Marty, my co-volunteer at the hospital, says he doesn’t cook. In an effort to fix that, his wife, Irma gave him a series of cooking classes taught by Fresh Food in a Flash blogger, Chef Patricia Rose. April’s class sounded like too much fun (a reasonable $40 price was the clincher to me), so Larry, Irma and I joined in to make homemade tamales.
We gathered in a Westchester (California) church community room. Larry had made tamales before (that first attempt, he said, weren’t very tasty). This time, the tamales were awesome and we guessed it had much to do with lard. No judgment, we luv’d the stuff. Considering the fact that Patricia had pre-prepared fillings and soaked the husks, we all proclaimed, “WHO KNEW IT WAS SO EASY TO MAKE TAMALES?”
Vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t fret, make YOURS using vegetable oils and plenty of stuffing options, see the list below.
There are dozens of websites showing the five steps to tamale making, such as this one. I won’t do that here, but the steps are:
- Soak the husks
- Make the masa
- Prepare fillings
- Stuff and fold
- Steam (about 30 minutes)
Steps are simplified further with Tamale Kits from Melissa’s Produce. We didn’t use the kit for the class, but received it as a parting gift along with a jar each of local product, San Angel Mole. AND a half-dozen more tamales we’d prepared. See what I mean about the good value cooking class price? NO promises that future classes come with all the goodies, but this was a great bonus.
Yesterday, back at the hospital Info Desk, I had time to interview Marty about this “doesn’t cook” thing. How do you survive if you “don’t cook?”
Me: How hard is it to cook? Marty: Some dishes are hard and some are easy, obviously. The hard ones involve many ingredients and multiple preparation processes. Tamales are surprisingly easy, but sloppily mushy until you get the hang of it.
Why do you say you don’t cook? I have seldom cooked anything beyond pasta and hamburgers. Though I could always make a decent salad. However, I am educatable!
What kept you from cooking before? When I was single, I had to cook, though mainly it was TV dinners. I was eating lots of pasta. Just inertia or laziness.
Do you grocery shop? I do 90% of the grocery shopping.
Do you read recipes at home? (This one stumped him for a minute, as in, “READ recipes??” like they were the Wall St. Journal.) I never read recipes, at home or elsewhere.
What have you cooked so far? So far, meatloaf, oatmeal and a couple of Patricia’s classes where I forget what the heck we made. Shows just how much into it I really am.
So now, back to the tamales. If you think fillings are just chicken, pork or beef, here’s what else Patricia had for us to use:
- Homemade tomatillo sauce
- Grilled vegetables
- Feta cheese
- Marinated artichoke hearts
- Fresh cilantro
- Diced scallions
- Sundried tomatoes (jarred, in marinade)
- Caramelized onion
- Black beans
- Parmesan cheese
- White cheddar cheese
And for DESSERT TAMALES (add some brown sugar to the masa): dried cherries, chocolate chips and Dulce de Leche to drizzle on top.
At the end of the tamale-making portion of class, the students cleared the demo table and set it for dinner. Soon, the tamales were done and we all feasted on fresh-made yum, salad, margaritas and wine.
What’s the lesson from this post? If you don’t cook, try. Take a class! Solo or with friends, they are great experiences. You may surprise yourself. And if the idea of from-scratch cooking is daunting, then go with a kit, like the Melissa’s one.
The next Fresh Food in a Flash cooking class is Wednesday, May 9, 2012 – The Food of India 6:00 – 9:00, Holy Nativity Community Hall in Westchester, CA, 6700 West 83rd Street. Most class fees are $40 in advance, $45 at the door. TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT, CLICK HERE.