(and tacos, enchiladas and burritos) with BBQ meat
DAN CANNON, 29-April-2002
DULCE, California -- Leftover barbecue meat makes great tamales,
tacos, burritos and enchiladas. The following explanation
specifically concerns tamales. However, a slight variation in
the recipe will change the meat mixture's moisture content and texture
for tacos, enchiladas and burritos.
are a wonderful food of Mexico. They consist of a filling -- any
combination of meat, cheese, or vegetables -- covered with masa (a
Mexican corn dough), wrapped inside a corn husk, and then steamed.
are prepared in different ways throughout Mexico. In central
Mexico, tamales are thick and fluffy, with lots of masa and filling.
In the north, tamales are thinner with more filling, and the filling
is usually spicy with chile and cumin.
tamales is time-consuming but, like its relative, barbecue, the result
is well-worth the time and effort.
Mexican markets and even some good mainstream markets sell the same
products and ingredients listed below. Viarta Market is a
local Mexican chain of markets in North Los Angeles County which
stocks al the required ingredients.
Market also makes fresh tamales in their stores daily. Visitors
can watch through a window as experts assemble perfect tamales.
Visitors who have the opportunity to watch the process, take notes,
and practice will be able to duplicate the experts' technique
perfectly. Viarta sells their fresh tamales for one dollar
the quantities of meat mentioned here are leftovers, so they are
already cooked! Cooks should plan on using 3 pounds of leftover
meat, which will make 12 tamales (which assumes about 4 ounces of meat
should adjust the quantities of seasonings for their individual
tastes, and they can adapt the recipe for the equipment they are
recipes use the following ingredients:
pounds of leftover, cooked Pork Butt, Beef Brisket, or Chicken.
7-ounce bottles of Pico Pica Taco Sauce, either mild, medium or
hot, as preferred (alternatively use a good Chili Powder);
15 1/2-ounce can of chicken or beef stock (depending on the meat
3-pound bag of pre-mixed masa (masa is corn-meal flour which is
used to make corn tortillas; the pre-mixed masa is much
easier to work with than trying to make it from scratch);
tamale corn husks (i.e. corn husks which have been cut and are
sold specifically for tamales);
John Lard (avoid vegetable or other oils); and
recipe requires the following equipment:
barbecue meat mixture
first step is to prepare 3 pounds of cooked barbecue meat as follows:
Butt: slice or shred it into inch-wide slices or small
Brisket: slice it across the grain into very thick,
inch-wide slices; and
slice or shred it into inch-wide slices or small chunks.
shred or crumble the meat into a large, 15 inch pan.
one 15 1/2-ounce can of chicken or beef stock (depending on the type
of meat being used).
one 7-ounce bottle of Pico Pica Taco Sauce. Alternatively,
substitute between 5 and 7 tablespoons of chili powder.
the fire on medium and stir well. When the meat is well-heated,
use the potato masher to mash the meat into obtain the preferred
consistency and texture. The consistency and texture is easy to
vary and depends on how the meat is to be used: in tamales,
tacos, enchiladas or burritos.
the pan with the mixture to the fire, and continue cooking at a medium
temperature until the liquid from the Pico Pica and the stock reduces
to the desire moisture level. The mixture can be made as moist
or dry as desired.
meat is now ready to use to make tamales, tacos, enchiladas or
noted above, pre-mixed masa is preferred, because it is too difficult
and risky to attempt making it from scratch. Pre-mixed masa in
the 3- or 5-pound bag is guaranteed to be done perfectly. Since
pre-mixed masa is intended primarily to make corn tortillas, the
following recipe enhances the masa for tamales.
put 6 tablespoons of lard into the small saucepan and place over low
heat until it is melted but not very hot. Melting the lard
ensures that it will mix thoroughly in the masa.
put 3 pounds of masa into the mixing bowl.
add the following ingredients to the masa, and mix them in by hand:
Tablespoons of baking powder;
Tablespoons of the melted lard;
to 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt, to taste; and
to 10 tablespoons of Pico Pica Taco Sauce (alternatively,
substitute chili powder).
it raw and season to taste.
number of corn husks to prepare depends on the quantity of the meat
used. In general, 3 pounds of meat (48 ounces) will make 12
tamales, with each tamale having about 4 ounces of the meat mixture.
10 cups of water into a large pot and bring it to a brisk boil.
Then put in the corn husks, and keep the corn husks under the water
with a plate or lid that has a smaller diameter than the pot.
Cook the husks at a low boil for 30 minutes, until they are soft.
the husks from the water and let them drain, so that they are still
wet but not dripping.
are assembled in four simple steps, and practice will improve them.
lay one corn husk on the board.
roll take a small handful (about 3 ounces) of the masa and flatten it
on the top of the corn husk. Spread the masa evenly over the
entire surface of the corn husk.
take a small handful (about 4 ounces) of the meat mixture and lay it
across the middle of the corn husk (as you might lay the meat in the
middle of a taco).
fold the tamale, as follows. Fold the closest end to one-quarter
of the tamale. Then fold one inch from the left and one inch
from the right, and tuck both edges rightly. Then continue by
folding up the tamale to the second and then third quarter, so that
its shape is rectangular.
across the edge where the tamale comes together, smear a small strip
(about 3" wide) of masa across the width of the tamale along the
lay a second corn husk on the board, and roll the tamale into the
second corn husk, folding it as above.
tamale should be folded (not really rolled) into a tight rectangular
shape about 5" wide, 2" long and 1" high.
are cooked by steam. Therefore, it is necessary to have a
steamer or to fabricate a steamer by using a large pot (like a
22-quart aluminum stock pot), a metal colander that fits within the
pot, and some sort of stand to support a strainer about 2" above
the bottom of the pot. In either case, the steamer is filled
with 1" of water, which is brought to a medium simmer.
the tamales on the inner holder. Put a circle of tamales
standing on end first around the outer edge, and then fill them
towards the center. Stack a second and third layer, as
the water is simmering, put the holder with the tamales into the
steamer. Do not allow any of the tamales to touch the water.
the pan with a lid, but leave a space (some use a towel in between the
lid and the pot) to allow steam to escape.
the tamales for 45 to 55 minutes to complete. You will start to smell
the cooked Masa when they are ready.
them hot. Enjoy!
are delicious if reheated. Place them in the oven at 350 degrees
for about 15 minutes. Do not re-steam them.
may also be frozen and will be excellent when reheated: put the
frozen tamales in a casserole dish, cover it with foil, and heat in a
350 oven for 30 minutes, until the centers are hot.