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May 26, 2014 10:08 AM

Making homemade porik tamales without the husks

I have never made homemade tamales & just don't think I can cope with spreading all that masa dough on those husks.

Was thinking of making the pork mixture & then making the masa & creating small "tamale pie" casseroles with the masa spread over the meat & then freezing. How do you think the end result would taste without those husks?

Are the husks essential for getting that real tamale flavor?

By the way, do you have a great pork tamale recipe you would like to share?

Would love to hear your opinions on my idea. Thank you.

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  1. To me a Tamale is wrapped in a Leaf, Parchment or Husk other wise it is not a Tamale. The wrapper does effect the flavor so that will be lacking except the Mississippi Delta Tamales that use Paper.
    I am not sure how steaming in a Casserole will effect the texture of the finished product. I assume you are freezing after cooking? I do not think that freezing and later trying to steam will yield a good product.
    Here is a Recipe from Rick Bayless
    He also has a recipe for Tamale Pie which sounds more like what you are going to make anyway.

    1. Here in New Orleans the old school tamales come in paper be they in the grocery store freezer section or from a street vendor. The papers are also available in local grocery stores.

      1 Reply
      1. re: collardman

        it is a lot of effort. usually i see it done as a family effort with lots of help.

      2. It sounds like you want something very different from a tamale with the flavor of a tamale. You can be reassured that the husks don't impart flavor. Maybe green husks do add some but you could dispense with that if you care to. The traditional softened dried husks are just a useful vehicle for holding soft masa dough together until it firms up during the steaming process. That's why parchment is sometimes used as a replacement.

        And you're right that the time consuming part of tamales comes in spreading the dough and rolling to encase the filling. Involves some learning curve as well to get a nice balance of masa/filling which is nicely enclosed.

        Have you considered doing this lasagna style? A layer of masa dough, a layer of filling and a topping layer of dough. Large pastry bags and spatulas would probably do the job. Seems, mechanically speaking, as tho it would work. Doubt you'd get the same results baking such a thing tho. You'd have to figure out some way to steam or poach your assembly. Perhaps if you constructed it on cheese cloth or coffee filter paper -- or a layer of those corn husks -- in a bamboo steamer basket?

        It sounds like an interesting experiment. I hope you'll pass on your results.

        5 Replies
          1. re: chefj

            OK... I didn't know that originality was an issue. I thought we were attempting to solve a practical problem.

            But thanks for the confirmation that it's do-able. I hope that encourages the OP as well.

            1. re: rainey

              No need to conjecture on feasibility

            2. re: chefj

              I am going to try Rick Bayless's recipe when my order for some fresh masa comes in - only I will do pork instead of chicken.

              Thanks for the link.

              1. re: cstout

                And do try making "real" Tamales sometime they are not really that hard, with a bit of practice, and give big gratification.

          2. The husk lends a corn perfume to the corn masa. It tastes very different than a banana leaf tamal, which has another scent.

            You could use oiled tin foil. If made well with moist, soft, airy masa and flavorful, juicy filling, I am sure they would still taste good. But they would be lacking that corn husk perfume.

            1. I have made lots of tamales using corn husks or banana leaves. It's not as nearly as tedious as it appears.

              Here is a shortcut recipe for 60-minute tamales. I saw the creator of this recipe make the tamales and sampled them at the Indio Tamale Festival. They were really good.

              If you still don't want to deal with preparing individually wrapped tamales, here is a recipe for a tamale pie that actually tastes like real tamales.