We acted out my favorite holiday tradition on Sunday: a long afternoon of preparing, building and steaming tamales for an evening meal that couldn't be beat. Tamales and Christmas just go together, not just because they are a welcome change of pace from the usual holiday fare but also because it helps to have a load of family around to assist in the labor-intensive parts of the operation.
We started by baking the pork with onion and bay leaves for 90 minutes or so the night before. Sunday afternoon, we browned the meat with flour and then simmered it with chili powder, cumin, oregano and broth for 40 minutes or so. Meanwhile, I mixed up the masa with oil, water, chili powder and salt, and we soaked the corn shucks in water to soften and clean them.
Tamale assembly is the sociable part of the ritual, a pleasant pastime of spreading masa on a shuck, ladling meat onto the masa and then rolling the whole mess into a cylinder, folding it over to keep it together. We sit around the table to do this, comparing notes on various assembly methods and rooting out the largest shucks. Then, 90 minutes of steaming while various side dishes are prepared - rice, beans, hurricane gravy. Finally, good ol' eating, accompanied by Bayern Doppelbock.
After taking on a full complement of tamales, my daughter and I dashed off to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." When we got back home, the house still smelled of cumin and onions. Mmmmm. So we polished off a couple of cold tamales before heading to bed.
That's my idea of a holiday.