I love making tamales but it has been several years since I've made them. I used to go all out and make three different fillings, but I didn't have time this year and so I made my favorite filling of Potato, Cheese, Olives and Raisins. Tamales are really easy to make but if you plan to make a lot of them or several types, you should start a day in advance making the fillings and sauces. The hardest part about making tamales is soaking and sorting through the corn husks. The rolling is the easy part. Also, tamales can be enjoyed anytime during the year, but I prefer making and eating them on Christmas Day.
Think of the tamale as a vessel--kind of like a burrito or taco--you can fill it with whatever you like. Some fillings that I've used before are leftover 3-bean chili, cheddar and roasted poblano mashed potatoes, or cheddar with caramelized cinnamon apples (yes tamales can be sweet as well as savory).
For my filling I used onion, garlic, fingerling potatoes, Spanish olives, raisins, Swiss chard, Daiya cheddar style cheese, and soy-chorizo crumbles (hubby wanted the chorizo), but it would of been just as delicious without it! I made a quick enchilada sauce and made my own masa dough. The dough was super simple to make--I used 1 lb of instant masa flour, 2 tbsp mild chili powder, 1-1/2 tbsp cumin powder, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 cup safflower oil, 4 cups vegetable stock and kosher salt to taste. Place the flour in a large bowl and add the spices and mix well. Next add the oil and mix to combine and then add the vegetable stock one cup at a time. The filling should be easy to spread but sticky like peanut butter. This recipe makes 24 tamales.
Now for the fun part--stuffing and rolling the corn husks. But before you can do this you need to plan ahead and soak the corn husks in hot water for 2-3 hours, sort through them and drain in a colander. I just fill up my kitchen sink with hot water and let them soak. When sorting, I remove any that are torn or moldy and I try to use the same size husks. Spread about 1/3-1/2 cup of masa dough on the widest end of the husk, leaving a 1/2" border at the top and about a 2" boarder on the other side. Add about 1 heaping tbsp of filling, 1 tbsp of sauce and top with cheese. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the tamale like a cigar all the way to the end and then fold up the tapered bottom of the tamale to create a packet. Place on a sheet tray and continue rolling until all the masa dough is used up.
Once you finish rolling all the tamales, fill a stock pot with about 3 inches of water and place a steamer basket in the bottom. Stack your tamales standing upright in the steamer pot with the sealed bottom facing down. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and steam for about 2 hours until masa dough is done. You'll need to add water to the steamer on a regular basis to keep it from scorching. Also, check the tamales for doneness after about 1-1/2 hours by removing a tamale and letting it cool for a couple of minutes.
Now for the best part--eating the tamales! I served mine with a chopped Mexican salad made with chopped romaine, shaved red cabbage, sliced radishes, minced jalapeno, diced avocado, diced tomato, minced cilantro and a chipotle vinaigrette...yummy!