Tamales de Elote

Along with the pupusas, this meal was the one I was most excited to make. I love, love, LOVE tamales! They are the definition of comfort food to me. Like many Hispanic households, my family would get into tamale mode a bit after Thanksgiving and we would stay there until mid-January. They were always available during that time, either through us making them or buying them from the many, many women who sold them back home, but the biggest consumption time was right around Christmas. Because of this, I always associate tamales with the winter and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I ate my first tamale in a month that didn’t require a coat. That’s right, I was thirty before I ate a tamale that 1. wasn’t pork and 2. didn’t help keep me warm. I vividly remember that Oaxacan black bean and cheese tamale wrapped in a banana leaf and eating it at a farmer’s market in downtown Austin about five years ago.

Up until then, I couldn’t fathom eating a tamale in the spring or summer. It’s a hot food and you don’t eat hot foods when the temperature outside matches the temperature of the food.  This is also why I don’t eat soup in the summer. Barbecue is clearly the exception here because, I don’t know, it’s amazing. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again, I’m aware I’m weird.

So anyway, I was looking forward to making these tamales. I found the recipe online (that website is really awesome, by the way) and got to it. The last time I made tamales was for our New Year’s Eve party three years ago. I made almost fifteen dozen, ALONE, and it was painful. There’s a reason why there’s always an assembly line when making tamales: one person would develop carpal tunnel. My hands ached for a few days after but it was worth it because my tamales were the bomb.com. Luckily this recipe only made a dozen so I knew I could handle making a dozen on my own.

These tamales were different from what I’m used to because the filling, the corn, was actually incorporated into the masa. Typically you smear the masa on the husk and then put a dollop of filling in the middle but with this, I had to mix in the corn and butter directly with the maize and lard. The recipe said to steam them for thirty to forty five minutes but after forty five, they still felt soft, so I steamed them for another fifteen minutes. They still came out softer than usual tamales but my cousin, who was over for dinner, and I surmised that this had something to do with the corn being mixed in. I’m not a food chemist but I’m just guessing that the liquid the corn releases when being cooked had something to do with it.

Even with being softer than expected, they were fantastic! I had some rice and beans leftover from the day before so I whipped up some more Casamiento to go with it. The tamales were a little sweet and a lot lighter than what I’m used to but I still loved them. Spreading the masa wasn’t as easy as it is with pork tamales but again, I’m thinking that had to do with the corn. I’m also not the best at spreading masa. Growing up I was never allowed to spread the masa because I had a heavy had; my job was to put the meat in and wrap them. Translation: the crap job.

The girls loved them, the oldest especially, and since they were easy to make, I know I’ll make them again. Maybe when they’re older, the girls can help me and BOTH will be able to spread the masa because I will not allow them to grow up with a masa spreading insecurity.

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