Auntie Grannie’s Tamales
12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.
A WONDERFUL TRADITION.
Let’s make it official: Put that nice stamp right underneath. Totally Nice. Totally Beautiful. Incredibly wonderful!
This is the second year my foodie friend Yvette and her Gonzales family invited me to join them for a tamale get together. Year one, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It’s a bunch of family members, each with their own quirks – cooking and assembling tamales – while there’s an underlining tension and anger that can erupt anytime, creating much unnecessary drama? Terrifying! I took a deep breath.“Think positive, it could be fun,” I told myself. “At least I can come home with some stories to tell my ‘oh-believe-me-totally-normal’ family after spending all afternoon with my friend’s extended one.”
I did not grow up with any strong traditions. My extended family were all over the many islands of Indonesia. And my core family was always so busy. Everybody had their own activities and packed schedule. Not to mention we had maids. Yes, I came from the world where in-home, 24-hour maids still exist to this day. They cook, clean, run errands, and take care of your kids for you. I never quite agreed with the whole concept of having ‘help’, as I’ve always been a lover of equality and a cynic of classes. My dad once said to me, “This country is over-populated, and they need jobs yet they’re not educated. So, we give them jobs. Therefore, treat them like staff.” That stopped me (at least for a little while) from voicing my thoughts and disagreement.
There you have it. A glimpse of my somewhat cultural background that ‘disabled’ traditions 🙂 And for my friend Yvette to have her family Matriarch to cook and throw together tamales once a year during the holidays, I found it very heart-warming! The usual suspects: Yvette’s mom, Polly. Her best friend / cool sister Annette. Awesome sister-in-law Theresa with her athletic and all & all fantastic daughter Danielle. 3 generations of women, coming together, cooking together, and putting together their much beloved New Mexico dish. Isn’t that awesome?
The teasing, the constant back and forth, the eternal ‘friendly’ competition and hearty laughter filled up Yvette’s much-to-envy large kitchen. Letting me take a bunch of pictures and much less assembling on my part, they truly make me feel like part of the family. From carefully putting all the main ingredients and the apparatus on the table, to making sure that the dough has the right consistency. To soaking the husk, to combining caribe into the shredded pork meat. To smearing the dough on the corn husk and then spreading the meat mixture over. To folding the wonderfully filled husks into delicious packages. All of them were done with a lot of heart!
Of course, I thoroughly enjoy the super tasty tamales. But my goodness how I enjoyed observing their funny family dynamics and their joint effort – as well as making sure that they’re properly hydrated, therefore serving them some libation was in order. To the Gonzales family, I’m so grateful that you guys not only showed me how to prepare, but totally shattered my perception of how daunting tamale folding was. Knowing each one of you better every time is truly a gift!
Friends, if you get sick with the same ol’ cookie-baking party, bored of making ginger bread houses over & over (with your now tween who constantly rolls their eyes anyway,) or ‘so-over’-another-ham-cooking experience with your family, well… here’s an idea: Tamale Party! It’s not only a new challenge, you can actually have a lot of fun with your family, friends, even neighbors. You get your hands dirty, your mind clean and your hearts merry. If the process is enjoyable, let’s talk about the result: packed full of flavor, moist, delicious tamales! Win win.
The Gonzales passed down this recipe, from their ‘auntie grannie’ Patsy. So, everyone, please say… THANK YOU!!!
Talking about family tradition. The Gonzales family tradition. Naturally I ponder, what kind of tradition should I start with Eric and Nate? It’s been 4 days from the big tamale get together, and I still don’t have the answer. Maybe for now, I should just stick with the Gonzales’ end-of-year holiday tradition. I’m just hoping that they would keep inviting me over 🙂 Hint, hint.
- 3 6-ounce package dried corn husks
- For the filling
- 3 pounds pork loin
- 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
- For the dough
- 5 pounds masa harina
- 6 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 tablespoons salt1½ cups lard
- 2 cups pork stock (reserved from the slow cooked pork roast)
- 10 oz New Mexican chile pods
- Garlic powder and salt, to taste
- Corn husks
- Place corn husks in a large (deep) bowl. Pour in hot water and let soak until husks are softened and pliable, about 30 to 60 minutes. Separate husks, check if there is any grit or brown silk, remove by rinsing them under water.
- Add meat and chicken stock in a large crock pot. Cover and cook overnight.
- Soften chile pods in boiling water, cover for about 4 minutes. Once softened, place pods in a blender with the remaining pork liquid and set it to purée. Add garlic powder and salt. (It’s important to taste the chile mixture / caribe.) Add chile sauce to the meat mixture and marinate overnight.
- Whisk together masa, baking powder and salt until well combined. Add lard and work into the dough. Add the warm pork liquid into the dough intermittently. Mix till well-blended and smooth, like a very soft cookie dough. Add more water if needed for correct consistency.
- Requiring about 2 tablespoons of filling and dough per 1 large corn husk; hold a corn husk flat, smooth side up. Using a large spoon, spread a thin layer of dough across the husk, leaving about ½" space to the edges. Top with meat filling.
- Fold one half over the other, enclosing the filling within the dough. Fold up the bottom third of the corn husk, to form a package. Repeat until all dough and filling are used.
- Place tamales in a steamer, standing them on the folded ends, leaving adequate space among them for steam to rise.
- Steam for about 1½ hours, until masa is firm and no longer sticks to husks. Tamales should be eaten warm.