TAMALE TAMALE TAMALE! The Gentleman’s Holiday Tamale-day

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Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

I used to live much further uptown than I presently do. I didn’t much care for it. If I can avoid the perils of humanity that one encounters on the New York City subway, I certainly do.

But there used to be (probably still is) a little Columbian or Dominican or Guatemalan or Salvadoran (you get the gist) lady at the subway exit. She had an igloo ice chest with her and she would yell, “TAMALE TAMALE TAMALE!” And people bought tamales.

In many Latin American cultures, making tamales at Christmastime is a beloved tradition. I love tamales. When I was a kid, after we’d slaughter a cow, we’d take the head to this old Mexican lady, and she would make us batches and batches of delicious, greasy tamales.

The Gentleman Caller is not in the practice of stewing cow heads. Not that I wouldn’t, it’s just not super accessible to me presently. However, we are definitely going to make some tamales.

In this recipe, I am repurposing leftover holiday turkey! Hooray, a very well cloaked use for holiday turkey. I also brought the fat content waaaay down. I am (unapologetically) using lard. You can use shortening. But lard is more traditional, and you aren’t using that much.

So don your sombrero and let’s cook.

What you need:

  • 1/2 pound spicy chorizo, uncased
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 large white onion, diced
  • 10 cloves roasted garlic*
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 4 teaspoons fajita seasoning
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic flakes
  • 2 teaspoons onion flakes
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis
  • 1 1/2 pounds leftover turkey, white, dark or both**
  • 3/4 cup lard or shortening
  • 4 cups masa harina
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 quart plus 1/2 cup (approximate) chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 30 dried corn husks

*Toss garlic cloves with oil. Put them in a foil pouch in the oven at 250 for an hour or so. 

**You may substitute rotisserie chicken or any other leftover poultry. 

Put your corn husks in a large bowl with warm water covering them. Allow to sit at least an hour.

In a dutch oven, bring olive oil to near smoking. Add chorizo and onion, stirring and breaking up the chorizo. Add the roasted garlic and get it smashed into the mixture. When the sausage is cooked, add paprika, fajita seasoning, chili powder, garlic flakes and onion flakes. Let the spices open up on the heat. This is probably starting to stick a little, so throw in the Rotel. The liquid will deglaze a bit. Add the 1/2 cup stock. Add the leftover turkey. Turn the heat to low. Allow to cook on low till the meat is shred-able. Allow it to cool.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the lard at high speed until it’s creamy and whippy (yes, I just invented that word). Stir masa, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and white pepper together in another bowl. Add to the lard one cup at a time. After the third cup of dry ingredients, you may start incorporating the stock as well. Alternate dry mixture and stock. Mix just until everything is smooth.

Set up your work station.

Take a couple of corn husks and tear them into 1/3 inch strips. These are your ties. You may also use cooking twine.

Assemble your bowls in an order that makes sense to assemble these suckers. Leave the husks in water; you’ll need to continue to wet your hands as you mash the masa.

Lay a corn husk down on the work surface. Take approximately 1/3 cup masa mixture and mash it into a rectangle. Please refer to the video; it is helpful. Add about 1 1/2 tablespoons filling to the center of the masa. Roll the two edges together, smoosh from the bottom up like a tube of toothpaste, and tie a simple knot across the middle with your corn husk ties.

Repeat. And repeat.

Find a tall pot. Put a steamer basket in the bottom. Line the bottom with corn husks. Put enough water in the bottom to just reach the husks.

Stand the tamales upright in the pot. Leaning them into the sides of the pot helps. Put a lid on the top. Crank up the gas so the water simmers.

About every 15 minutes, check the water level. You will need to add water.

Steam for about an hour. You’ll be able to see when the dough is done. An hour, an hour and fifteen should do it.

Allow them to cool in the pot.

You can eat these plain as they are right now, or you can top them. I am going to make a chili sauce for topping. Here’s the link: http://thegentlemancaller.net/the-gentleman-callers-all-purpose-chili-sauce-1/

These freeze really well. Just leave them in the husk, wrap with foil and place in a zip top bag in the freezer. To reheat, allow to thaw, cover with a clean, wet kitchen towel and microwave.

Holy frijoles, these are deliciouso. Olé for now.

xo – The Gentleman Caller



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