INGREDIENTS – MEAT MIX
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast (or ground beef or shredded pork)
1 beef bouillon cube
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder (1 tablespoon more later)
1/2 tablespoon coriander
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder (1/2 teaspoon more later)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
INGREDIENTS – CORNMEAL COATING
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoons chili powder (2 tablespoons more earlier)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (1/2 tablespoon more earlier)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package corn husks or tamale paper
INGREDIENTS – SAUCE
1 cup tomato sauce
1 7.5 ounce can chili
1 bouillon cube
1 cup vegetable oil
(This recipe is spicy. If you prefer milder food, consider reducing the amounts of chili powder by up to half the stated amounts.)
2 large pots
Box of wooden toothpicks (optional)
PREPARATION – SOAKING OF CORN HUSKS
Place corn husks at a time in first large pot. Heat corn husks at warm heat for 1-to-2 hours.
Soaking makes the corn husks pliable. Stiff, brittle corn husks really don’t roll well. The corn husk will split or the tamale will unravel. (You’ll end up shouting over the ensuing disaster and your whole family will head grumpily out to a fast- food joint.) Soak those corn husks.
PREPARATION – MEAT MIX
Set aside an afternoon to do this. Mince onions. Shred chicken breast or meat of choice. Crumble bouillon cube. Combine onion, tomato sauce, shredded chicken, chili powder, coriander, cumin, corn meal, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and bouillon.
Mix thoroughly with hands. Shape mix into sticks no longer than about 3/4 the width of the corn husks.
PREPARATION – TAMALE COATING
In large bowl, mix corn meal, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Roll meat sticks in corn meal until coated all over.
Take a tablespoon of this coating and place it near the top, narrow part of the corn husk. Roll the husk from the top until the meat stick is enclosed. Fold in the sides of the husk and finish rolling. Be sure to roll it tight. Place the resulting tamale in second large pot with the seam side down.
Continue with the rest of the tamales. Put each tamale right up against the side of the pot or another tamale to prevent the husks from unraveling. You might wish to hold the tamales together with a wooden toothpick as well.
Mix sauce ingredients together. Pour sauce over tamales. Add enough water to cover the top layer of tamales. Bring to boil then reduce heat. Simmer for 40 minutes. Add vegetable oil. Simmer for 5 minutes more. Let soak for 30 minutes. This gives the cornmeal time to absorb the sauce.
Unroll the corn husks and serve the tamales. Cover the tamales with as much sauce as desired from the pot.
ADDITIONAL MEALS FROM THIS RECIPE
It’s possible that you might run out of pots to cook all the tamales you would otherwise make. You can use the excess meat mix as a burrito or taco filling. The remaining sauce in the pot makes an excellent chili soup. Reorganize the fridge. Make room for all this great food.
1) My grandmother, who was born in Sonora, used to make tamales. I wish I remembered this better.
2) After making this dish, you’ll have a much greater appreciation of why tamales cost so much in stores and in restaurants. You’ll also see why establishments make tamales in such big batches.
3) Profusely thank your sweetheart who cleans up after your cooking. If you don’t have a sweetheart, consider finding one to help you tidy up after making tamales.
4) There is a Tamale Museum in Newport Beach, California. Featured there are paintings of Los Angeles’ taco trucks.
5) The first tamale factory in America opened in Austin, Texas in 1911. Prior to that, America was in the culinary dark ages.
6) There is a tamale factory in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It opened in 1939. I’ve been there. Their food is good. People in Northwest Mississippi are serious about their tamales. Who knew?
– Chef Paul
My cookbook, Eat Me: 169 Fun Recipes From All Over the World, and novels are available in paperpack or Kindle on amazon.com
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