As the holidays approach, Latin Americans and cultures around the world start thinking about tamales. Aztecs served the Spaniards tamales, which means wrapped food, during their first visits to Mexico. Since then, the tradition of family and friends coming together to make tamales is a cherished Latino holiday celebration and is becoming a favorite addition to holiday tables throughout the U.S. Whether you are new to tamale making or an experienced cook with a beloved tamale recipe passed down through generations, making savory or sweet tamales, using corn husks or banana leaves the one tip every tamale cook should know is that the most delicious tamales start with good cooking techniques.
Gustavo Chavez, known to millions of fans of Univisions Despierta America as Chef El Chile Mayor, is passionate about the richness of Mexican culture and cuisine and is one of the visionaries responsible for bringing the concept of an entire meal wrapped in a tasty tortilla to Florida with the opening of the Wrap and Roll Grill in Miami. Driven to perfect his recipes and share his enthusiasm for South American cuisine he studied the roots of Columbian cuisine in Santiago de Cali. Princess House has partnered with Chef El Chile Mayor to present expert tips useful to experienced tamale cooks as well as those just learning how to make this beloved holiday dish. Chef El Chile Mayor is from Michoacán, Mexico where he developed his love for cooking watching his parents prepare delicious, homemade meals for their 11 children. He credits his father for his appreciation for the subtle and varied nuances that define Mexican cuisine.
Chef El Chile Mayors five best tips for making delicious tamales include:
PREPARE A GOOD STEW/FILLING: A good stew or filling, also called relleno, is essential for flavorful tamales. For savory tamales bursting with flavor use the freshest herbs available such as fresh garlic, thyme, oregano, marjoram or rosemary. Season to suit your personal preference. Taste the relleno as it cooks. Add herbs, as needed, and salt to enhance the flavors. To make a tasty sweet stew, try to use natural ingredients such as honey or cinnamon. No matter what kind of stew you prepare, using meat or vegetables, it is important to cook the filling for a few hours or even overnight to allow the ingredients to settle together and infuse your relleno with flavor.
2) MEASURE THE DOUGH AND FILLING: Many seasoned tamale cooks and Latinos measure ingredients by eye. Chef El Chile recommends measuring the dough or masa and the filling. This will ensure tamales of the same size, with just the right proportion of filling, which in turn will ensure your tamales cook evenly. The suggested ratio is 3-to-2. For example, use three ounces of dough to two ounces of filling for a good size tamale.
3) BOIL THE LEAVES OR HUSKS: One of the most common practices to prepare the leaves is to soak them in water. Regardless of the leaves you use, corn husks or banana leaves, Chef El Chile recommends boiling them. Boiling the leaves makes them more manageable and easier to wrap. It also eliminates bacteria, helping to ensure a healthy dish for your family. You can also add a pinch of salt to further enhance the flavor of your tamales.
WRAP THE TAMALES THE RIGHT WAY: While you do not need to be an artist to wrap tamales, there is a specific technique to properly wrapping them. Start with the widest corn husks or leaves available. Use an ice cream scoop to measure the masa and filling onto the smooth side of the leaves and spread evenly. Starting at the sides, fold the leaves twice and then fold from the bottom up. Wrapping your tamales this way will help avoid dough spilling out all over the stockpot.
USE A GOOD STOCKPOT: Now that your tamales are wrapped it is time to steam them. For that you need a good steamer. Princess House stockpots, ranging in size from 10 quarts to 45 quarts, help maintain the recommended level of water and room to layer your tamales. Tamales need to be arranged or stacked with enough room to steam through the layers evenly. To do so make sure you have a stockpot that is the right size for the amount of tamales you are cooking. With the its wide variety of stockpots from which to chose, you are sure to find the right size Princess House stockpot to fit your needs. For tamales, the right size and quality stockpot translates into moist, delicious tamales.
A tamale is considered done when the dough slides off the leaf. If the dough sticks to the leaf, wrap it back up and steam the tamales a little longer.
For delicious holiday recipes and cooking tips, please visit http://goo.gl/V6YLO6.
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