Tamales are such a magical thing...when I was little, my grandparents would take us down to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, where we'd buy them from a lady on the beach. She would come by with a plastic bucket full of the freshly made delights, and my mom and I would run for cash while my grandmother rolled her eyes and warned us about the various scary things that could be in the little mystery packages.
We were never deterred, though, and ran just as gleefully to any Mexican restaurant that opened back home in the Philadelphia area, usually only to be disappointed by something more closely resembling cornbread. And occasionally some kind of artificial sour cream. Blech.
Since moving to California where tamales are easy to find, my options have again become limited by my allergy to peppers. Making them at home is a bit of a chore--most Mexican families only make tamales once a year for Christmas--but it seems a more manageable task with my nifty Instant Pot!
This makes about 24 tamales, but you could cut it in half if you just wanted to do one round in the Instant Pot - only about 12 fit in there at one time.
For the filling:
-1 Tbsp oil (I prefer grapeseed, but canola, corn, or olive would be fine)
-salt and pepper
-1/2 onion (about 2/3 c chopped)
-2 tsp cumin
-1 tsp Mexican or regular oregano
-1 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
-1 Tbsp chile powder (optional, not pictured)
-Juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange or 1 lime, plus a little zest
-1/2 cup beer, chicken broth or water
Heat the oil and brown the meat, about 5 minutes on each side. Use the saute function on the Instant Pot or a heavy pot on the stove.
This should leave you with a lot of yummy brown stuff (fond) on the bottom that will add flavor to your tamales.
Return the meat and any juices it has deposited on the plate to the pot.
If using the Instant Pot, set to "seal" and press "manual". Adjust to 60 minutes cooking time and do a natural release.
If using the stovetop, add more liquid to just cover the meat, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for 2-3 hours until the meat falls apart easily. Check periodically to make sure it has enough liquid.
Remove from heat and let cool for one hour or overnight in the fridge.
For the Masa (dough):
-4 cups Instant Corn Masa mix (Maseca is the most common brand, and it's now available at most supermarkets. You can get it online rather easily if it hasn't hit your neighborhood yet.)
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 to 2 teaspoons salt (use 2 if you use water instead of broth)
-4 cups broth or 4 cups water
-2/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening, melted but not too hot
-Optional: some cumin and or Mexican oregano
Add the melted lard and mix well again, kneading for a couple of minutes. If the dough is thick but spreadable, you're good. If it's very stiff, add a little more broth or water (start with half a cup).
Spread some masa on the larger husks, doubling up with the narrower ones.
Repeat the process until the masa is gone. I have some extra meat that I'll use for tacos or salads tomorrow.
The tamales will look like the photo below when they're ready to go!
Steam the tamales: I use a steamer basket like this one.
Instant Pot: put 1 cup of water in the liner pot. Set the trivet in the pot and a steamer basket on top. Place a dozen tamales in the steamer basket, open end up and folded end down. Set to "seal" and press "manual". Adjust to 40 minutes and do a natural release. Serve with tomatillo salsa and/or fresh veggies!
If you make more than a dozen, you may need to do two batches. If so, cover the second batch of tamales with a wet paper towel to keep the husks from drying out while they wait to be steamed.
|The second dozen, waiting under a paper towel to be steamed...|
To reheat in the microwave: cover one or two tamales with a damp paper towel. Zap for about a minute per tamal, depending on the size and on your microwave.