Skip to main content


I've loved tamales ever since my mom gave us canned Hormel tamales when we were kids. I realize that isn't the highest expression of the tamal, but to a 5-year old the combination of corn and meat was pretty great. I've since had real tamales which I love even more. I've been thinking about making my own for awhile.

My rendition was loosely based on recipes in Diana Kennedy's book on Mexican cooking. The biggest difference was in the masa. The basic combination is masa, lard, a little salt, and water. It took a lot more water to hydrate my dried masa than I thought. The result was a little lumpy but in the end turned out OK. Peanut butter consistency seems to be a pretty good target.

I made the filling from leftover pork roast that I had smoked awhile back. I added tomatillos, tomato paste, pecans, apricots, onion, garlic, salt, and cinnamon. I also made a few using just Arthur Bryant's BBQ sauce for the pork.

Next came stuffing. I spread the masa onto a corn leaf, then added in a little filling, trying to avoid the temptation to overstuff. I rolled up the corn leaf, which wasn't quite as messy as I had feared.

I then wrapped each tamal in aluminum foil. What, pray tell, is the traditional way of wrapping them?

I then put them in the steamer vertically. My steamer wasn't quite as roomy as I had hoped. The tamales stuck out the top a little, so I closed it with more foil. I steamed them for an hour.

The results were great. The Arthur Bryant's filling was good but the homemade filling won hands down thanks to all the widely different types of ingredients. The masa was creamy in texture and corny, a perfect complement to the pork. I resisted the temptation to eat them all right away and put most of them in the freezer.


Popular posts from this blog

Ann Arbor MI: West End Grill

Trev, Jan, and Karem took me to a wonderful evening at West End Grill located, appropriately enough, in the West End. The restaurant still has its old tin ceiling festooned with stained glass chandeliers. I was too hungry to take a picture of our appetizers: crab cakes and bleu cheese tarts. The crab cakes had just a bit of heat to them, something you don't always find in a crab cake but which worked very well. The bleu cheese tarts lived up to their intriguing premise, rich and tangy. This is my caprese salad. The mozzarella, tomato, and basil were all outstanding. The balsamic vinegar had been very well aged, giving it a thick consistency. My main course was tuna, perfectly prepared to a medium well. The tuna left just enough room for a chocolate lava cake paired with decaf coffee. The cake was rich and moist. I kept scraping my plate to be sure I retrieved all of the chocolate.

Pressure Cooker Candied Ginger

I made candied ginger a few years ago. It's not something I would do every day but I had a lot of fun doing it. I recently acquired a pressure cooker and it inspired an interesting idea to me: why not make candied ginger in the pressure cooker? It should be very soft and flavorful. Here is the result. I peeled two large ginger roots, cut them into small cubes, and put them in the pressure cooker with heavily sugared water. The traditional method first boils the ginger in plain water to soften it and then again in sugar water to candy it. The resulting candy was very tender but still with the characteristic ginger texture. It was also sweet without being overpowering. The traditional method leaves a lot of sugar crystallized around the ginger. The pressure cooker gives a much more subtle result. The ginger stays moist even after it cools but you can dry it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. That inspired me to dip it in chocolate. While I was in the b

Miami: Shorty's BBQ

The Widens introduced me to another Miami favorite, Shorty's BBQ. We had three different meats: brisket, ribs, and chicken. All were excellent. I would say the brisket was my favorite, which was was fork tender and moist. Shorty's is best known around town for its piquant sauce. In the photo, the top sauce is a standard red, sweet BBQ sauce.  The bottom container holds Shorty's special BBQ sauce.  It was great---the highlighted spice is, I believe, cumin.  The sauce is of a lighter color than the sweet sauce, so there are other things going on as well; I suspect it has less sugar. I love cumin because it tweaks the palate in a different way than many spices.  I loved this sauce so much I ate it by the spoonful.  Bill and I agreed that this sauce is reminscent of the sauce from Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City.