Tamale and Me

Armed with a three-word Spanish vocabulary, our daughter Katherine traveled to a tiny Mexican town one summer determined to teach Shakespeare to the children there.  In the six weeks she spent in Bocas, she cheerfully learned to hunt (but not eat) rats, produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a troupe of shy little ones who had never seen a play before, and learned to appreciate authentic Mexican food.
Last weekend, she taught us how to make tamales,comfort food with a spicy kick.
We all enjoyed the process as we sat in front of the fire in our north woods cabin and twisted corn husks around tender chicken and batter.
Tamales have been around for nearly 8,000 years and their recipe has not really changed at all, though, ironically, we received it and some helpful tips via text message from Katherine’s tamale mentor, Berta Sosa.
It’s quite a privilege to dip your fingers into a batter that has been around since 6000 BC. Some meals and the banter they inspire transcend taste and nutrition and become genuine events. Our lazy Saturday at the cabin developed just that way.
We look forward to more tamale afternoons when we can take a few hours to hang out, chat and wrap up tasty treats.
And now we can add two more words to Katherine’s Spanish vocabulary: muy deliciosa!

Spices: red chile powder, cumin, garlic powder orfresh garlic, pepper,salt and onion.

Masa (batter)
Salsa Verda
Corn Husks

1. We added these spices to eight chicken breasts, covered them in water and cooked them on low overnight in the crock pot. Katherine used a teaspoon of each spice and the whole bottle of salsa verde, but you can add the spices toyour own taste. Shred the cooked chicken, drain it and set it aside. You will use the extra liquid in the batter.

2. Make the Masa. Use the broth from cooking the chicken and add it to 2 cups of Maseca Dough for Tamales. (You’ll need 2 cups of liquid so if you don’t have enough broth, add water.) Add 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2/3 cup vegetable shortening. We added chile powder as well.
3. Soak corn husks in water until they’re softened.

4. Spread batter in a corn husk, top with shredded chicken, roll corn husk and tie.
5. Place husks in a colander suspended over a pot of boiling water. (This is our little invention and we were quite proud.) Cover the colander with a cloth towel and then cover the pot. Let steam.
6. Steam for 45 minutes or so until the husk can be pulled back and the batter and chicken are cooked through.

Here they are all wrapped and ready to steam.
These are the ingredients for the Masa. We added broth, but
you can just use water as well.
Chicken and salsa verde cooked all night.
We covered the husks with water, a plate and a heavy cup so
they would soak easily until they were soft.
On their side of the table, Katherine and Molly rolled tamales sweetly.
Katherine demonstrates the proper technique.
My side of the table, which also included my nutty sister Jenny,
may have gotten a little competitive.
Molly enjoys chopping cilantro.
Here’s our little tamale judge.
We steamed the tamales inside a colander that rested above
a pot of boiling water. We covered the colander with a towel and topped
the whole thing with the lid of the pot.
Katherine whipped up a delicious dish of Spanish rice.

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