Friends invited us to a picnic at Joralemon, so I made a batch of tamales. I’ve made tamales three times before, each time with guidance from Veganomicon and instructions on the side of the bag of Instant Corn Masa Mix. The first effort went well enough, as I remember it, but the next two times, yesterday included, the tamales required nearly double the time in the steamer (an hour and a half as opposed to the advertised forty-five minutes). I’d open one at 45 minutes and it the dough would still be wet. I’d tie it back up and try another 15 minutes and at an hour and a half they’d seem close to right.
Both Veganomicon and the bag suggest a one to one ratio of stock to masa mix, so that is what I always did. The dough was pretty wet (just short of pancake batter), but what did I know? This morning, with the problem fresh in my mind, I made another batch. I added one and a half cups of stock to two cups of masa mix. The dough was drier, but still easy to work with. Between pancake batter and cookie dough. I ended up with twelve tamales with lovely texture after 45 minutes in the steamer. This reminds me of the importance of adding liquids to unfamiliar batters in stages. You can always add more if the batter seems too dry.
My folding technique has evolved, too. I now press a quarter cup of dough into a small tortilla-sized, pancake-thick, round in my hand. With the grain of the corn husk running vertically, I lay the dough along the left edge, leaving a couple of inches of husk on the top, right and bottom. I lay a stripe of filling vertically in the middle of the dough. I roll the husk from left to right until a tube of dough is formed (the empty right part of the husk is still unrolled), fold the top and bottom edges of the husk in and then continue the roll to trap the edges. Very tidy.
Tying the tamales was always a struggle. I’d make ties from strips of husk. String would be easier, but about one hundred times less cute. Now I tie two strips together to make a double length husk strip tie and tying is now reliable and fun. Too long, really, but the extra length is pretty and makes it easier to untie when eating time arrives.
Filling? I sautéed chopped onion for twenty minutes on low heat to come close to caramelization (I wanted to caramelize them, but in my thirty or so years of cooking have never once managed the patience required for a good caramelization–and only just learned that can take as many as forty minutes). Then added jalapeno, garlic and mushrooms. Spinach, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper last. Next time I am going to leave time for full caramelization.
The picnic was great. Our friends are so very wonderful. Every time we get together I count my blessings that they share their lives with us. We played bocce, skipped rocks at the river, looked for cave openings and ate wonderful food. Most of these folks are vegan or nearly so and most of the dishes are made vegan. If dairy is involved, it is kept on the side. A little thing, but it goes a long way to making us feel welcome and cared-for. Not a golf disk was thrown, but I didn’t mind a whit. I was having too much fun to care.
Hope you are all well.