10-15 minutes. The shortening/lard should look white, light and creamy, adding volume to the shortening/lard will yield a lighter masa for tamales.

Make the Tamales!

STEP 1: MAKE THE DOUGH

Measure out two to three cups of broth, set the whipped shortening, pork lard, or oil on your workspace and in a large bowl, put 3 cups of the tamal flour, with your hands gradually alternate between adding the shortening and the broth. Mix until the masa is uniform and light, the texture should be that of a thick cake batter.

Pro tip: For a foolproof dough, there is a float test! Take a small chunk of your dough and drop it into a cold cup of water, the dough should float, if it doesn’t you have to keep working it!

STEP 2: PREP YOUR FILLING

Today you had two options for filling, Rajas con Queso and Beans with chipotle.

For the rajas con queso, we have provided you a can of rajas which already comes cut in strips, please drain and properly shake out the water, we don’t want soggy tamales.

For the beans and chipotle, open the packet of beans and put the beans in a small bowl. Open the can of chipotle, take out the chilies in the chipotle can and cut them into manageable strips to add to your tamales.

STEP 3: ASSEMBLE THE TAMALES

Drain the tamal leaves that have been soaking for the last hour, and pat them dry, then we will fill them assembly line-style:

  • On the wide end of the husk, with a spoon spread 3 tablespoons dough to within 1/2 inch of the edges
  • Top each with 2 rajas and 1 strip of cheese OR 2 tablespoons of beans and 1 strip of chipotle
  • Fold the long sides of the husk over the filling. Make sure they overlap slightly for a secure closure
  • Fold the narrow end of husk over
  • Tie with a strip of husk to secure
  • Repeat until all of the husks are filled and secured 

Pro tip: Treat your spoon like a paint brush and your filling like the paint on the corn husk, put the leaf up to the light and if there are noticeable gaps on the leaf not covered by the dough then you need to cover those. In my family we don’t like to make fat tamales, so a thin even layer of dough on the leaf is optimal.

STEP 4: STEAM

Place a large steamer basket in a your stockpot over 1 in. of water. Place the tamales upright in the steamer and cover with remaining tamal leaves. Bring the water to a boil. Let them steam, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour.

Pro tip: This is a long steam, and water level will drop as the water boils off. Be sure to check on the water frequently, add more water as needed. You don’t want the pot to boil dry; this can damage the pot and makes for sad tamales. Mexican grandmas sometimes put a coin at the bottom of the pot so that it rattles when the water is getting low!

To see if they are cooked take one tamal out let it cool for 5-10 minutes and if the dough peels away cleanly from the leaf its ready, if the dough is still soft steam for another 15-20 minutes.

Tamales of the variety that we’ve just made can be served with salsa on top or sour cream, you can also enjoy these for breakfast with a fried egg on top!

To reheat them, place them in a plate still wrapped in their corn husk in and microwave for 2-3 minutes or take them out of their corn husk and lightly fry them on a pan, they will develop a crunchy exterior!

 

Pro tip: Uncooked tamales can be frozen for later, just be sure to pack them tightly in freezer bags before freezing. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then steam for for 45 minutes to an hour.

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Mexican Christmas dishes that you'll want to make all year!

Mexican Christmas dishes that you'll want to make all year!

What does Christmas mean to you? Absolutely and under all circumstances for us at Casa Mexico it means food!

In Mexico we have our pre Christmas food, our post Christmas food, we even have a whole Marathon of celebrations and of course more eating named Guadalupe-Reyes all with its own dishes and traditions. So let's get started with the best of Mexican Christmas foods that will inspire you to start cooking!

Tamales

As if we already don't spoil each other enough during Christmas, the wonderful cooks in our families also make edible little gift wrapped food, parcels of joy called Tamales. Depending on the region in Mexico you will find different kinds, for example the south will have theirs wrapped in banana leaves because of their abundance in their tropical climate, the north will have more meat based tamales wrapped in corn husk but all made with the spongiest tamal masa that melts in your mouth. My favorites would have to be the chicken in mole and the pork in salsa verde, see the recipes and ingredients available here!

Pozole

A Pozole is a hearty soup that warms your innards and perhaps your frozen cold heart into loving the Christmas spirit. This very special dish is the king of the plates served during this season, wether it be made of chicken, pork or vegetarian, it can't be served without its Mexican oregano, tostadas, radish, onion and accompanying chili oils, see the recipe and ingredients needed here!

Los Romeritos

Romeritos is a traditional dish from Central Mexico, a romerito is a tender sprig of the sepweed boiled and served with a dark mole sauce, this can be served with potatoes, shrimp or nopales (cactus paddle). The story of the romeritos is a special one with a beginning with the Aztecs, which used to eat them mixed with a small egg variety called ahuautles, which curiously have a very similar taste to the shrimp. During colonization this ingredient formed part of the gastronomy of the convents, one of the reasons why it is eaten during Christmas is because like during Lent it wasn't customary to eat meats during Christmas, resulting in the Romeritos staying in our holiday table! See the recipe and ingredients needed here!

 

Atoles

Of course our Christmas would not be complete without it's own special drinks, an atole is a thick corn based drink that can be spiced with cinnamon, chocolate, or seasonal fruits like tamarind and guayaba. See the recipe and ingredients needed here!

 

 

El Turkey

Yes we also have a turkey or huajolote at the table, but being Mexican and lovers of spice we have beautiful preparations and presentations to the sometimes boring, mostly dry regular Christmas turkey. Have you ever heard of a tequila - Guajillo chili - apricot glazed turkey for Christmas? or a Turkey al Adobo? We have endless ways to make our turkey more exciting, see the recipes and ingredients available here!

Buñuelos

These beautiful crispy treats are quintessential to the Christmas celebrations, also known as hojuelas, they're made from frying flour tortillas then serving them with a delicate piloncillo syrup or cajeta if you're feeling extra naughty, they're basically your dream dessert on a plate. See the recipe and ingredients needed here!

#MexicanChristmas #ChristmasDishes #Tamales #Pozole #Romeritos #Atoles #Buñuelos #TequilaTurkey

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Tamales Dulces con ate de membrillo y queijo de azeitaõ

Tamales Dulces con ate de membrillo y queijo de azeitaõ

Because we know you can't get enough of our sweetness, here we have one of our favorite savory sweet tamales with quince paste and in ode to our host country of Portugal, we will use a very traditional sheep's cheese called queijo de azeitaõ.

Ingredients

Makes about 12 tamales

2 cups / 260g masa harina, mixed with 1 to 1¼ cups / 240 to 300ml water (as directed on this page)

5 Tbsp / 70g butter, softened

⅓ cup / 65g granulated sugar

6 oz / 170g queijo de azeitaõ cheese

6 oz / 170g ate de membrillo / quince paste

Greek yogurt for garnish

Directions

Begin by placing your corn husks to soak in a large bowl of warm water to soften while you prepare the ingredients.

Place the fresh masa or mixed masa harina in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or, if you prefer to do this by hand with a whisk, in a large bowl. You want to whip up your masa to get as much air into it as you can, making it fluffy. The more it’s worked, the lighter the tamales will taste. After beating it for 3 to 4 minutes, add the butter 1 Tbsp at a time and continue to whip it until it’s well incorporated. Then add the sugar and mix for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

Cut your azeitaõ cheese and ate de membrillo into 12 equal logs, approximately 2 x ½ inches / 5cm x 12mm. They should look like half of a string cheese stick. It’s not crucial that they be perfectly tidy and uniform as they will be tucked inside the tamales; you just want them to fit within the masa and for each tamal to have about the same amount of both cheese and quince paste.

Take your softened corn husks out of the water they’ve been soaking in, squeezing out any excess moisture. Open one up and place “about 3 Tbsp / 55g of the masa mixture in the center of the husk. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread it into a rectangle that’s about 3 x 2 inches / 7.5 x 5cm and about ½ inch / 12mm tall. It doesn’t need to be precise, just big enough to hold the fillings with enough corn husk on all sides so that you can wrap it up and no filling will ooze out. Place one log of cheese and one log of quince paste at the center of the masa and then bring the sides of the corn husk together, sealing the filling inside the masa. Now fold up the bottom of the corn husk so that the whole tamal is contained “inside the corn husk, then roll it up from the side.

The tamal should be “closed” on the bottom and open on top. Use a second corn husk to bind it further. There really isn’t a science to wrapping tamales. What’s important is that the insides stay as tight as possible and that no masa comes out during steaming. Repeat this process with the rest of the masa and filling. If you want, you can cut one of the corn husks into ribbons and use these ribbons to tie up the tamales for extra insurance.

Once you’ve finished, place a steamer basket in a stockpot and add 2 to 3 inches / 5 to 7.5cm of water. Place all of your tamal packages in the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and let the tamales steam for 20 to 25 minutes, monitoring about halfway through the process to make sure that there is still a good inch or two of water at the bottom of the pan and adding more water if necessary. After 20 minutes, take one out and open it up to test if it’s done. Cut into one with a knife to ensure that the masa has the consistency of firm polenta and doesn’t ooze at all; the halves should cut cleanly and stay intact. Serve with a spoonful of the yogurt.

As with savory tamales, these can be cooked, stored in the refrigerator, and then reheated simply by steaming them again, and they will taste just as good as when they were freshly made.

Recipe Courtesy of Gabriela Camara's “My Mexico City Kitchen" Cookbook.

#TamalesMexicanos #NavidadesMexicanas #ChristmasSpirit #AtedeMembrillo #MaketheMasa

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