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Green Chile & Monterrey Jack Tamales

Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

Having been born and raised in San Antonio, I can assure you that I have eaten a fair share of tamales! Often my family has them on Christmas Eve, which is a very popular tradition down here. Every grocery store has corn husks in the produce section, and some even sell giant tamaleras for steaming huge batches of tamales. You might therefore assume that I’ve made tamales before, but nope…this is why they’re on my list!

husks aplenty!

Traditional tamales are meat-filled and usually have lard in the masa so I haven’t had so many in the past couple years due to the vegetarian kinds being less common. All the more reason to make my own! Maranda provided a vegan black bean recipe which sounded tasty, but I decided to go an easier route and fill mine with monterrey jack, hatch green chiles, and cumin.

I’ve always heard about how difficult, or maybe rather time-consuming, it is to make homemade tamales, but never really knew why. It’s a tradition for many families to get together and make large quantities for Christmas, so I guess making copious amounts of anything can become tedious. Since the husks need to be soaked a few hours, there is a little planning ahead, but after that, you make the filling, masa dough, and then assemble and steam.

tamale station

My experience? They were pretty easy and didn’t take all that long! That said, I only made about 15 and the filling required minimal prep, but it was just me. Pretty much every tamale I’ve had has been reheated even though most were homemade, so eating these was a new experience! They’re so much less dry when fresh out of the pot – the outer part has a softer, lighter texture.

ready to go!

Green Chile and Monterrey Jack Tamales
adapted from Jolts & Jollies

Usually I just link to the Daring Kitchen recipes, but used a different filling and also revised the dough a little bit. I noticed that the vegan dough had no baking powder and less salt than the chicken dough, so this is a bit of a combo of the two.

dried corn husks (I needed less than 20)

4 cups masa harina (corn tortilla mix), I used instant masa mix
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (omit if already in masa mixture)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (omit if already in masa mixture)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2-3 cups vegetable broth

8 ounces monterrey jack cheese, grated
1 4-ounce can diced hatch green chiles
ground cumin, for sprinkling over each (I used less than a tablespoon)

In a large pot, soak the corn husks for at least 3 hours, flipping occasionally until softened.

With a mixer, combine the masa, salt, baking powder, and olive oil at medium speed. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in 2 cups of the broth. The dough should have a texture similar to cookie dough. If too dry, add more broth 2 tablespoons at a time.

For assembling the tamales, I’m going to direct you to the challenge write-up because Maranda has great step-by-step photos. The filling I went with is pretty self-explanatory: sprinkle cheese down the middle, top with chiles, then lightly sprinkle with cumin!

oozy goodness!

Tamales are really great when you top them with chile, but I opted to have mine with avocado salad (err, essentially unmashed guacamole) and homemade refried black beans!

Refried Black Beans

Refried Black Beans
adapted from Epicurious

Black beans are tastier and more nutritious than pinto beans! Less healthy tip for the meat eaters from your naughty vegetarian friend: instead of the oil, use bacon grease. (I miss you, bacon.)

1/2 tablespoon oil (I used vegetable)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 15-ounce can black beans, NOT drained
1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth or water

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Saute the garlic, cumin, and chipotle for about a minute or so over medium low heat. Add the black beans with their water, then mash them with a potato masher and/or the back of a spoon. Cook until heated through, stirring often. Stir in 1/2 cup of whichever liquid, adding more if necessary.

husk imprints

Thanks to Maranda for challenging us to make tamales! It’s so satisfying to be able to say that I’ve finally made these (and cross them off the list!). Now I need to experiment with different fillings and have a tamale-making party!