Wednesday, August 27, 2008

R2R: Sweet Corn Tamales!

I have made tamales before, but when Debyi from healthy vegan kitchen, this month's host for Recipes to Rival revealed that tamales would be this month's challenge, I wasn't disappointed.  I loooove anything wrapped in masa, the delicious corn mixture that makes up the tamales' "crust."  Debyi provided a bunch of yummy fillings to choose from, and the freedom to try our own.  Check out the official "challenge post", complete with recipes, here I was intrigued by the sweet green chile and corn tamale recipe she provided, and I tweaked it to incorporate fresh queso blanco I made myself, plus I used regular milk rather then the vegan version she suggests.  I've made vegan tamales several times, but I had milk on hand so I thought I might as well use it. 


Early in the day I made the queso blanco, a simple white, firm cheese from Latin America that is a snap to make and requires no special ingredients, just milk and vinegar.  after I set that to drain, I roasted the corn and chiles, prepped those, and mixed the masa, milk, oil (in lieu of shortening/lard), etc  together.  I added the corn, and got to wrapping. I used dried husks I had from the store as well as some fresh ones we had from the corn.  The ones that had been on the grill added a nice, smoky flavor.  

Wrapping a tamale is a bit challenging at first but is by no means an exact science. Don't be afraid to use your hands and experiment with techniques that will work for you.  Make sure everything is covered up, use shreds of husks to tie the bundles closed, and remember: it would be great if it looks beautiful, but it will be more important for it to taste beautiful.  Mine always look like squat little packages, but everything fits together and tastes good.

We steam ours in a colander set in a large pot, for an hour to an hour and a half.  Just keep checking and when the masa is firm and no longer mushy, it's done.  

Unfortunately, I made a teeny tiny measuring error in scaling down the recipe and I added too much sugar.  My tamales were a bit sweet.  edible, but sweet.  The chiles provided a nice counterpoint but I wish I had had included more of them.  The queso blanco got a little lost, but was lovely on its own.  

This isn't turning me off from making tamales- I know where my errors were and I'll fix them next time.  Had I attempted this a bit earlier in the month I would have probably made a second go of it.  

Queso Blanco
from Ricki Carroll's Home Cheesemaking

1 gallon whole milk
1/4 c vinegar (like apple cider)

heat milk to between 180 and 190 degrees in a large pot.  mix to prevent scorching

slowly add the vinegar, a little at a time until curds and whey separate.  you may need to increase temp to 200.  

pour curds into a cheescloth lines colander and drain.  Tie corners and hang for several hours to drain.  remove cheese to a container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.


Lori said...

I have to try that cheese as Queso Blano is so expensive! Great idea. THe tamales look great.

kat said...

It was really fun making them & i love that you made your own cheese!

Temperance said...

The Queso Blanco looks intriguing, I will have to try that at some point. I had thought about using some fresh corn husks but wasn't happy with the size or look of the ones I had, but yours sound great, that extra bit of flavor from the smoke must have been wonderful.

Julia said...

Have you seen this?

Debyi said...

Your filling sounds really good! Your tamales look great, yummy. I'm so excited that you made your own cheese for this, how fun. I've made my own ricotta before, it sounds like a similar process.

jen said...

Yours turned out well! The queso blanco sounds good, and it sounds similar to mascarpone... is it alike at all in taste? Do you know?

Great job! :)

Anonymous said...


They look great and I am impressed that you made your own cheese. Maybe you can make them when you come to visit.


Taylor said...

Impressive! I've never dared make my own tamales.

Robyn said...

Your filling sounds great!

canarygirl said...

Beautiful tamales! And you made your own CHEESE? Seriously? That is so freaking cool. Is it salty at all, or is it more like ricotta? I'm so intrigued by this.

Lauren said...

yes i have seen cakewrecks, it makes me pee in my pants
@temperance: the smoke was a really interesting flavor, i recommend trying it
@debyi, canarygirl
making queso blanco is very similar to making ricotta, just with different ingredients to provide acid. You can salt it as much or little as you want. I didn't salt mine.

JMom said...

oh, that queso blanco is definitely a must try! I didn't know that's how you make it :)

Great looking tamales! I really loved making and eating them.