My Mom made an assortment of tamales for special days and the holidays, but the “frijol con jalapeño” are the ones that remind me the most of Christmas. I am so happy that I took an interest and paid attention when my Mom prepared her tamales. During the holidays, my family will call, email, or message me in a panic looking for one of Mom’s tamal, empanada, or cookie recipes and I am more than happy to be able to sharewhat I have learned with them. I know that there will never be a tamal as good as hers, but we will continue the tradition as close as we can. Preparing these special family foods during the holidays brings us together even though we are thousands of miles apart. Takes you right back home. Thanks Mom…
2½ cups masa harina
2½ cups warm chicken broth
¾ cup vegetable shortening or pork manteca (lard)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt to taste
2 1/2 full cups pinto beans (cooked)
4 to 6 chile ancho
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
Salt to taste
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large pickled jalapeños, cut into 6 strips each, set aside.
2. While the chiles are cooling, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil to medium heat. Add the beans and bring to a simmer. Drain the chile anchos and transfer to the blender. Add the cumin, oregano, garlic, salt, and ½ cup chicken broth. Blend on high until smooth, set aside.
3. Add the chile ancho sauce to the beans, stir well to combine. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining chicken broth and reduce heat to a low simmer, stirring often. Taste for salt and while the beans are simmering, mash with a potato masher until desired texture.
4. Continue cooking the beans until most of the liquid has evaporated. This process requires you to stir often so that beans don’t burn on the bottom of pan. It may take up to 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely before using as a filling for tamales.
When the beans are cooked down to this thick paste, they are called Frijoles Chinos or Chinitos. It is a common way of cooking beans around Mexico city. The key to this recipe is that is has to be stirred constantly for a period of time to achieve this consistancy.
To Prepare Masa
Combine the masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the warm chicken broth and using your hand, work it into a soft dough. In another bowl, melt the shortening in the microwave. Add the shortening to the masa and work it in with hands until you get a thick batter consistency. If masa is too thick, add a little more chicken broth. Keep masa covered with plastic wrap until ready to use. This will be a white masa with no added chile colorado. On most days I will add some to give the masa a little color and flavor.
To Finish Tamales
1. While beans are cooling soak the corn husk in very hot water, using a heavy plate or bowl to keep them submerged. Soak for at least 45 minutes to an hour.
2. Take a few of the corn husk out of water and shake off excess water. Cut the husk down to about 4 inches wide. They tear easy. Place the corn husk lengthwise in the palm of your hand with the wide side closest to you. Spread about 3 to 4 tablespoons of masa all over the bottom half of husk. It’s ok to leave a small border on the sides of husk.
3. Place a heaping tablespoon of bean filling (2 tablespoons) and 1 jalapeño strip, lengthwise down the center of the tamale. Fold one side in first, then the other side (it should overlap a little on the first fold). Fold down the top flap down and lay tamale seam side down until ready to cook. Repeat until all tamales are done.
3. Prepare large steamer pot or tamalera by filling the bottom with water. add a penny (coin). Insert the steamer and arrange all of your tamales standing up (open side up) around the edges of pot . If tamales are loose in pot, add a little foil paper or extra corn husk to secure that the tamales won’t fall over during cooking time. Cover tightly and turn heat to high to get a quick boil going. Reduce heat and set timer for 30 minutes. You will hear the coin rattling. If you do not hear it, you need to add more hot water quickly. After 30 minutes add another ¾ cup of water. Steam for another 30 to 40 minutes. Carefully take out one tamal and cool for 2 minutes. If the masa peels away from husk, then the tamales are ready. If not, steam for another 10 minutes. Remove entire pot from heat and let stand for 30 minutes before serving. Yields 24 small tamales.