I have this strange fear of any recipe that involves cooking and wrapping food. I’m not talking about burritos, but recipes that involve a lot of rolling or wrapping. I had to psych myself up before making spring rolls for the first time, pot stickers seemed over-the-top hard (it was the pleats), ravioli (uh, ridiculously easy come to find out) and sushi (which I admit even after making it still slightly intimidates me).
So needless to say I’ve never made tamales. In my head there were too many steps, too many messy dishes, and too much time needed to make them. I know one of my weaknesses and it reared before making these tamales. I put up mental roadblocks when something is seemingly too difficult. I throw my hands up in the air before I even try. I don’t do this with everything, just a few key items. Cooking at home shouldn’t be intimidating- it should be fun. Instead of thinking, “I don’t know about this,” I think, “This will be fun, no matter the outcome.”
Here’s what I found out: tamales are ridiculously easy. There isn’t a lot of hands-on time, the wrapping stage is quite easy and not near as tedious as pleating 50+ potstickers, and there is no need for perfection. Even if the tamales come out ridiculously messy, it’s okay- they still taste great. The list of ingredients is long, this is true. However, many of the ingredients I had in my house already. In fact, the corn husks were the only thing I didn’t have in the house which I found at a local Latin Grocery Store (however, you can also order them online). I also buy a big bag of masa to keep around for making corn tortillas.
Chipotle Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Black Bean Tamales
- 2 cups Masa Harina
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 large sweet potato
- 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1/4 cup adobo sauce
- Juice from one lime
- 1 cup black beans, with liquids
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 handfuls spinach
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 10-15 corn husk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 3-4 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- Mix together masa, salt, oregano, and baking powder in a medium size bowl. Melt coconut oil and pour over masa along with warm water. Mix until dough forms, adding a 2-3 more tablespoons of water if dough seems too dry. Cover and set aside.
- Separate corn husk and cover with hot water, placing a heavy object on top if needed to keep husk submerged. Let sit until ready to fill.
- In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in onion and cook for 4-5 minutes. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/4" cubes and add to pan along with chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and lime juice.. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Next, stir in black beans along with liquid and salt. Leave uncovered and cook until sweet potatoes are tender and liquid has almost fully absorbed. If sweet potatoes are not done and liquid is gone, add a bit of water or veggie broth.
- Chop spinach and cilantro, adding it at the very end. Remove from heat and stir until spinach has wilted.
- To fill, lay one corn husk on a cutting board. Scoop 1/4-1/2 cup of masa (depending on husk size) and pat into a 1/4" layer on the husk, leaving a one inch perimeter. Add 2-3 tablespoons of filling on top of masa
- Fold up sides so that dough is completely covering the filling. Fold the right side over the left side and then fold of the end. Place seem side down on a platter and repeat with remaining dough and filling.
- Place a steamer basket in a large stock pan and add enough water to steam. Place tamales inside, seam side down. Cook for 45 minutes.
- While tamales cook, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot. Mince garlic and add to pan, cooking for one minute. Add in tomato sauce, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until peppers are broken down, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
- Once tamales are done, unwrap and serve with sauce.
by Erin Alderson