Tag Archives: cooking with Chelsea

Making Tamales with Chelsea

preparing husksChelsea made the first tamale I’ve ever eaten.  Trader Joe’s made the second one I ever ate which, while good, wasn’t even in the same ball park as the ones Chelsea made.  The third time I ate a tamale I made them myself and couldn’t figure out why I thought they were so complicated that I waited years to do it.  In October I got the hankering for tamales and knew that Chelsea would love to do that with me.

We used the cookbook “Tamales 101” by Alice Guadalupe Tapp for reference but didn’t follow any of her recipes.  It’s an awesome little book and if you want to learn to make tamales and are scared to try it – this book will take all the fear out of it.  Plus, cool pictures, great husk folding instructions, and lots of inspiration for coming up with your own recipes.

I love that the book includes meat, vegetarian, AND vegan recipes.

corn husk tiesYou can use either kitchen string or make ties out of the husks by stripping them to tie the tamales closed.

four tamale fillingsChelsea made a cilantro pesto using pepitas, no cheese, garlic, cilantro, oil, and salt and pepper.  The winter squash ended up having no discernible flavor in the tamales but nutritionally I think it was a good ingredient to include.  We used pink banana squash but there are other varieties with a more robust flavor.  Black beans were the protein we used and we added three pickled jalapenos in each one.  These are the jalapenos I made this year.  Chelsea doesn’t eat dairy and I don’t eat meat, so we made these completely vegan.

filling the tamalesWe included a generous teaspoon of each ingredient in each tamale.

string tied tamaleChelsea chose to tie hers with kitchen string.  The advantage of using string is that it doesn’t break while tying it.

tamale productionI chose to use corn husk ties, the advantage being that you don’t need to buy string, something I don’t happen to keep in my kitchen.  This advantage is especially valuable during an apocalypse.

tamale arrangementChelsea arranged the tamales in a steamer lined with husks (not necessary but kind of cool) and steamed them for over an hour.

finished tamaleThey were very good.  When I steamed mine at home I steamed them too long and dried out the tamale dough.  For the dough we used vegetable stock, chilled (hardened) olive oil, and some squash.  I have to admit that I liked my dough made with butter a little better.  The cilantro pest was amazing in these – gave them a really nice herby flavor and the jalapenos added both heat and a tangy finish.

I don’t intend to wait another two years to make these again.  I want to make more in the next couple of weeks.  I just have to figure out what filling I want to try next.  If I come up with something really good that’s my own creation I’ll be sure to share it with you here.  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe.

I’m going to end every post with a link to my novel because I need people to buy it so I can become a full time paid novelist.  If you haven’t bought a copy yet – go buy it!  It’s a great book about a small town apothecary who gets herself in a lot of trouble when her father dies.  It includes an old inarticulate distiller who makes amazing pickles and cured meats.  The book is available in e-book format only but will soon be available in trade paper and hard back versions.

Cooking With Chelsea: The Sopes Edition

This is not a sope.  This is a nopale salad that Chelsea whipped up off the top of her head.  It is AMAZING.  Chelsea doesn’t write recipes.  I am the note taker and the annoying person interrupting genius  “Wait – what did you just do?  Hold on!  How much of that did you put in there?”  You may thank me for my perseverance and note taking skill after I post the recipe for this salad and for the salsa we made.

I have to test out the two recipes before posting them to be sure of proportions.  I just wanted to give you a peek at our sope adventure.  I’ve never made them before.  We used a recipe from the Culinary Institute of America’s Vegetarian Cookbook.  They’re very good fresh but the only fat in them is the thin film of oil used on the pan to cook them with.  I love the idea of a little masa harina plate to pile delicious food onto.

I didn’t love the sopes as much as I thought I would.  It’s something I want to work on more.  Chelsea made sopes once using leftover tamale dough and said it was wonderful.  I think having fat in the masa harina may make a difference.

The tomatillo and avocado salsa is so good it’s hard to keep myself from eating it with a spoon.  What I love about it is that it has such a bright and rich flavor to it but is really low in calories.  The first time Chelsea gave me some to try I used it as a dressing on salad and I loved it.

I’m wondering how well this salsa might freeze.  Tomatillos are still in season but will be over soon so I’ll get this recipe posted soon so you can try it out.

While eating this food I did not wish I had cheese or sour cream with it.  While that would be delicious too – the nopale salad was so tangy and refreshing I didn’t wish it was sprinkled with feta.  We made a black bean and fresh corn salad to fill the sopes with and dressed it with the tomatillo salsa and the richness of the salsa was perfect and didn’t make me wish there wasn’t something more to it.   So this was a totally successful day in the learning to cook excellent food without using dairy.

What cooking adventures have you been having lately?