Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beef Tamales!

So look at me! Two posts in one week! Wheeeeeee! And to top it off these were dinner tonight. Wow am I on top of it!

Let me start at the beginning. I love tamales. I mean I LOVE tamales. I had my first tamale in 1993 when I was flunking out of the University of Michigan and fairly lost as to who I wanted to be. My very good friend and I decided to take a massive road trip from Ann Arbor to Texas. One of our mothers told us we had to pick a direction we were going and the other told us we had to narrow it down to a state. So four days later, when after a beautiful trip down the Natchez Trace Parkway, my friend L and I were sitting down having lunch in San Antonio. I had my first tamale and I. was. hooked.

From then on, if I could find a tamale on the menu I was likely to order it. My aunt mentioned at one point that she got together with her husband's family every year at Christmas to make tamales. We had a lovely swap for several years where I would trade her an enormous box of Christmas cookies for a homemade tamale lunch.

Then I moved to Kansas. Besides having a hard time adjusting from the big city life of Chicago (where I finally got my degree at Loyola and would have stayed if I could have found a job), I suddenly found myself tamale-less. Yikes! While I consoled myself with a far more than healthy dosing of barbecue, occasionally I would find myself wishing I could find a tamale.

Courtney, over at Coco Cooks, had an event last March called the Tamale Open and I seriously thought about entering, but I was chicken. Tamales seemed to go together like magic and I am really no good at magic. So don't ask me why last month, when I was wandering around Detroit's Mexican Village with my family, listening to my sister M explain how the I-75 improvements were being built (she works for M-Dot) I decided I would bite the bullet and make my own tamales. Call me inspired by the delicious food, but I was determined to do it. I even picked up some masa harina.

I learned a whole bunch of things too. First- there is a reason that tamales are made to celebrate All Saints Day (Nov. 1) or Christmas Eve. My cozy little house is now a toasty 700 degrees inside from running the oven for an hour and a half and then steaming for an hour. Second- tamales are traditionally made with groups of women. I imagine they end up doing this assembly line style because I only made these with my good friend Two Buck Chuck and I ended up with dough and filling all over the place. Third- It is a good idea to read the entire recipe before starting. Dinner at 9:30pm is running a little late for me. And I don't think I would have made them the hottest week of the year so far if I had read about the cooking times. and Finally- It is important to check and make sure you have all the ingredients you need. I simply assumed we had another packet of beef stew meat in the freezer of meat. But we've been working hard to empty it (the fair is next week) and I had to substitute round steak.

So with all this learning. I was seriously doubting my wisdom in making these tamales. I even felt that it would be a good idea for me to taste one when they were done before calling the Brain and either offering to bring him some or order him a pizza. I was sure of failure. But hey these were pretty good! So good I'm not sure there's any point in sticking the leftovers in the freezer.

Beef Tamales
adapted from Cooking Light

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound round steak cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
14 large dried corn husks
3 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water

Remaining ingredients:
aluminum foil
Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare filling, heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Add beef; sauté 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Stir in 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring mixture to a boil. Cover and bake 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender.

Transfer beef to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Pour drippings into a glass measure. Add enough water to drippings to equal 1 cup. Shred beef into bite-sized pieces. Heat pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Return beef to pan; sprinkle with flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in cayenne pepper; stir in drippings mixture. Reduce heat, and cook 7 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring often. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.

Place whole corn husks in a large bowl; cover with water. Weight husks down with a can; soak 30 minutes. Drain husks.

To prepare dough, combine masa and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add butter and oil; stir well. Add broth and 1 cup water; stir until a soft dough forms.

Working with one husk at a time, place about 1/4 cup masa dough in the center of the husk; press dough into a 4 x 3-inch rectangle. Spoon about 2 tablespoons beef mixture down one side of the dough. Using the corn husk as your guide, roll tamale up, jelly-roll style; fold bottom ends of the husk under. Wrap each tamale tightly with foil to hold closed; stand upright in a vegetable steamer. Repeat procedure with the remaining whole corn husks, masa dough, beef mixture, and corn husk strips. Steam tamales, covered, 50 minutes, or until the dough is firm, checking water level periodically. Remove tamales from steamer; let stand 5 minutes. Serve with salsa.


Fran Z said...

oh snitzel- it;s 10:30pm and now I'm hungry! These look yummy!

Amanda @ Mrs.W's Kitchen said...

Wowza, Mary! Those look goooood. I, too, have a love affair with tamales. Sounds like a fun holiday project--even with some free-flowing wine at the same time!

You are so brave to try these. YOu may have to come visit and tutor me. Or I'll just watch you make them. Whichever, really.

Cynthia said...

I've never had a tamale and must give it a try sometime. In Trinidad there is a dish called pastelles which they make at Christmas where ground meat is filled in a cornmeal mixture and then cooked in banana leaves... this reminded me of that.

Deborah said...

I was gifted a cookbook just on making tamales. But if they have to cook that long, I'll be waiting for cooler weather! your tamales look wonderful.