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Saga of the Tamale

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Published on Oct 22, 2013

The Saga of the Tamale

There are a lot of steps involved, so getting some friends together to help can be a lot of fun. You can also prepare in steps, for example cook the tofu and roast the chiles one day. Soak and rinse the corn husks the next day. Prepare the filling and assemble the tamales the 3rd day.

There is a very good Nortena (Tex Mex) music documentary by Les Blank, "Chulas Fronterras" ("Beautiful Borders") which has a sequence about the great singer & musician Lydia Mendoza while her family is making tamales for a big celebration. You can pick up some good techniques from watching them, such as how to use the back of a big spoon to smear the masa onto the husk.

makes 2-3 dozen tamales

12-16 oz firm tofu
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup shitake (or of choice) mushrooms
1 large sweet potato baked until barely tender and diced into 3/4 inch cubes
3/4 cup corn
3/4 cup peas
1 grated carrot
4 roasted, peeled and seeded anaheim chiles ( a few seeds left in will add some heat)
3/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
2.5 ozs dark chocolate
1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano are best)
3 roasted and ground cloves
1 tblsp cinnamon
1 tblsp cumin powder
1 tblsp tumeric
1 tblsp smoked paprika

The corn husks need to be soaked for a few hours and then rinsed off to remove any threads of red corn silk. Hold the corn husk in the palm of your hand and use the back of a big ladle or spoon to place about 3 tblsp of masa in the center of the husk. Place about 2 tblspn of filling, fold the husk lengthwise and then fold the ends underneath.

The filling
* saute the chopped celery in a few tblsp of olive oil for a few minutes, add the mushrooms and the chiles and let cook for
about 10 min.
* chop the tomatoes and add with the diced sweet potato and grated carrot and spices except the cinnamon.
* add the diced tofu and let cook for another 10 min
* break the chocolate into pieces and add. When the chocolate has melted add the pumpkin seeds and cinnamon.
* let the filling rest for 10-15 minutes and begin assembling the tamales.

The tofu
slice 3/4 inch thick pieces, saute with olive oil and sprinkle a little tamari sauce on top of each piece. After the tofu is a little crisp on both sides, add apple cider vinegar over the tofu, let steam for a minute and then sprinkle brewer's yeast on top of the tofu, turn the heat off and cover until cool.

When cool dice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes and add to tomato sauce.

The masa
4 cups masa (if you can find organic, it has great flavor)
6-8 tblsp baking powder
3 cups water
1 cup extra virgin olive oil or other oil of choice

Mix the dry masa and the baking powder together. Stir in the water and oil and mix thoroughly.

Put a few empty corn husks in the bottom of the steamer or colander. Fill the colander with tamales and cover with more corn husks. Place a wet towel over the top of the corn husks. Cover the steamer with a lid and steam for 1 hour. You can put a penny in the bottom of the pot and if the water runs low you will be able to hear the penny rattling around and can add more water. Let them cool and enjoy with your favorite salsa.

here's the complete song

Saga of the Tamale Jim Murdoch lyrics & music c.2006

In Mayan times the special three,
The Trinity,
were Beans and Squash and Corn,
Around the fire in fellowship,
These little gifts were born,
Though now our times are troubled,
And hope seems only folly,
Please sit down and join with friends,
To eat a good tamale.

* * *
Another year has come and gone,
The time has come to pass,
For some the wheel has turned too slow,
For others much too fast,
We look towards the new year,
With hope of dreams to last,
Let's celebrate with friends and fork,
This savory, sweet repast.

* * *
It's solstice time, the sun is low
The winter moon has risen
The light is clear, the days grow short
Our gratitude is given
The earth is cold, the air is crisp...
Our season to renew
Again we'll plant the corn that gave
These sweet tamales blue.

* * *
On Solstice Day the Sun stands still
Spray blows off the Winter Sea
Our breath is white,
We head for home
A good hot cup of tea
Tamales, chiles, corn and more
Around the hearth we're cooking
A slice that's quick, with knife so sure
The chef's not even looking
A hearty stew, Tamales Grand
When they're cool, we'll peel the husk
Pour on the salsa red or green
And feast from Dawn till Dusk

* * *
As winter fades the sun returns
Days and nights grow long
Alas dear friend,
The end draws near
To our little song
Look, spring returns,
The swallows fly
Back home where they belong
We'll join again, sing loud and clear
Our sweet tamale song

Jim Murdoch lyrics & music c.2006

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