Of all the glorious corn-based creations on Earth, tamales—steamed cornmeal cakes filled with protein or vegetables—are my fave to eat. Though they take forever to make, you can whip up a few dozen of these at once, freeze them, then reheat as you want to eat them.
Makes: 3 dozen tamales
Total Time: 7 hours for pork, 3 hours for vegetarian
You’ll need a slew of cornhusks, a steamer, and plenty of time. Buy the dry husks from a Mexican grocery store and soak them in warm water for at least an hour. (You can cut thin strips from them to use as ties later on.) Traditional tamale dough is made with lard; if that grosses you out, substitute the shortening of your choice.
In a mixing bowl, blend 6 coffee cups of masa harina (corn flour) with a sprinkle each of salt, baking powder, and dried oregano. Add a coffee cup of lard or shortening, a shot of fresh lime juice, and 4 coffee cups of beef or vegetable broth. You want to wind up with something like soft dough or thick batter. If the dough is too dry, add more broth.
Put three good plops of dough on the inside of your corn husks and spread it out, leaving at least 1″ of empty space on all sides. Then put two plops of your chosen tamale filling—see below for options—in the center of the dough. Roll or fold the husk closed and secure it with twine or corn-husk ties. To cook the tamales, place a bamboo steamer over a wok of boiling water (or use a big pot with a steamer insert) and cover the top; steam for an hour. Make sure the top of the water is at least a few inches below the steamer rack, and don’t overcrowd your tamales—you may have to cook in a few batches.
Pork filling: Rub a pork butt with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and put in a deep baking pan. Add water to the pan till it comes 2 inches up the butt’s side and put in the oven, covered at 300 degrees, for about 5 hours. If it dries out, add more water. Let cool, then shred with your fingers or a fork and add your favorite hot sauce.
Vegetarian filling: Sauté three handfuls of diced onions for a few minutes, then throw in a pinch of minced jalapeno, a plop of minced garlic, two handfuls of fresh or frozen corn kernels, three handfuls of diced zucchini, and cook until the veggies are super-soft. For a little protein, throw in a few handfuls of cooked beans and a heaping handful of grated cheddar cheese. (Vegans can use their fave non-dairy cheese.) Add hot sauce and salt to taste, and mix.
By Chef Rossi
Photography by Emily Kate Roemer