Monday, May 24, 2010

Hot Tamales! Pineapple-Pecan and Tomatillo-Chicken

This was (and I feel like I've been saying this a lot lately) unlike anything I've ever made.  The process is pretty involved and kind of bewildering the first time.  I had quite a time finding the corn husks but in the process I found a glorious international food section at Stop-n-Shop, where I seldom go, so I think the search was worth it.

I made the dough from masa harina, but next time I'd like to make real fresh masa from dried corn and slaked lime.  I have wanted to do that for years now.  For the pineapple tamales, the dough included pineapple puree and panela sugar, and for the chicken tamales the dough was made with chicken broth.  I didn't know what to make of the fact that the pineapple dough was much thicker than the chicken dough, and contained twice as much masa for the same number of tamales.  The filling for the pineapple tamales was chopped fresh pineapple, raisins and roasted pecans.  The filling for the chicken one was chopped cooked chicken legs and tomatillo salsa.

To fill the tamales, I put a blob of dough on a corn husk, spread it into roughly a 2 x 4 rectangle, mounded some filling in the middle, folded the corn husk around it and tied it with a cord.  This was pretty messy because I inevitably got some dough on my fingers and it's kind of oily so I had trouble holding the bundle together while tying it up.  All the while the dough is trying to slip out of every available opening in the corn husk.  It took about forty-five minutes to assemble twenty-nine tamales, plus an hour and a half to steam them.

Time investment aside, it is undoubtedly neat to cook and serve a bundle of food in the same organic utensil.  They are also delicious and definitely best served hot.  I have to imagine that tamales, like most labor-intensive dumplings, are best made with many hands.

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