Sunday, March 8, 2009


I made tamales this weekend.

That's a bit of a lie- WE made tamales this weekend. Nic might get a little upset if I don't give credit where credit is due. As it turns out- making tamales isn't necessarily as time consuming as I had thought it would be- which isn't to say that it wasn't an involved process. Also- to be fair, I've sort of made tamales before- during my study abroad in Ecuador. Except that by 'helping' the only thing my host mother allowed me to do was to clean the banana leaves.

When Nic and I moved in together and mixed possessions I took note of his Diana Kennedy book: The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. After perusing the pages I dismissed authentic Mexican food as too time consuming, involved and it's processes very unfamiliar (sorry, Mexico). In a word- intimidating. Last week on The Splendid Table, Lynne Rossetto Kasper went to Mexico and hung out with Diana Kennedy. It was then that I knew I had to open the book again.

For the pork, we went to Gartner's Meats in NE Portland. I had previously been to Gartner's once before- to offer moral support as my vegetarian friend bought a whole beef heart for her small students to poke and prod. Apparently Saturday's are good business for Gartner's- and it was absolutely packed. I haven't seen so many people excited about meat in a long time. Gartner's had a very effective system for dealing with the madness- a take-a-number system. After taking number 99 (after which they promptly re-filled the roll) and waiting we were got our tamale pork (as well as bacon and a pepperoni stick) we were on our way to try to find a Mexican Tienda. After some driving around, we found one and stocked up on masa, ancho chilies, corn husks and cojita cheese. We were all set.

We managed not to eff up the tamales (they tasted great!)- although I'm still skeptical about the assembly part.

The recipe called for the pork to be cubed and boiled. I'm not the biggest fan of boiled meat- but we used a great deal of the stock for the sauce as well as the masa. I wouldn't say I'm a convert to boiled meat, but it was quite effective for the purpose of tamales.

While I made a sauce with the ancho chili's (simmered with garlic for 5 or so minutes to soften the dried chili's and then blended with broth, cumin and pepper) Nic shredded the meat. We then took turns hand-blending lard and broth and some sauce with the masa to create a nice dough while the meat simmered in the sauce.

The assembly part was not as much difficult as I was convinced I was doing it wrong. After wrapping (and tying the ones that needed a little extra help- not to mention a little extra cuteness) they were steamed for a good 50 minutes.

Topped with a bit of cojita cheese- we ate several and distributed the rest in the fridge/freezer for lunch next week.

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