While they are a bit labor-intensive, I've gotten pretty speedy at it (especially if I have a little help - *ahem*).
I particularly love tamales though, because they're CHEAP CHEAP! A bag of masa is a couple bucks, and lasts our family forever; you can fill them with WHATEVER (even leftovers), they make great lunchbox food (no need to re-heat) and if there ARE extras, they freeze great!
Last week, in an attack of SUPER-frugality, I decided to try tamales wrapped in green corn-husks, since we had just had some fresh garden corn and I hated wasting all those tender, green husks...
I had no idea if they'd turn out, but was definitely pleased with the end result. Come to find out, green-corn-husk-wrapped tamales are traditionally made in Peru, and called humitas. So I wasn't as original as I thought. The fresh husks gave the tamales a nice, mild, fresh-corn aroma and flavor, though were just slightly more difficult to wrap tightly. I'd do it again though! Yum!!
Be sure to spice the filling to your preference or even a bit extra, it mellows a lot as the tamales steam.
-- Saute veggies in a non-stick pan until tender-crisp. Season. Set aside. Drain right before using. You can use any veggies you want; Chopped, fresh cilantro is SO GOOD here too.
"Chicken", ChickPea and Green-Olive (One of our new FAVORITES!! from my chef-friend Greg!)
-- Mix sauce and "chicken" together and "shred" a bit, add chick-peas and green olives. This mixture is crumbly and messier to put in the tamales, but it's SO VERY tasty!!
If using dry husks, put in a sink of warm water, gently separate and remove debris, silks, and any dirt. Leave to soak for 30 min.
If using fresh, just rinse and pat dry.
In a deep bowl, combine the masa, baking powder, seasoning and salt. Pour the broth into the masa a little at a time, working it in with your fingers. In a small bowl, beat the margarine/coconut oil until soft and sorta "fluffy" (depending on how warm it is in your kitchen, this may not work too well). Add it to the masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture about like mashed potatoes (but stickier).
Roll the tamales: If you have never made tamales, this video shows how easy it is: Tamale Video Here
Rinse, drain, and dry the corn husks. Set them out on a sheet pan covered by a damp towel along with the bowls of masa dough and filling.
Start with the largest husks because they are easier to roll.
Stand the tamales up in a large steamer or colander with the pinched end up. Load the steamer into a large pot filled with 2-inches of water. The water should not touch the tamales. Lay a damp cloth over the tamales and cover with lid. Keep the water at a low boil, checking periodically to make sure the water doesn't boil away. Steam the tamales for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
The tamales are done when the inside pulls away from the husk. The tamal should be soft, but firm and not sticky or mushy. To serve, unfold the husk and eat as is, or spoon sauce of your choice (red or green chile sauce like a good New Mexican would be perfect here, but use what you want) over them.