Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tamale Time!: Short Rib Tamales

One of my favorite lines from the cinematic masterpiece that is Legally Blonde is Elle's response about getting into Harvard - "What?  Like it's hard?"  Because sometimes you don't realize something is supposed to be difficult.  I get lucky like that sometimes.

Like the first time I made pie crust.  It was easy and delicious.  I couldn't understand why people complained about homemade pie crust.  And then I tried switching recipes, and understood the raised fists and gnashing of teeth.

I'm experiencing that with tamales right now.  The first few times I made tamales I had resounding success.  How had I been afraid of these for so long?  They're not hard and so delicious.  And so I took it for granted.  But that last few times I made it, I have not been so successful.  Like when I tried to take a shortcut and use the recipe on the masa bag.  Which ended up being a gooey, tasteless mess.  But the boys didn't seem to mind too much.

I decided the problem was that the bag recipe didn't have any form of fat in it, so I tried again, this time going back to the shortening that worked so well.  I still had the same problem this time - not the tasteless part, I added chipotle, so this one tasted great, but still mushier than my previous attempts.  So I think I'm going to go back to the recipes that have worked so well in the past.

Short Rib Tamales
1 8 ounce package of corn husks

1 Tbsp canola oil
2 pounds short ribs
4 strips bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp salt
beef broth

4 cups masa
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup shortening
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1 cup chicken broth

  1. Completely submerge the corn husks in water and  soak for 12 hours. 
  2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Season the ribs with salt and pepper and brown on all sides.
  3. Place the ribs and remaining filling ingredients in a slow cooker.  Add enough beef broth to cover the ingredients.  Cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. When ribs are cool enough to touch/hold, shred the meat.
  5. Make the masa - Combine the masa and warm water in a bowl.
  6. Combine the salt, baking powder, and shortening in an electric mixer.
  7. Add the chipotle and masa mixture to the electric mixer and combine well.
  8. Add the broth and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.
  9. Make the tamales - place a corn husk on your work surface with the narrow end toward you.  
  10. Pat 1/4 cup of masa into a 3-4" square in the center of the husk or foil. Spoon 1-2Tbsp of shortrib in a line down the middle of the masa square. Fold the sides of the husk in, then fold the bottom up.  
  11. Tear a strip off one of the husks and tie around the tamale.  
  12. Place a steamer basket in a large pot over an inch or so of water and bring the water to a boil.  Stand the tamales up vertically in the steamer basket.  Cover the pot with a lid and steam for 15-20 minutes. 


  1. Can I please come to your house and we can make tamales, and talk about babies and other shit that fascinates me?

    Good. How's next week for you?

  2. I have a tried and true recipe for pie crust that i almost always use and on the off chance that I use another's back to hair pulling. Big time.

  3. Can you believe I have never tried making tamales. There is so much I need to explore.