I made two batches of tamales this week. Yes, two! I love tamales. My mom learned how to make them after we lived in Mexico in 1980, and I have loved them ever since. They’re not a thing you like to make often, because they are a little involved, but they are one of my favorite things in the world. And I’m not talking about the tamales you get in restaurants, I’m talking about the real thing.
This tamale obsession came about when I was in Boston, visiting my little brother. We arrived at his house in the evening, but I had run a race, and then ate lots of fantastic party food, and I wasn’t hungry. So NungNung just pulled a Trader Joe’s cheese and green chile tamale out of the freezer and warmed it up. I was so stinking jealous. We talked about the tamale issue, how utterly time-consuming it is to make them, how much we love them, how great it is to have frozen TJ’s tamales, even though they’re so inferior to the tamales we grew up with. I got tamales on the brain, and I couldn’t get them off.
So I bought 10 chicken legs (there was no turkey at the market), and found a local Mexican market where I bought corn husks, dried ancho chiles, dried poblano chiles, masa flour, and for good measure, some Sidral (the best apple soda in the world). And a couple of tamarind pulpos. Oh yeah, and I got about 2 pounds of jamaica blossoms, which they sold in bulk for $4.99 a pound. Actually, I probably only got 1/2 pound, but that’s still a huge bag of dried flowers. Tonight I will make some Agua de Jamaica, my favorite drink in the world (next to Sidral and this fantastic citrus drink I make with 1/3 orange juice, 1/3 Sprite, 1/3 water, and the juice of a lime. That was a life-saver while I was pregnant).
Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of making tamales. It took me 3 days, making the meat and raisin filling, toasting the chilies and making the sauce, soaking the corn husks, putting them together, and then steaming them (after I searched the house for 2 hours looking for my steamer insert, which I never found. I ended up using a metal colander set over a green chile can that had both ends cut out, in my big pot. I fit about 24 tamales in there. When they were done and cooled, I put most of them in the freezer. Today, I made another batch with the rest of the chicken filling. It turns out 10 chicken legs is really a lot of meat. When I ran out of that, I finished the batch with cheese and the green chilies that had been evicted from their can.
I sort of feel like I’ve passed this huge rite of, er, passage. I made tamales all by myself! It seems like it’s traditional to have the tamale making be a social event, with many hands helping, but I did it, and survived to tell the tale. Somehow, I think my 40 tamales will last long enough that I won’t need to think about making any more any time soon.
Also, if you know anyone who needs some chile sauce, I think I ended up making about 2 quarts. It was a little too much. By almost 2 quarts.