I love any sort of ethnic food. With my daughter in a Spanish immersion school, I find that we tend to eat Mexican and other Latin foods most often. As fun as it is to enjoy them in a restaurant, it’s far more viscerally satisfying (and my wallet is happier) when I recreate the dishes at home. Tamales were on my bucket list for years. I finally got around to making them this past fall, and oh my word were they delicious. I’ve modified them to make skillet tamales, and with Tamales: Fast and Delicious Mexican Meals by Alice Guadalupe Tapp, I have plenty more ideas.
One of my biggest challenges when I made my first tamales was getting the corn husks to stay closed once I had “built” the tamales. I improvised and made little ties which may not be authentic, but it worked. In this book, Tapp shares how to wrap your corn husks in a variety of styles in the introduction, and it turns out that my method is actually the fold-over with one tie. Who knew! She recommends starting with the fold-over method then wrapping it in parchment, as it’s the easiest, but I can see the beauty in all the different styles, and I cannot wait to attempt more. Once I master my own style.
The book is filled with great tips that a novice tamale maker like myself finds incredibly useful. For example, I had no idea that refrigerating my assembled tamales overnight would improve them. The same goes with making my masa. I always make it as I’m making my tamales, but you can actually prepare your masa in bulk and freeze it in gallon-size bags – and she shares the method of how to defrost it for use, as well.
There are plenty of options within the book, not just in how you fold your tamales but also in the type of masa you make and use, the salsas to accompany them, and of course the fillings for the tamales. While there are some that it’s unlikely I’ll make myself – cactus and bean tamales come to mind – there are plenty of ideas I most certainly will experiment with.
I love that Tapp encourages readers to experiment and learn to build their own flavors, as well. This is how you learn to be a great cook and trust your instincts, and she most definitely helps along that way. Her lessons in how to build a salsa are invaluable as I work on developing my own favorites and traditions. With five simple steps of things to think of, it is far less daunting than you might expect to create your own flavor profile.
Tapp also introduced me to “tamale” versions that I’d never heard of previously that I can’t wait to explore. Tontos are tamales without the filling, and she uses them to make “inside out tamales” with as many flavor possibilities as their traditional counterparts. I love this idea of making the tontos ahead of time and then pulling them out to make a quick and tasty weeknight meal. The same holds true for corundas, which she explains are tamales with the filling mixed in with the masa rather than being inside the masa. I love this idea, and they can be even easier to make since you don’t have to be as careful when filling, spreading, and rolling to ensure the masa is evenly thick around the filling on all sides.
My favorite new concept – and how did I not think of this myself? – is the dessert tamale. Bananas foster tamales are definitely in my future. And yes, the brownie tamales are, too. Tapp’s creativity shines throughout the book, and I appreciate her thorough explanations of the hows and whys of her steps and recipes and ingredients. She makes making tamales very accessible, and I love the inspiration her recipes provide.
While there are many photos in Tamales, each recipe does not have its own photo to help you see how it should look when complete or in process, something that I find helpful when cooking or baking, especially somewhat unfamiliar foods. She does include illustrations in several places that are very helpful, however, including showing the various husk-wrapping techniques.
Written by Michelle of Honest & Truly! who knows what she’s making for dinner tonight. See what other recipes and inspirations she has to share on her blog Honest & Truly! and follow her on Twitter where she is also @HonestAndTruly. She received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.