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
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
- Completely submerge the corn husks in water and soak for 12 hours.
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and brown on all sides.
- 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.
- When ribs are cool enough to touch/hold, shred the meat.
- Make the masa - Combine the masa and warm water in a bowl.
- Combine the salt, baking powder, and shortening in an electric mixer.
- Add the chipotle and masa mixture to the electric mixer and combine well.
- Add the broth and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.
- Make the tamales - place a corn husk on your work surface with the narrow end toward you.
- 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.
- Tear a strip off one of the husks and tie around the tamale.
- 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.