Hot Tamales

Here in South Texas you can’t escape the Mexican influence, especially the food. Mexican restaurants are everywhere  serving tacos, tortillas, barbacoa, burritos, hamburguesas, refried beans and huevos rancheros ( Mexican fried eggs served on a tortilla with refried beans and salsa), but our favorite is tamales.  Made from corn masa dough with a meat, cheese or bean filling, wrapped in a corn husk,  steamed and served with a red or green sauce (both spicy).

We discovered tamales two years ago when we spent our first winter here. We bought a dozen and put them in the back of the truck with Boscoe, our dog. On our drive home we had one more stop and carelessly left them alone together. When we returned, six were gone, the package was carefully unwrapped and the tamales were eaten corn husks and all. Needless to say the dog had no supper that night and he had some gastric issues that I won’t go into detail about.

We learned our lesson again;  never leave defenseless food in his company.

how you buy the masa

how you buy the masa

the meat filling, in this case pork

the meat filling, in this case pork

beans

beans

queso fresco, Mexican cheese

queso fresco, Mexican cheese

soaked corn husks

soaked corn husks

In the Mexican home tamales are usually served only on special occasions, Christmas, weddings or quinceaneras. A quinceanera is a birthday celebration for 15 year old girls, a very special occasion with fancy dresses, sort of like a Debutante Ball or Bar Mitsva.  Anyway, tamales are so time consuming and fiddly to make that they are made as a family effort. All the grandmothers, mothers, nieces, sisters, aunts and granddaughters get together to share the work; which is, of course,  womens’ work. Lots of laughter and fun, a time for family which is very important in the Mexican culture.

Sue chef, the teacher

Sue chef, the teacher

Here at our park we had a tamale making class and I learned enough about tamale making to know I will never make them on my own. First thing I learned is they are loaded with fat, lots of it, both lard and shortening. We thought we were doing a good thing when we only purchased the bean tamales, but the lard (animal fat) is in the dough and as we are mostly vegetarians, not the best thing.

the fat

the fat

First you mix  masa with fat, by hand. Then you spread the dough onto the previously soaked corn husks and then spread the filling over dough and roll it up.

 masa the right consistency

masa the right consistency

ready to roll

ready to roll

rolled tamales

rolled tamales

When they are rolled they are tied into bundles of six and then steamed in a large pot for one and a half to two hours. The whole process from start to finish took most of the day.

Delia's

Delia’s

$10 Tuesday

$10 Tuesday

The results were delicious, but there is an easier way. Delia’s is a chain of restaurants, here in the Rio Grande Valley, where you can buy all the tamales you need, eat in or take out. They are the best in South Texas and you don’t have to spend all day making them.

in the steamer

in the steamer

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