Dale and I love tamales and usually buy them fresh at the farmer’s market. However, we’ve been talking about making them ourselves and finally decided to just do this thing.
He surprised me by sharing that he spotted all critical tools and ingredients at the local market I’ve been to once. When did he go? Is this what he does while I’m playing golf? Cruising the markets looking for who knows what?
For the filling, Dale braised a pork butt in the oven with not much more than an onion. After it cooled, he shredded it and added his homemade chile sauce. That’s all there was to filling. But then I didn’t make it, and I know chile sauce is messy work involving the rehydration of dried pepper pods. I find it in our freezer already made!
We set up the work station. Dough, soaked husks, filling. We began to prep and realized neither one of us knew how to roll these things. The masa was too thick, so we added a bit of juice from the pork butt to thin it out.
As for rolling, we were in hysterics trying to figure it out. The first one Dale made looked like a monster burrito, and I weighed it just to see. The mother of all tamales weighed in at nine ounces. I wanted to name it El Jefe, but Dale insisted on El Capitan. I mean, wrap it in a pizza and it could be on the menu at Taco Bell.
They were looking like tamales, and we were argument-free, when we began to discuss steam time.
Dale’s sources, real or imagined, said 45 minutes. Diana (real) said two to three hours. That’s quite a discrepancy. We pulled out other cookbooks, and yes, it varied from 45 minutes to three hours. How do you know?
We decided it probably depends on how many are in there and the thickness of the masa. The problem was I did not want to be starving at 8 p.m. waiting another hour because the masa wasn’t cooked.
The tamales took about two hours. They were probably too thick, and the rolling technique was inconsistent and weird. However, they were absolutely delicious! We had them two nights in a row and then froze the rest in their husks. A decadent treat we learned in Texas is tamales smothered in chili.
All in all, it was way fun. We laughed a lot because we were so outside our comfort zones. As retirement partners, I highly recommend taking on a joint project of some sort. Something where you have basic skills, but you are stretching them to new limits, so you learn together.
The whole experience reminded me of a team-building exercise from work, except you can use the f-bomb, and we got to kiss at the end.
Donna Pekar is an aging badass (for real) who lives in California and writes Retirement Confidential.