Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sweet Tamales, Batman!

Happy New Year! -or as they would say in my neck of the woods - Feliz Año Nuevo! That's right... occasionally Ich spreche espanol ;)

Right before I sat down to type all of this, I started thinking a lot about what this post really means to me. Not only is this the first blog post of the year, it happens to be about food - BUT - it also deals greatly with someone very dear to me that I lost in 2010 - My Grandpa. He had a long, beautiful life, and had the ability to warm the heart of anyone he met. I remember being little, going to my Grandparents house in Whittier, California. Usually, any kind of get-together required not only awesome food... but awesome AMOUNTS of food. Recipes from my family are not to be taken lightly. They are time capsules, little tasty pockets of memory. They require not only heart, but a great deal of soul, sweat, tears and most importantly- laughter. This isn't just food. This is LIFE.

So, I think it would be more than appropriate to dedicate this blog entry to the memory of my Grandpa. It was, after all, his recipe - his passion for food that inspired my own passion.
There's Grandpa making -what else- Tamales! 

Now - On to the recipe!

*Please Note! : I do not -repeat- do not measure things when it comes to cooking. The way I was taught, you cook with your senses and your heart. The only time I measure things is when I'm baking. Those kind of things you almost have to measure or you end up with bricks. I will try my best to give this recipe in measurements, but if you're a perfectionist who has to play by certain cooking rules - this recipe may not be for you. Maybe you should come on over to the dark side. Come on! Throw in a dash of salt! I promise... No one is looking :D

                                                         What are Tamales?
Glad you asked! For those of you that have never had the experience of a tamale, they are basically meat and chili wrapped in a corn husk that has been slathered in a corn paste mixture. If you're not familiar with them, it can sound a little odd- but I assure you. They are dee-licious. These tamales you can use pork, chicken or shredded beef. Most people use red chili, but us New Mexicans have been known to make them with our Hatch Green Chili. SO good, my stomach is growling just thinking about it.

When my Mom makes tamales - the look like this :

However -- The subject of today's blog are SWEET Tamales - kid friendly and kid approved. I made a batch last night.  Let me tell you how ...

                                                          STEP 1 : Ingredients!!

Can't make anything if you have nothing to make it with, right?

For this, you will need :
- Dried Corn Husks

-Masa (Cornmeal flour)

- Brown Sugar (Light or Dark)

- 1 can of Crushed Pineapple

- Raisins

 -Cinnamon Powder


 -Pineapple Juice *optional

              *   *   *   *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

                                    STEP 2 : Prep!  

The hojas or corn husks need to be lightly soaked in water, then halfway dried. This allows for the husk to be more manageable when it comes time to roll. You don't need to do this far in advance. Just make sure this is your first step. 

*Take a few husks and tear them into strips. These will be used to tie the ends later.

                                               Step 3 : Mix it, Mix it good!
                               (This part is so simple - it's gonna make you cringe)

-- Roll up your sleeves

-- Get yourself a bowl and a good mixin' spoon

-- Pour approx. 3 cups of masa into the bowl (Either brand on the right will do)

-- Slowly start to add water ( about 1/2 cup) and mix [If you want something even sweeter, you can substitute the water for pineapple juice - You call]

-- At this point, things should start coming together. Honestly, in the bowl it should    look like dirt and dust bunnies [gross, but accurate- hahaha]

-- Crack open that can of pineapple and pour the whole thing in there -YES. The whole thing even the juice.

 -- Grab a large handful of raisins and toss them in there [maybe eat
a few while you're at it]

-- Pour in about 1/2 cup of brown sugar

-- Shake in some cinnamon. [ I shook the container back and forth 8 times]

              Now... MIX IT, BABY!

Don't be afraid to make faces or laugh at yourself. This adds some flavor that everyone will be able to taste. I figure - if food is fun to make, it's fun to eat.

                      Get everything blended so that it's about cookie dough batter thick

 It's 'bout to get messy, Cap'n.

-- Throw a little of the dried masa on a clean surface

--Scrape out a ball of masa that's about the size of a lime

-- Roll it around lightly in the dried masa, then use your hands to roll it into a ball. Make sure no dried masa remains on the ball. It tastes gross.

-- Place the rolled ball in a husk and roll it, mami (or papi, if you're a dude reading this)

-- Use the strips to tie the husk at both ends

--Place your tamales in a steamer standing up. Usually, One side is wider than the other - wide side is best at the bottom. [My Mom has a really awesome steamer she bought at a Mexican market that's specifically for tamales. If you have one, Que Suave! If you don't - any kind of steamer will work. Just make sure you have enough room to accommodate everything or you'll have to do this in batches.]

-- Start on high heat and pay attention. Once the water starts to boil, lower it to medium heat and set the timer for one hour. Go off and check your email, send out twitter updates, comment on facebook statuses, let the dogs out to pee -whatever passes the time.. If you want, come back in 30-45 minutes and check one to see if they're done. 

- A fully cooked tamale will still have somewhat of a gelatinous appearance. A fully cooked one should be firm, but still have a little give when you push it with your finger. If you're uncomfortable with the texture, keep steaming them till you get to a point where you feel comfortable. 

--Yields approximately 2 dozen
It was still hot, but I couldn't resist taking a bite.

 Well amigos, I hope I have explained things well enough for you to go out and give these a try. If there are questions you have, or need more info - feel free to message me!

Till next time....




  1. Oh convenient! A tamale that you don't have to press and stuff and roll? I'm in!

  2. These look so tasty, and what a nice tribute o your grandpa. I lost mine grandpa too last year. Hugs!


  3. @Amanda - Right? How much easier can you get?! lol

    @Felicity- They are VERY tasty. If they could make it through a trip in the mail, I would gladly send you some. ((HUGS))

  4. i LOVE the picture of your grandfather!