Christmas Eve festivities happen at our house. We go to church in the later afternoon and then come home for a quiet evening of snacking, talking, Christmas music, playing games and opening a few gifts. The family members who do not have other celebrations to attend come to our house, so the guests vary from year to year and so does the food. This year, I have decided to go with a Salvadoran theme.
There are a few Salvadoran dishes which I make pretty often, and they turn out pretty well: guacamole with big chunks of avocado and hard-boiled eggs, cauliflower relleno with tomato salsita, ejotes (green beans) cut fine and made with scrambled egg, and of course, Salvadoran red beans...but there is one must-have for Christmas which I have not yet attempted -- tamales.
If my kids are reading this, they are probably groaning and saying "yuck." It's true, their experiences with tamales in El Salvador have included a few unwelcome bites into chicken beaks, chicken feet and other unknown crunchy things, and the gooey mass of corn dough has not always been cooked to the finest texture. Yet, every Christmas and major celebration of which I have been a part in El Salvador has included tamales. Savory tamales filled with potato and carrot. Sweet tamales slathered in fresh cream. I am determined to try to make a tasty tamale.
So, today I got out my Salvadoran cook book, a gift from my husband a few years back. The tamale section has about a dozen recipes, some of which require some ingredient research and all of which contain meat. With a vegetarian on the guest list, I needed to turn elsewhere for ideas.
As I was about to hit Google for answers, I remembered the video. About 4 years ago, my friend Julia took me to one of the best tamale-maker's house to show me how to make tamales. I filmed the entire process, from pulling the corn off the cob, to grinding, to mixing, to starting the fire, to wrapping, to cooking. Who needs a cookbook when you have a step-by-step film featuring your friends and non-stop humorous commentary?
Tomorrow, I will find that video and experiment with tamale-making, because it just won't be a Salvadoran Christmas without the tamales!