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Black bean and goat cheese tamales (bachelorette part I)

June 12, 2011

If it seems like Amanda and I haven’t been cooking too much together lately, it’s because – quell surprise – we haven’t been cooking too much together lately.  In fact, in the most recent weeks we haven’t had any time together at all – cooking or not.  Amanda’s finally made her inevitable move away from Connecticut and left me alone with our shared memories, mutual friends and some frozen tamales.

Luckily the tamales are delicious (and the friends aren’t bad either), so I can forgive her for having the audacity to follow her job, fiance and good sense out of our quaint little town.  Maybe it’s wrong that I’m essentially calling a steamed black bean, cheese and masa harina mix a suitable facsimile for one of my closest friends, but they’re sooo good.


Luckily, I know Amanda won’t take offense to the comparison, and furthermore will smile upon reading it.  The tamales were originally made for her taco buffet bachelorette celebration back on one of the first days spring’s warming tentacles broke through the winter chill.  You know, back when spending the day over a warm stove was something to look forward to.  Now the sticky weather and bright, fresh-from-the-farm vegetables demand less time at the stove lest we overtax the A/C or overcook the season’s best flavors out of our food.  But since the work for these tamales was all done back in April, I can enjoy them now after only a few minutes of stove time.  Exactly as I’ll enjoy the season’s first kohlrabi that I’ll be pairing my tamales with tonight.

They take some work, but the reward is tidily wrapped little packages of the cornmeal infused with the best black bean mix and peppered with beautiful little patches of sharp goat cheese.  Tamales somehow look both fancy, with the little husk bows, and rustic, with the slopped in filling.  The satisfyingly salty, yet complex flavors, somehow manage to border that line between gourmet and down-home as well.

Black Bean Tamales with Fresh Goat Cheese
From Rick Bayless’ Fiesta at Rick’s

If you plan on throwing a big Mexican food party, I highly recommend investing in Rick’s book.  It’s beautifully written, with numerous tips on what can be made or prepped in advance.  Since I’ve never single-handedly planned a dinner party, let alone one on this scale, Rick’s thorough party ideas and planning tips were truly indispensable. Plus, it helps that the 10(!) recipes of his that we made for the bachelorette all turned out unbelievably good.  If I find time at some point, I’ll put up an overview of our party spread.

I’ve provided the recipe exactly as I made it.  So with some very slight alterations and as a double batch, because the workload is about the same for 30 versus 15.  And for the amount of work you’ll invest in these, you should definitely have some tucked away in the freezer as a future dividend.

8oz package dried corn husks
2 cups drained, cooked, seasoned black beans (preferably homemade)
~1 1/3 cup reserved cooking liquid from the homemade beans (or vegetable broth)
10oz (scant 1 1/3 cup) vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/2 cups dried masa harina for tamales, reconstituted with 2 cup plus 4 tbsp hot water
16oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Pour boiling water over the corn husks and let rehydrate for a couple hours until pliable.  Use a plate to keep the husks submerged.

Puree cooked beans in a food processor.  Place shortening, baking powder and 4 teaspoons salt in a large bowl and mix for about a minute, until light in texture.  I did all steps using my hands or my immersion blender’s whisk attachment, but a stand mixer would work well too.  Mix the reconstituted masa in one third at a time, fully incorporating each addition before adding the next.  Mix in black beans and about 2/3 cup reserved bean cooking liquid (or vegetable broth).  The mixture should be about the consistency of cake batter.  Mix for about another minute.  The mixture is ready when a 1/2 teaspoon drop floats in a cup of cold walter.  Refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

If you have a tamale steamer, pour 1 1/2 inches of water into its bottom.  I used this one.  Otherwise, you can use a vegetable steamer in your tallest pot, although you won’t be able to cook as many at once.  Drain the husks.  Use several smaller ones or torn ones to line the steamer basket.  Tear a few additional husks into 1/4-inch strips that you’ll use for tying the tamales.

For the lightest tamales, re-beat the refrigerated batter, while slowly adding an extra 1/4 cup of the bean cooking liquid.  (Note that if you didn’t let the batter firm up in refrigerate batter, you can’t add additional liquid without turning the filling into soup.)

To form the tamales, scoop 1/4 cup of the batter onto the wide part of a corn husk.  The corn husk should be about six inches wide at the widest part and at least six inches long.  Spread batter into a 4-inch square, leaving 1 1/2 open at the skinny part of the husk and 3/4 inch on either side.  Sprinkle a good amount of goat cheese on top of the batter.  Don’t skimp here!  Pull the two sides up and roll to one side.  Fold skinny half up and tie in place using a 1/4-inch strip.  Place standing up in the tamale steamer.  Once all tamales are made, cover with extra husks.

Cover steamer and set over high heat.  Once steaming, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 1 1/2 hours.  Check water level throughout cooking process.  Turn off heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes.

To freeze, wrap groups of 5 tamales in plastic wrap and then foil.  Tamales can be steamed back to life straight from frozen.  Just place back in steamer for about 15 minutes.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink*
    June 14, 2011 8:15 pm

    these are delicious, phenomenal, and taste equally good after margaritas, the morning after margaritas, and the morning after the morning after margaritas. so clutch.

  2. Barbara Stoops permalink
    June 17, 2011 3:36 pm

    I don’t know that I’ll ever have the nerve to try these but I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed reading about tamales as much as I did with this blog. Seldom has a lowly little tamale been so beautifully and aptly described!!!

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