Herbed Cream Cheese & Pork Tamales

tamales croppedI was born and raised in the south.  We hunt, farm, and fish as a matter of necessity, and most of what we eat is fried and smothered in gravy. We eat at the dinner table, and family meals and get-togethers are of Olympic proportion. 

I am a Southern white girl…a pastey, dirt-hating, won’t-go-hunting (or fishing), white girl.  The south is part of my DNA, but my taste buds…now, that’s a whole different story. I have always loved food from other places.  After I found out that there weren’t eggs in egg rolls, it was game on!  Chinese food became a favorite. When I found out that true yellow rice didn’t come from a mix, Spanish (Cuban) food opened up a whole new world of tastes. After my first visit to Epcot, I began travelling to eat around the world. Basically, I live to eat.  The “Biggest Loser” people may frown at that statement, but it’s true.  I love food.  I love exotic food.  I love interesting food.  I love creative food. And I’m not afraid to try any of it.

As I’ve gotten older and my cooking skills have broadened, I find my self experimenting with flavor combinations and fusing different ethnicities…and loving it!  I grew up with fried food, but now, rarely fry anything.  I grew up with thick, gloopy gravy on everything, but now, only serve gravy with mashed potatoes. I grew up being served traditional Southern food, but now, use it as a launch pad for other creations.

Night before last was no exception to any of this.  I love tamales. I wanted tamales. So, I made tamales. I had leftover pulled pork from our Olympic family get-together, so my tamales had pork in them. And since I’m from the south where we love our cream cheese, my tamales were going to have cream cheese in them.  As usual, this meal ventured out of one ethnicity and blended several.

Tamales Dough (Masa)

3 c. masa flour

1/4 c. shortening

8 oz. whipped cream cheese

1 tsp garlic powder

3/4 c. chopped green onions

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

appr. 1-1 1/2 c. water

15-20 corn husks

Left over pulled pork

An hour before, soak corn husks in a sink filled with cold water.  Husks must be wet and pliable before using.

In a food processor, combine cream cheese, onions, garlic powder, salt & pepper.  Pulse until onions are chopped and mixture is completely blended.  It may become slightly green from the onion.

In a stand mixer, combine shortening and cream cheese mixture.  Add 1 c. masa and mix. Dough will become stiff.  Add water to loosen, but do not let your dough become batter. Add the second cup of masa, a bit more water, and mix.  Again, add a little water to loosen. Add the third cup of masa, more water, and mix.  You want the dough to be soft enough to spread with your fingers, but not so loose that it’s soupy.  I usually add enough water to make it the consistency of soft biscuit dough.

To roll tamales, lay a wet corn husk on the work surface.  Place approiximately 1/4 c.(large meatball size) dough into the center, and with wet fingers press the dough out to 1/4-1/2″ thickness.  Place a small amount of shredded pork in the center of the dough. Roll up so that the two outer edges of the dough meet and the corn husk sides overlap.  Fold under the ends to make a little package.  Some people use string to tie the tamales closed.  I find that tucking them under and pressing them down as I put them in the pan works just fine.

Place rolled tamales in a steamer basket or the colander insert of a pasta pot.  Add enough water to the bottom of the pot to steam, but do not let the water tough the tamales. Cover the pot with the lid and bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Boil/steam for 20-30 minutes, depending on how many layers of tamales are in the pot.  Remove the steamer basket and allow to cool for a few minutes before trying to open each tamale.

Serve with red or green chili sauce or sour cream.  Enjoy!

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