Tamales. A staple of Mexican food that is almost now exclusively reserved for holiday and other family gatherings; are explored in depth in Alice Guadalupe Tapp’s new cookbook. Not only in recipes but in the history of the food, as it pertains to a culture and her own family.
“…My memories of cooking with my mother as a child helped me tremendously. In addition to teaching me everything she knew about tamale making, she taught me how to use time-saving techniques and products-such as readymade moles and canned roasted chiles-to make recipes faster and easier, without compromising taste, richness, or satisfaction in the end result…”
Tapp fills her book with recipes unlike any you will find in a franchise Mexican restaurant. They are creative and with detailed instructions, well within anyone’s capability to cook. She also explores the tamales known as inside outs or tontos. They are tamales where the filling in on the outside of the tamale. There is also very detailed sauce recipes to go with the tamale.
Some of the different recipes are as follows:
chicken curry tamale
red chile beef tamale
chorizo and egg tamale
corn salad inside-out tamale
delicious shrimp inside-out tamale
beef cheeks and wine tamale
wild boar carnitas tamale
There is also an entire chapter dedicated to vegetarian and vegan tamales. And let us not forget the desert portion of the book with banana foster tamale or the unbelievable lemon curd corundas.
Tapp’s journey through the food world of the tamale is as varied as it is delicious. With many variations and wonders on this singular food. With beautiful pictures and detailed instructions, this cookbook is a fun and interesting experience for anyone who ever wanted to make this staple of Mexican cuisine.
Growing up, as a child of parents who owned their own Mexican restaurant, I have a special kinship with the tamale. I remember very well the care and long hours my mother would put in creating the masa and filling. I remember helping her separate the corn husks and then soaking them in preparation. Finally her assembling line as she spooned the masa (always with the back of a large wooden spoon) into the husk and then the filling and folding it over. The large pot heating on the stove as she stacked row after row of tamale in it to steam.
There is nothing quite like the smell of the tamale steaming away as it fills the kitchen and if it winter, steaming the kitchen windows until they were opaque and only the dim sunlight came through. Hours later getting to unwrap the tamale (I always got two) and spooning a good helping of red chile con carne over it. The moist and spicy flavor of the meal.
That was home.
The tamale is labor intensive. It is an act of love.
What Alice Guadalupe Tapp does in this book is teach us how to take this wonderful food and with a little help create a meal in much shorter time and effort. What she removes in labor, she replaces with an incredible variety of flavors.
I don’t know if any of the tamales in this book will be as wonderful as what my mom created, but they look and sound too good not to try. This is a book I will look into anytime I want to try something new and different with a food that is as comforting as the scents and tastes of your childhood kitchen.