Red Chile Seitan & Carmelized Onion Tamales
I used foil instead of corn husks because foil is easy to find, and easier for first time tamale makers to use. Also, the corn husks I bought were moldy (sad). If you want to use corn husks instead, be sure to soak them in boiling water for an hour or two before using.
The sauce, filling, and batter can all be made ahead of time and then assembled before cooking.
1 recipe Red Chile Sauce (you can make this ahead of time)
1 1/2 cups seitan (store bought or homemade), cut into 1/4 in pieces
1 onion, sliced and then slices cut in half
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 ounces vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups instant corn masa
1 to 2 cups no-chicken broth or vegetable stock
8 12″ pieces of foil
Make the red chile sauce as directed in link above.
Meanwhile, make the tamale batter. In a food processor, add the shortening, salt and baking powder. Run to combine and beat the mixture to a fluffy texture. Add 1 cup masa to the food processor and run the food processor to combine. Add the other cup and run to combine. Add 1/2 cup stock while the food processor is running. Add more stock if the mixture is too crumbly. Check the lightness of the batter by checking to see if a dollop of batter floats in water. Add more stock if you need to, you want the mixture to be soft but moldable – not runny. Refrigerate the batter for an hour in a bowl well covered with plastic wrap.
To make the filling, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sugar (the sugar will help them carmelize). Cook the onions over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are carmelized. Don’t rush this. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, till fragrant. Then add the seitan and cook till the seitan starts to brown, stirring occasionally. Add about 1/2 cup of the chile sauce. The mixture should be lightly coated but not running. Allow it to cook down for a minute if runny. Remove from heat and set aside.
To finish the tamale batter, remove from the refrigerator and place the mixture in a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup stock and mix on medium speed. Remixing the batter and bringing it back to the right consistency gives the tamales a better texture. When the batter looks soft and moldable but not runny, you are ready to make tamales.
Take a piece of foil and use a paper towel to lightly oil it. Take 1/3 cup batter into your hands (hands seem to work better here than any utensils I’ve tried) and shape it into a pancake shape and then place it on the foil. Using your hands spread the mixture out some more (but try not to get too thin on the edges) until it is about 5 in square. Add 1-2 Tbsp filling to the middle. Using one edge of the foil, roll 1/2 the batter over the top. You might need a spatula to help ease the batter off the foil. It might stick a little, but be patient and slow and it will roll over. Then use the other edge of the foil to roll over the other side of the dough. Fold up the bottom edge of the foil, fold up the top edge of the foil and then fold in the edges. Repeat with the remaining foil until you have no more batter. Note – I will try to take pictures of this part next time.
Place the tamales standing up in a steamer. Steam for 1 1/4 hours. Add more boiling water to the steamer about halfway through the cooking time. Remove the steamer basket and allow tamales to cool for about 10 minutes.
To serve, remove the tamales from the foil and drizzle with remaining chile sauce.