I LOVE TAMALES! Any kind. Any shape. Any flavor. There is something about the texture of the masa that is so comforting to me. (( I admit, it may be because I grew up with a mom that made fabulous tamales. But still.)) The masa is creamy and yet fluffy at the same time. A culinary wonder! Tamales are a traditional holiday food in the American southwest and in many south-of-the-border countries.
But. They are a LOT of work. Just for instance, check out Chowhound's videos about tamale making. My Mom and I would make tamales for Christmas - one year we made 100 dozen - yes, that's 1,200 tamales! - and it took us two very long, grueling days. It was worth it, though: we gave them out to friends and family for presents and got rave reviews!. We loved being the Tamale Fairies!
With my life as insanely busy as it is, I was determined to make a shortcut version that has all the flavor and textures of the old school version. Not quite as perfect as those in my memory, perhaps, but very close. So, with that in mind, I decided to avoid the wrapping in corn husks and just cooked the masa like you would individual custards in ramekins set in a water bath. Then, thought I, I will just make the filling and top the individual masa servings with filling and serve them that way. Sort of "inside-out" tamales, if you will.
And the verdict? - - - drum roll please . . .
They are wonderful! They satisfied my craving for that amazing masa taste and texture - and with a fraction of the time and hassle. You won't find anything out there like these - I searched the blog-o-sphere. All the results of a search for "easy tamale" resulted in blog posts about "tamale pie" or "tamale casserole." I did love the Homesick Texan's post about doing a "tamale party" in which, Tom Sawyer style, you enlist your friends and neighbors into helping with the tamale mass production. But this easy shortcut way to do tamales is an Everyday Southwest Exclusive!!!
If you love tamales, but have avoided making them because they are just too much work --- try this simplified recipe. But I'm warning you: you will have to make them again and again. And again!
SHORTCUT INSIDE-OUT TAMALES
7 cups fresh or frozen thawed corn
¾ cup unsalted butter, lard or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup masa harina
Filling of choice for tamales (I used shredded pork and red chile sauce)
Blend in blender 6 cups of the corn until smooth. Blend the remaining 1 cup of corn in blender until only small chunks remain. Stir the two batches of corn together in a large mixing bowl. Mix in all remaining ingredients (except filling). Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight. (NOTE: Don't skip this step. The dough needs to rest in order to hydrate the masa correctly. Otherwise, these will have a "grainy" texture.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter 8 1-cup ramekins and set in a large roasting pan. Fill each ramekin with ⅔ cup masa mixture. Pour hot water around ramekins, filling pan halfway up sides of ramekins. Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for one hour.
Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes. Cut around inside edge of ramekin with a knife and invert onto serving plates. Top with your favorite tamale filling. (I used shredded pork in a red chile sauce and lots of olives).
-- posted by Donna