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Tamales for the holidays

sassille | Sep 18, 200501:32 PM

Having been a chow-lurker for a few months, I’ve decided to reveal myself and hopefully make a small contribution. The holidays are sneaking up on us and I have this thing hanging over my head. Tamales.
The truly best tamales are barely in my reach. They were hand-made by my mother who is now 95. She mixed the masa in a giant mixer with home made chicken broth and manteca. We tested their lightness by floating a smidgeon in a glass of water. If it floated to the top…we were ready to roll. My favorites were the white, chicken tamales. There was no chile in the dough. We rolled each tamale with shredded chicken, 1 thin slice of onion, a cube of tomato and a green stuffed olive. As a young woman, I later added my own touch by placing a spoonful of tomatillo sauce on top after it was steamed. Her pork tamales started with pasilla chiles that she roasted, simmered and then mashed in an old-fashioned ricer with a long wooden thing that looked like a rolling pin but was pointed on one end. That fresh chile sauce was to die for, and so was the waft of tamales steaming in the white porcelain pot on the stove.
Several years ago we visited Indio for their Tamale Festival. It was fun… but there was something so professional and competitive about the tamales. They were tasty, and they were all big and fat. But more like an assembly line product than a little wrapped piece of heaven.
So…who makes the best? And what is the location? When I get the results I’m going to do a tamale taste-off. Anybody interested?

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