Tamales

Prep: 2 hours Cook: 1 hour

Serves:Makes 40-50 tamales

I have had several requests for tamales lately and although this recipe takes quite a bit of time to prepare, the results are well worth it. The masa filling is nice and moist because of the mashed potatoes used in the dough. The idea for using mashed potatoes in the dough came from one of the chefs years ago on one of our McDougall Adventure trips to Costa Rica where every morning for breakfast they served us tamales wrapped in banana leaves. If you prepare this recipe with friends, it will seem to take much less time. It also makes a lot of tamales, but they may be frozen for later use if you can't eat them all in one week.

Ingredients

  • Wrap:
  • banana leaves or corn husks (see hint below)
  • Filling:
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • Dough:
  • 5 cups fine masa flour, plus extra for kneading as necessary
  • 4 cups room temperature water
  • 6 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • several twists fresh ground pepper

Directions

Thaw the banana leaves or soak the corn husks in warm water until soft. (Separate the husks to make softening easier.) Rinse both to make sure they are clean.

Place the vegetable broth in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining filling ingredients and cook over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the 5 cups of masa flour in a large bowl. Add the water and mix with a spoon until it sticks together and starts to come away from the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of the extra masa flour on your work surface. Remove dough from bowl, place it on the masa flour and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy, adding more masa flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to your work surface. Place the ball of dough in a very large clean bowl. Add the mashed potatoes and mix together well using your hands. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the banana leave into pieces approximately 7-8 inches by 12-14 inches. Keep the corn husks covered with a damp paper towel until ready to fill.

Spread 1/8 to 1/4 cup of the potoato-masa mixture in the center of either the banana leaf or corn husk. Make a small indentation in the center of the mixture and fill with 1-2 teaspoons of the filling mixture. Fold the wrapper over lengthwise to cover the masa mixture and fold again lengthwise. Fold both ends under and set aside with the folded ends down. The filling should be completely enclosed. If your corn husks are on the small side, tie the ends instead of folding under. Repeat until all the mixture is used. Put the completed tamales under damp paper towels until all are assembled.

Arrange the tamales in loose layers in a steamer. Steam over boiling water for 1 hour, adding more water as necessary. (If you steam them in a single layer in batches, they will only take about 30 minutes to cook.)

To serve, remove the wrapper and discard. Serve with enchilada sauce or salsa to spoon over the top.

Hints: Dried corn husks are sold in the specialty food section of most supermarkets. If you can't find them, check with your local Mexican market. Banana leaves can usually be found frozen in most Mexican markets. Banana leaves are much larger than corn husks so they hold a greater amount of the dough and filling. Masa flour is also sold in Mexican markets, although some supermarkets do carry it. The filling put into the dough is entirely optional, tamales are delicious just plain. Or instead of the filling given here, try them filled with mango salsa, mashed pinto or black beans, or seasoned rice and vegetables.