I really, really like Mexican food. Let me rephrase that: I love imitation Mexican food. I’ve only ever eaten one meal in Mexico, and it was everything I dreamed it would be.
Recently, I’ve been craving Mexican food like nothing else. Why? Because my brother John is in Ecuador. I know. I Know! Ecuador and Mexico don’t even touch, what a gringo! But, in my North American head, when someone talks about delicious food involving rice, beans and hot sauce…yum!
Meet John. (He really likes HDR, but can you blame him?)
So, John tells me about these delicious tamales he’s been eating. Although I had never tasted tamales until last summer while visiting my sister in Nevada, I am a huge fan. They were all I could think about after John described them. He sent me a recipe. My sister warned me they’re too labor intensive. I considered. Unlike some people (cough-my sister and brother-cough), my neighbors are never, never going to bring me homemade tamales. Roti? Maybe. Rice? Maybe. Tamales? Nopers. In fact, the only Mexican restaurant I’ve seen so far in Ontario is entitled “Burrito Boys”. They didn’t even TRY to make it sound authentic.
In desperation, I caved. Today was Tamale Day.
In preparation, yesterday I went to the farmer’s market and asked for the used corn husks strewn about the corn stand. Confused, the man gave them to me, saying, “Wow, no one has ever asked for these before”. Obedient to all the tamale blogs, I brought them home and dried them.
After frantically reading websites and looking up substitutes for Masa and lard, I began. First I cooked some chicken and shredded it. Then, I made a “Masa” like mix of cornmeal, water, butter and salt (Butter was better than lard. Don’t judge, people). Next, I laid out the cornhusks and layered the Masa and chicken.
Having never successfully rolled a taco or any kind of wrap in my life, the next step was daunting. Roll, fold and secure. As I tied them tightly with twine, I wondered why my Mamasita never taught me this skill…
Okay, enough of that. Now, time to steam them. After some deliberation, I decided to use my asparagus steamer. However, the basket sits too close to the bottom. Solution? I married an engineer. 30 seconds after being told the problem, he grabbed a spoon, jammed it through a slot and gained 1.5 inches from the bottom of the pot. I looked on in awe.
Finally, after an hour of steaming, they were ready!
They were yum. I’m not gonna lie though, for all the time I put into them, I wish they had been more flavorful….I think next time (next time?!) I’m going to add cheese, and maybe cook the chicken in some kind of sauce. BUT they are quite delicious and I feel super accomplished. Also, it’s a great excuse to eat lime tostitos and salsa. YUM.
[Also, let’s be honest: do YOU know where Ecuador is? Don’t say on the equator. I want neighboring countries. Don’t google it.]