Monday, April 16, 2007


Spicy Mushroom Tamales

My weekend was just so rockin’ I want share! (Kinda the point of this site, now that I think of it. Sharing and whatall.)

I’ll try to keep it food-centric though. Promise.

On our very balmy Friday night I met up with my Wine and Gun Club (more on that some other time, I promise. It’s good stuff) for dinner at the chic and fab Santa Monica mainstay, JiRaffe.

My basic report is that after 10 (give or take, I don't really know) years, the food is still great, our server was a complete freak and Chef-Owner Raphael is still adorable and welcoming. So what if it took 1.5 hours for us to get a table! He gave us champagne. Free booze and I’m a happy girl! What can I say, I’m cheap that way.

Saturday night involved what I can only say was the worst play I have ever sat through. Now, I admit, I lured The Ombudsman to a Mamet spectacular recently, but his payback, in the form of a gay-themed musical, spoofing a bad television show from the 50’s, playing in the basement of a Mexican Restaurant? Much, much worse. Really, really bad. (Bad acting, bad singing, bad lighting, nothing funny even thought it was supposed to be get the idea) Luckily, prior to the show, we had dinner at Dusty’s. Wow, what took me so long to get there? Loved it. Food was great, service was great, ambiance (wait for it!)...great. If you are in the Silverlake area, I say get yourself over there.

But it was Sunday’s extravaganza that is the really good stuff my peaches. It was for a Mexican themed dinner party, and wowee wow did I get my fun on with this. I made TAMALES!

I know, you are psyched for me, right?

I had just always wanted to make them, and never really had a reason up until just then, (being a single girl and all, having vast quantities of rich food in my freezer is something I tend to avoid.) and I went for it full force. Hee hee.

After five hours of prepping and 30 minutes of self-primping, I appeared with them at the designated time. The response from our gracious hostess, was wide-eyed awe. (Something I fully admit motivates a lot of my cooking) And a basic statement to the affect of, “Wow. That’s a lot of work, isn’t it?”

And you know what? IT IS. It is. A Lot of Work. Time consuming insanity. I totally get why in Mexico, it’s a family affair, because I’m telling you, many hands would have for sure made this lighter work. Not that I didn’t enjoy every moment, because I did, but heavens, it took an age to get done. An age. To give you an idea, I think that while making these I managed to also clean my bathroom, get my hair colored (Its flaming red now, and frankly, I’m freaking out. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I sat down in the chair. Oh well.) read a few chapters of an awesome book and have a 40 minute phone conversation...

My point here is that time-consumption aside, I love-love-love tamales, and am excited I found an excuse to make some. I learned this’s not about the filling. As much as I want them to be about the filling, it’s not. It’s about the masa. It’s about making light and fluffy steamed corn dough. The nature of the beast is that you just can’t get that much filling in there. There is no way. So make what you can get in there as flavorful as possible, and concentrate on the balance of tastes. You can fill it with pretty much anything too, which is part of the fun.

So I say go for it, make a huge batch, freeze them and enjoy all year long. They aren't complicated, just time consuming, so dive in and enjoy!

2 cups masa dough
1 cup chilled shortening
1 teaspoon baking powder
20 corn husks, soaked in hot water for an hour
¼ cup warm water
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large roasted poblano chile
1 tomato, diced
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
Pinch of habenero chile powder
½ teaspoon chile flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a mixer, whip the shortening and baking powder for a minute to combine. Add the masa in two steps and add warm water if it is getting too stiff. You are looking for a medium-soft dough.

You should be able to handle it without it sticking to your hands, and a small bit of it should float in a glass of cold water.

Cover and refrigerate that for an hour, while you make the filling.

Saute the mushrooms, garlic and onion until just browned. Add the chile, tomato, oregano, chile powder and chile flakes and continue to cook until most of the liquid is gone, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Remove the masa from your fridge and re-whip for a minute. Taste (gross, but necessary.) and salt as needed.

Drain the corn husks. Lay one on the counter in front of you, pointy side facing you. Add ¼ cups masa in a 4 inch long rectangle shape to the top portion of the husk, leaving an inch at the top. Spread a scant tablespoon of filling in a 1 inch vertical swath down the center. There needs to be at least an inch of dough on each side of the filling. Pick up the two long sides of the husk and bring them together. Roll the flaps of the husk in the same direction of the tamale. Fold the pointy side upward and secure by tying with a thin strip of the extra corn husks.

Now you have to steam them, upright. I put a steaming basket in a soup pot, stood them up and covered the pot to steam for an hour and fifteen minutes. Worked perfectly. They are done when the corn husk comes away from the dough easily.

Makes about 16


For better directions on how to do this, check this out

What is a tamale? Pork and vegetables encased in masa dough and wrapped in a corn husk and then steamed or boiled.

So then, what is masa? A dough of water and masa harina.

Which leads me to, what is masa harina? a flour like powder used to make masa. It's made with sun or fire dried corn kernels that have been cooked in limewater (water mixed with calcium oxide). After having been cooked, then soaked in the limewater overnight, the wet corn is ground into masa harina.

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oooh look at those tamales! i love them too and would love to learn how to make them one day. haveu had the ones from the farmers market? yum!
I don't think I've ever had tamales, maybe you should bring me some?
Brilynn, wow! I wonder if they arent something you only love if you grew up eating them. I know a lot of people who try them for the first time are underwhelmed, but to me they are pure comfort food. You should make a batch!
And Aria, Yes, I love them! Factoring in the time it took to make these, I would say those are about 700x's cheaper too. LOL.
So Rachael, veering over to the glory side, eh. I hope your experimenting with tamales only leads you to make more. For me, I tend to concentrate on basic carnitas/ chile colorado tamales during the holidays. Mrs. C surprised the hell out of me one day when she worked in duck and sour cherries into the batch and we went wild. Bayless seems to have a good handle on the process for publishing purposes but civilians may benefit by simply following the recipes on the back of the Maseca bag. You have endeared yourself to me foreever with this post. Now, I'm very sorry to say, now you own me.

By the way, while we were down Yucatan way we ate several batches of tameles prepared with Hojas banana (Banana leaves)
You might find our website with free home canning videos of interest and perhaps helpful to your audience, or those looking for ways to preserve fresh food.
Thank you!
David Blackburn
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