You can find masa harina for the dough and corn husks for wrapping in the international aisle of some supermarkets or in a Latin American grocery store. We've been looking for an acceptable corn husk substitute for those of you who don't have access, but we haven't had good results. Any suggestions?
About 20 corn husks
1 head garlic
2 cups masa harina
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter or Earth Balance
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 cups frozen defrosted spinach, drained well OR 2 bunches fresh spinach, washed and chopped
First, two hands-off prep steps, to do about an hour before you make the tamales:
- Soak the corn husks in plenty of boiling water while you do everything else.
- Roast the garlic: cut off the top fifth to expose the cloves, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and roast at 375 for about 40 minutes. When soft, squeeze the cloves out of their skins.
Next, the filling: melt the butter in a skillet and add the shallots, stirring for 2-3 minutes until they start to brown. Add the spinach and saute another 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor, add the roasted garlic cloves, and grind until you have a coarse paste.
Place one of the dough sections on a large square of parchment paper. Layer another sheet of parchment paper over the dough and roll it out until it's about 1/4 inch thick. If you have the rolling skills, aim to make a perfect square. If you don't, trim off the edges into a square shape. Spread a layer of the spinach mixture over your dough, then roll it up like sushi, using the parchment paper to help control the shape. Smooth out any cracks that have opened and cut the roll into four equal pieces.
Wrap each section in one or two corn husks. (Robe the tamale in husk, then fold under the ends of the husks. If you want, you can make a ribbon from strips of husk and tie a cutesy little bow, but you could also just lay the tamales fold-side down.)
Repeat until you have used up all of the dough. Put a steamer basket into a large soup pot with an inch of water. Carefully load your tamales into the basket and bring the water to a boil. Steam over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. When the masa is firm, your tamales are ready to eat.
Black Bean Sauce
2 cups cooked black beans (canned okay)
2 teaspoons cumin
4 peeled garlic cloves
1-2 chiles, whole
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup of leftover bean cooking broth or stock
optional: 1 small tomato
Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium. Add the whole garlic cloves, cumin and chiles and cook for just a minute. Add the beans and cook for another minute, stirring occasionally. (In the summer, it's nice to add a diced tomato with the beans.) Add the stock, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until 2/3 of the water has cooked off. Remove the chiles and blend the rest of the mixture until smooth. Taste for spiciness. If you want more heat, throw part or all of the chiles into the blender. Salt to taste.