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Chicken and Beef authentic Tamales!
Tamales have a long history dating back to the Aztecs. They called the tamales, tamalli. In the Aztec language the word means “wrapped food”. They were made in different dimensions and shapes in dishes and frequently served at holidays and rites. The dough was very laborious to make. The Aztecs would cook the tamales by burying them under hot coals. Once the Spanish conquistadores arrived, the Aztecs cooked the tamales in underground pits, or exposed pots.
The exterior of the tamale is dough with the insides being the filling. Tamales have a range of fillings which include meat, pork, and green corn. Many Mexicans add other major ingredients. Chicken and pumpkin are also common fillings. Sweet tamales will include raisons and cinnamon. Often you might even find fruit tamales. Once the tamales are made, it is wrapped up in corn husks. After being wrapped, they can be steamed in a large stock pot or pressure cooker.
Tamales are becoming very popular in the United States. Fillings besides the typical flavors in Mexico are popular. You’ll find meat, and another filling that consists of corn that’s like creamed corn. Tamales are found at many Christmas dinners in the American Southwest. Tamales are traditionally served during the Christmas holiday because they evoke the swaddled Baby Jesus. In the Southwest the tamales will have a flavorsome meat filling that’s meat or pork and served with a chili con carne sauce. Tamales are easy to eat, and do not leave a mess. The most effective way to eat tamales is when just out of the steamer. You can taste all the spices and flavor. If reheated, they still will be enjoyable.
The masa, or cornmeal dough, inside a tamale is prepared by mixing dried cornmeal with a broth (usually left from cooking the meat in the filling), lard, and seasonings until it forms a soft dough. Masa harina is the most common cornmeal used to make tamales (and also used to make tortillas). Masa harina is made from ground corn that has been treated with lime to remove the skin and hulls, made into dough, then dried and ground into a fine meal. Masa harina has a distinctive flavor, not unlike hominy, as it is prepared with a similar process. The lard keeps the masa from becoming too dry and pasty.
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