Monday, October 22, 2007

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Tamales with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce

These tamales are a great addition to your Thanksgiving table--we made them last year with a cranberry salsa! The avocado-cilantro sauce used in this recipe is our attempt to recreate the avocado salsa that comes with tamales and taquitos at the Flacos stand at the Berkeley Farmers Market.

This post is tagged "projects" not because you'll be preserving anything for the winter--you'll be lucky if you end up with leftovers--but because the recipe takes a long time, so make these on a day when you feel like puttering around at home.

Go Ahead, Block Out a Whole Afternoon

About 25 dried corn husks (depending on how big they are)
1 large sweet potato
1 onion, sliced into rings
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons unsalted butter (OR Earth Balance shortening), softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 cups masa harina
1-2 cups water
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro
1 serrano chile, minced (leave the seeds in if you like it spicy)
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons olive oil

And Call Up Your Grandma While You're Waiting

First, three prep steps, to do about an hour before you make the tamales:
  1. Soak the corn husks in plenty of boiling water while you do everything else.
  2. Prick the sweet potato and bake on 400 until soft.
  3. Caramelize the onion: in a heavy-bottomed or cast-iron frying pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil on high heat, add the onions, and then turn down the heat as low as it will go. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything else is done and onions are browned, soft and delicious, like this:

When you're finished with the prep steps, go ahead and start the masa. Put the butter or shortening in your food processor and pulse about a minute, until fluffy. Add baking powder, salt, 1 cup of the masa and 1/2 cup of water and process. Keep adding cups of masa and half-cups of water until the mixture has a mashed potato-type consistency.

Speaking of mashed potatoes: when the sweet potato is done baking, peel and transfer to a bowl. Mash well and mix in the caramelized onions. Taste the mixture and add salt if desired.

Clear off some counter space and set out your soaked husks, filling and masa bowl. Oil your hands lightly, then pick up a golf-ball-sized hunk of masa, roll into a smooth ball, and make a depression in the middle with your finger and fill with a spoonful of filling:

Press the masa around the filling and seal. Take the resulting rectangular-ish chunk and lay on an opened corn husk. Fold edges of husk inwards, first vertically and then horizontally. Tie shut with string or a long strip of husk. Repeat until all masa is used up--this should make about 20 tamales.

Get a large stock pot and fill with about an inch of water. Place tamales in a steamer basket in the stock pot and steam for about 40-45 minutes. When these are done, the masa should be steamed to a firm consistency. When tamales are almost done, place the avocado, cilantro, chile, lime juice, water and olive oil in the food processor and blend until you have a saucy consistency. Salt to taste. Eat tamales with a drizzle of avocado-cilantro sauce.

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