This can seem like a daunting process the first time, but once you've done it once you will see there are a few steps but none of them difficult. I multitask. When I want tamales for dinner, I will soak husks during lunch. While kids have their quiet time mid-afternoon I'll set up in the kitchen and listen to an audio book on the ipod or set up in front of the TV and watch the previous night's novela. This of course would be even more fun and more authentic if you get a couple of girlfriends to come over, all be part of the process and you get to chat while you assemble and then share the finished product. That reminds me of making tamales at my grandmother's home in Mexico, different generations of women coming together around the table and making dozens of tamales while we chitchatted (ok, gossiped!).
Ok, go on, get started ... it will be worth sooo worth it!
Soyrizo Bean Tamales
yields +/- 2 dozen
Ingredients for basic dough:
1 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup Earth Balance "butter" or other non vegan butter
4 1/2 cups Maseca (Mexican corn masa flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 qt. vegetable stock
1 package of dry husks
1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans
3-4 tablespoons soyrizo
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Soak about 1/3 of the husks in the package in warm water for at least an hour before you start making dough. You can fill the sink or use a large mixing bowl. Use a heavy lid to hold husks down so they are completely submerged in the water.
2. Use a mixer to cream shortening and Earth Balance until fluffy and light. Sift in the masa harina 1/2 cup at a time. Add baking powder and salt. At this point I like to put the mixer aside and continue the mixing using my hands. Warm the stock in the microwave for 1 min. then pour over the dough. By mixing the dough with your hands you will be able to get a good feel for what the dough is supposed to feel like when it's ready. It should feel like butter cream frosting, maybe a smidgen stiffer, but not much at all or the tamales will be too dry. The final and ultimate test is once you have finished incorporating all the broth, drop 1/2 teaspoon of dough into ice cold water. If it floats, you are good to go.
3. The husks should be nice and pliable by now. Take them out of the water and squeeze as much water out of them as possible. Spread out on a kitchen towel while you start to prepare the bean mixture.
4. Heat olive oil in a large pan add soyrizo and let brown for a couple of minutes. Add cooked beans with a little of their broth so they don't dry out. Once beans seem to be warmed through, turn off the heat and mash them. Set aside.
4. At this point, you can set up your "assembly line" with all the ingredients. Ideally on your kitchen table, assembly will take a while and it will be more comfortable to have more room and be able to sit while you assemble. Yeah, go ahead, go get that Negra Modelo for the complete experience! Set the dry husks, the dough, and the beans all in front of you.
5. You will notice that the husks aren't all the same size. The ideal husk should be about 4 1/2 to 5in across at the bottom. If a husk is smaller than this, set it aside, it won't go to waste it will have a different job in the process. If the husk is 6in or larger you can trim it down by pulling off the sides with your fingers. Grab a husk and with a table spoon spread about 2 tablespoons worth of masa on the husk. The PRO way is the hold the husk in your hand as your spread the dough on it, but if it seem easier place the husk on the table. Either way, it should be pointy side away from you, flat side towards you. Spread dough around leaving about 1/2 inch margin from the bottom. Set it aside. You can pile the husks with dough on top of each other about 6 high until you have used up all the dough.
6. Now it's time for the filling. Grab one of those husks with dough and add one tablespoon of bean mixture in the center of the dough. Fold one side in over the dough, the other side in over the already folded over husk and the the pointy part down over the folded in sides. Check this out: http://www.makingtamales.com/cook.html
7. In a LARGE pot with a steamer basket add about 2 inches of water and two coins. If the water starts to run out, the coins will start to "dance", and you will have an alarm letting you know you need to add more water. Set the heat to medium high to start the water boiling, take the steamer section out and put the lid on so the steam doesn't escape.
8. All the too small or rejected pieces of husks from before can now be used to line the bottom of the steamer basket. Only use as many as necessary to line it. Arrange all the assembled tamales in the steamer with the opening of the tamal facing up. If your steamer basket is too big, or if you decide not to cook all the tamales at once (you can place raw assembled tamales in zip loc bags and freeze to cook later), you can wad up a large piece of foil and place in the center of the steamer basket and arrange tamales like a tepee propped up around the foil. Once the water is boiling and the tamales are in the basket, place steamer in pot. If you had more husks left cover tamales with them to trap steam. If not, or in addition to, place a folded kitchen towel, tucked in all around the tamales to trap as much steam as possible and then cover with pot's lid.
9. Steam for about 45-55 min. on medium low heat. Take out one tamal at about 45-50 min. mark with tongs and unwrap it. If the husk peel CLEANLY away from the dough, they are done. But just to make double sure, don't turn off the heat just yet. Let the tamal sit for a minute to cool and take a taste to make sure it's cooked through. If it is... YOU'RE DONE!!!!!