My first encounter with tamales had me swooning. Served up piping hot from a pit dug into the earth and covered with palm branches. I waited for those tamales anxiously, watching the heat waves flicker over the pit causing the snow-capped Andes Mountains to dance in the background over the faint linger of corn in the air. Opening up the husks revealed the steaming little package of masa flour and vegetables. I couldn't wait to dig in. Since then I have had tamales in restaurants, food carts, and at farmers market stands. Perhaps because of the memories I have tied to tamales, I always make the same mistake, a painful mistake. My poor tongue probably cowers at the site of masa because I always burn my tongue. I am too impatient and never wait long enough for the centers of the tamales to cool a bit. It's ok tamales, I still love you.
Recipe (Makes about 15 tamales)
Coconut oil - 6TB
Corn husks - 15 corn husks + a few extra in case the amount varies.
Masa harina - 4 cups
Hot water - 2 cups + soaking water for the corn husks
Mexican oregano - 1TB dried or several TB fresh.
Cayenne pepper - 1tsp dried
Lime - zest of 1 lime
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
Zucchini - 2 coarsely chopped
Corn - 1 fresh cob, the kernels cut off
Radishes - 3 small radishes chopped + extra to garnish
Cotija cheese - generous 1/2 cup crumbled + extra to garnish
Salt - 1tsp
Tomatillos - 5 tomatillos, coarsely chopped
Jalapeno - 1 small, chopped, remove seeds or not (depending on heat preference).
Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped
Red onion - 1/4 red onion, chopped
Limes - juice of 2 limes
Cilantro - a large handfull, chopped + extra to garnish
Salt - a few pinches, to taste
Cover the corn husks in a bowl with hot water and leave to soak while preparing the tamales. Mix the masa with oregano, cayenne, salt. and lime zest. Add in 2 cups of hot water and 4TB of coconut oil, mix until combined. Leave the masa mixture to sit while preparing the filling. Chop up all the vegetables. Heat up 2TB of coconut oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook for a minute and then toss in the zucchini, radishes, and corn. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until soft and then crumble in the cotija. Stir until combined and then turn off the heat.
Drain the corn husks and then start heating up your steamer so that it is ready for the tamales. Begin filling up your tamales by pressing in a scant 1/2 cup of masa in the center of your corn husks, leaving a border. Then spoon in the filling, about 1/4 - 1/3 a cup. The filling amounts will vary depending on the size of the corn husks, just do what feels right. Start rolling together the tamales curling the masa over the filing and roll the tamale into a log and then pinch and fold in the bottom and top edges. Kind of mold the tamales together with the palm of your hand to make sure it is compacted. Repeat with the rest of the corn husks and then place them all in the steamer and steam for 30 minutes.
Place all salsa verde ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until it comes to a salsa consistency.
Unwrap tamales (make sure to let them cool a bit!) and top with salsa verde plus garnishing of cotija, slivered radishes, and cilantro - if desired.