Photo by Phil G/FlickrCC
Think tamales are un-American? Think again. Food Channel producer and expert on all things Mississippi Delta Eleanor Barkhorn notes that tamales are a down-home tradition in that most storied of U.S. regions. That's right, the home of blues and barbecue, William Faulkner and Muddy Waters, is also home to the American tamale. The Southern Foodways Alliance is all over it, with a dedicated documentary and blog. You can hear SFA head and excellent food writer John T. Edge discuss the Delta tamales here.
My recipe isn't explicitly Mexican or Mississippian, although it does contain a lot of ingredients one might pronounce aloud with an accent. Whatever their origin, they're ideal for the Fourth of July or any patriotic summer cook-out, which is why I gave them the most jingoistic name I could think of. (John Wayne Freedomales was my second choice.) They're fun to make and can be enjoyed by adherents to any diet.
Makes 20 tamales.
• 20 dried large corn husks
• 1 1/3 cups Masa Harina corn tortilla flour
• 2/3 cup finely-ground corn meal
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 cups water (or homemade stock, if you've got it)
• 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Grilled pepper salsa
• 2 cups coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese
• 5 cups corn kernels, fresh if possible, ideally from New Jersey
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped