We’ve made and devoured two batches of homemade tamales in the last month. If you have never made tamales, I assume it’s because (a) there is a tamale truck parked outside your house, or (b) you’ve heard that they’re hard to make.
(Before we go any further, yes, I realize the Spanish singular is el tamal, but “tamale” seems like a perfectly good English word to me.)
Tamales are not hard to make. They are extremely simple to make. Maybe I’m breaking some sort of tamalista code by revealing this. Furthermore, tamales are actually better if you cook them ahead and reheat them. Further-furthermore, tamale-making produces delicious byproducts. From the last batch, we have leftover pork filling that will go into tacos or burritos, plus a bunch of rich, garlicky pork stock that will form the basis of tortilla soup.
Finally, you can make a lot of tamales for not a lot of money.
We’ve tried two different pork tamale recipes, one from Rick Bayless and one from Zarela Martinez. Both were good; the Martinez recipe was slightly better, if only because the pork had a little vinegar in it. It’s hard to go wrong. Next time we’re going to try doing a cheese and green chile filling and a chicken with tomatillo filling. My only tips are: use good lard; spread the masa thinly (I used an offset spatula); and don’t skimp on the soaking time for the husks.
Iris has gone crazy for tamales. She has had tamales for four meals in the last three days. Okay, actually, so have I.
If you have a couple days off between now and 2009, and you’re not as snowed in as I am, please do me a favor and make some tamales. I want to hear about it.