Some of the best tamales in town are at Tommy Klauber's Pattigeorge's restaurant on Longboat Key. Klauber credits his great Mexican dishes to the authentic Mexican cooks who work in his kitchen.
But how can it be that simple? After all, a recipe is a recipe is a recipe, right? Follow the directions and a dish should taste the same if one person makes it as another.
Well, not exactly. "There's a big difference between trying a recipe for the first time and making it for the hundredth time," says Klauber. He says he and the cooks in his kitchen have learned the subtle nuances that can elevate a simple dish to one that's sublime. Once you're comfortable with the basics of any dish, you can begin experimenting with different flavors and ingredients.
Ok, so we don't all share the gastronomic genius that burns in Tommy Klauber's kitchen. But he's sharing his basic tamale recipe with us; he suggest pairing it with an Anejo Herradura tequila or a Mexican beer.
Simple Tamale Recipe
4 dozen corn husks (Publix and Albertson's now carry these, as do specialty Latin markets in town)
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. chili powder
3 lbs. masa (in the flour section of supermarkets and at specialty stores)
5 tbsp. water
Soak corn husks in water 1 day before using. Work lard, chili powder, salt into masa. Add water & knead with hands until smooth. Using the back of a spoon, spread mixture thinly & evenly on the inside of husk, covering about half. Fill with the following mixture:
2 lbs. ground pork
2 medium onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Chili powder to taste
1 tsp. mashed comino seed (cumin)
6 tbsp. raisins, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 tbs. lard
2 tbsp. chili powder
Saute pork in hot fat, adding onion, garlic, chili powder, comino seed and raisins. Add one cup water & let simmer until the meat is done & liquid has been absorbed. Place 1 tbsp. of mixture on masa covered portion of husk, spreading thinly. Lap one side of husk over the other folding under the portion of the husk which does not contain the masa. Place tamales, pyramid fashion, on shallow steaming rack in the bottom of a large cooker. Add 1 tbsp. lard & 2 tbsp. chili powder to one quart of water and pour over tamales. Cover with additional husks and steam for 4- 5 hours. When masa is done, it will pull away from the husks when unfolded.