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How to Make Tamales

Learn how to make tamales from Brooklyn Taco Co. chef/owner Jesse Kramer in this Howcast video.


I know you're really intimidated about making tamales, because you think they're this daunting task, but all you really need is time. Just make a lot at once. Freeze them. They're great to have. Very popular in Mexico during Christmas. So all you have to do is get a bag Maseca Tamal flour. We have baking soda, salt, and the corn flour all mixed together and sifted evenly. Next we're going to add oil, and you're looking for a wet sand consistency. OK? This is going to give it a really nice, moist texture when you're cooking it. And you're going to cook it for two hours.

So I'm just mixing this up, and I'll show you the consistency. It's not there, yet. You've just got to keep working it. You can use a mixer, but I think it's important to put your hands in there and get dirty and feel what you're looking for. Because if you just put it in a Kitchenaid, you're just going to be guessing the whole time. And this way you'll really know what to look for. All right. And then on the side over here, I have water and vegetable stock. Most traditionally, tamales are made with pork fat, but I like to cater to a lot of my vegetarian customers. So I do it vegetarian. So here we are. We're at the right consistency. I'm going to show you. It looks like wet sand, like on a beach. You can tell because when you squeeze it, it holds together, but it will break apart, too. Next, we're going to add vegetable stock. Now you want to get this to a consistency that sticks to your hand, but is not quite as think as, let's say, pancake batter. And then I have water over there to just make it a little soft. We don't want to add too much veg stock, because then it just tastes like veggies. It's a little easier to do this with rubber gloves, but again, it's important to feel the texture and get to know the dough. All right. Nice and soft.

So you just finish mixing this, and then we're going to put some Saran Wrap over it, put it in the fridge for about 10, 15 minutes, and we're going to move onto our corn husks. So we did the first part of the tamales, which is making the tamal dough. That's rested, hydrated. Now we need to make our corn husks, which are the other part of the tamales. You need to soak them, preferably warm water, and you have to take the smaller ones and peel off what I call little laces. And you're going to use these to tie the tamales shut. Put those to the side. Try and look for the biggest husk you can when you're first starting out, so you don't make a mess and everything fits into place. This one will be perfect. All right. So take the dough. Here I have some leftover chipotle chicken, some leftover beef brisket. And we're just going to [?]. It also helps sometimes when you put a bowl of water, because it will prevent your hands from sticking to the dough. All right. And the dough is going to rise a little bit, so don't overstuff the tamales. Take your meat. Put it right down the middle. Don't do too much. All right. Nice wrap. Be nice and tight here. Take the laces. Tie it like this. I don't tie a full knot. Just like that.

Like this. And this is really such an awesome way to cook things, because you're trapping all the flavor in there, and it's so easy. You have a pot of steaming water. If you have a steamer, use that. I put a little aluminum foil underneath to prevent the tamales from getting into the liquid. So we're just going to lay it above, and you're looking at about an hour and a half, two hours minimum of cooking time. And what's neat is, if you have one that's to small like this, you can actually join two husks together so you're not wasting any. So I'm going to do that.

And I like to make a nice oval shape. It's kind of like a sleeping bag. All right. So then we did the chipotle chicken. Now we're going to do the beef. So good. And because you're steaming it, the moisture is just going to stay in this food. It's going to be great. It's not going to dry it out or anything. And then we're going to roll this nice and tight again. Tie it off. So here's your second tamal. You're going to put it in the pot, steam it for two hours, and then you're ready to go. So we've been patiently waiting for our tamales to finish steaming, and here we have perfection. We see that they're still tied shut.

We're going to slide off the knots, very easy. We're going to unravel. Oh my God. That's awesome. Look at that. You have that perfect, soft corn dough with the beef right down the middle. It's amazing. And then we're going to take, this is tomatilla salsa, but you can use pineapple salsa, tomato salsa, whatever you want to do. And we're just going to layer it in there. So yummy. And it's going to be really nice and moist, too. A lot of times you get really dry tamales, and if you make them right, you'll really appreciate what a good tamal is like. And there you go. There's your beautiful brisket tamal.

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