A pressure cooker is a fantastic steam-producing machine – the perfect tool to use to cook traditionally steamed foods, like tamales, in minutes not hours.Some hip recipes are spontaneous are written and photographed just minutes after the ingredients are spotted at the market and smuggled home while others, like these tamales, require a lot of planning, research and actual smuggling.
I don’t have easy access to corn husks or masa in Italy, so when I visited the U.S. last summer I came back with a 4.4 pound pack of Masa Harina stuffed in my suitcase (along with corn husks, chiles, quinoa and other hard-to-find ingredients from the Americas). Italian airport agricultural inspection, unlike in the US, is just a pistol-packing carabiniere with a cigarette stub precariously hanging off his lips waving a gloved hand to teams of passengers either to the right or left velvet ropes. If kids are within reach, the gloved hand reaches out and pats their heads goodbye – briefly stopping the heart of the American supermarket packing parent.
Pressure Cooking Time for Tamales
When looking for the right pressure cooking time for tamales, instead of just dividing the regular cooking time by three I looked back at the polenta recipe. Ground corn under pressure cooks for an absurdly short amount of time (8 instead of 45 minutes for polenta). After all, tamales are all about steaming the masa, activating the fat that’s been folded into it and re-heating the pre-cooked filling.
I recommend pressure cooking tamales 15-20 minutes at high pressure with a natural open- a big leap from the 1 1/2 to 2 hours they would ordinarily need without pressure. Don’t believe it? Try it! If the tamales are not cooked to your satisfaction, all you have to loose is a few more minutes of cooking time under pressure – but you won’t !
Make a Meal of It
Want to make this whole delicious Mexican meal? You need to get started two days ahead of the actual meal. The tamales don’t need to be cooked fresh, they can also be fabricated and cooked a day, or more, before and kept tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Then, re-heated by pressure cooking for 5 minutes at high pressure with natural open. Here’s how….
Two days ahead:
-Put the dry spice rub on the Carnitas (Pulled Pork).
-De-fat Carnitas cooking liquid and use to spice-up Masa.
-Make the tamales.
-Pressure cook Frijoles and keep in covered dish (they will stay warm for hours)!
-Pressure Cook tamales and keep warm in the oven on low heat covered with a damp cloth.
-Just before serving, make Arroz (Spanish Rice).
|Pressure Cooker||Accessories||Pr. Cook Time||Pr. Level||Open|
|5 L or larger||steamer||15-20 min.||High(2)||Natural|
- 1 pack corn husks
- 1 recipe pressure cooker Carnitas, or your favorite filling
- 3 cups masa harina
- 1 cup vegetable shortening (or other fat such as olive oil, corn oil, butter, lard)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- About 2 cups liquid (water, stock or a portion of the carnitas cooking liquid)
- Rinse the corn husks and put them in a large shallow dish, like a casserole, and pour enough boiling water to cover. Use a heavy object, like the top from a pan, to keep the husks immersed.
- In the bowl of your mixer add masa harina, shortening, baking powder and salt. Using the paddle attachment, slowly incorporate the ingredients and pour in about half the water into the bowl of a stand up mixer. With paddle going slowly, drizzle about 1½ cups of the liquid. Masa should have a very soft “play-doh” type consistency - combined and sticky to the touch, not runny or crumbly. More or less liquid can be added to achieve the desired masa consistency.
- Lay out your work area with corn husks, filling, masa and either the cooking liquid from Carnitas or chile sauce.
- Just before starting to construct the tamales, flip the corn husks around so the ones that were soaking on the bottom are now on the top.
- Lay out one or three corn husks and wipe them down with a kitchen towel to dry and spread an even layer of masa in the middle top ⅔ of the husk.
- Place a small amount of meat (or filling of your choice) in the middle. Wet with carnitas cooking liquid or chile sauce.
- Carefully fold closed, and then fold the bottom part, without squeezing. Leave the tops open.
- Add 2 cups of water to the pressure cooker, add the steamer basket, and place the tamales open-side up. It may take a bit of arranging and some may be diagonal but no horizontal tamales!
- If not all can fit, cook in two batches. If you have just a few, tie them together in groups of threes with kitchen string (Alton Brown -style) so that they form a bit of a tripod can stand up on their own.
- Close and lock the pressure cooker lid. Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker reaches pressure, lower to the heat to the minimum needed to maintain pressure. Cook for 15-20 minutes at high pressure.
- Open with the Natural release method - move the pressure cooker to a cool burner and wait for the pressure to come down on it's own (about 10 minutes).For electric pressure cooker, disengage the “keep warm” mode or unplug the cooker and begin counting 10 minutes of natural open. Then, release the rest of the pressure using the valve.
- Serve hot tamales in their wrappers.
Makes 36-40 tamales - depending on the size.