Wrapped in warm cornmeal dough and packed with such delicious fillings as cheese and chile peppers, tamales have long been the staple of many a Christmastime dinner table. Even for those who aren't of Hispanic origin, chances are they'll be polishing a tamale or two sometime over the next 48 hours or so.
It results in big business for many local Hispanic restaurants, who'll advertise they have Christmas tamales for sale (including a couple eateries in my neighborhood that have hung colorful banners on their buildings proclaiming such).
The folks at Molly's Tamales (8806 North 43rd Avenue in Glendale, 623-937-1060) have been plenty busy grinding out their corn husk-wrapped creations. Owner Molly Sedlmeier has been using her family's recipes to cook up tamales for almost a decade.
Vegetarians and vegans (as well as health nuts in general) will dig the fact she uses nary a speck of lard or animal shortening in her recipes and sells five different meat-free versions for guilt-free consumption. (For you carnivores, she also offers such gourmet fillings as grilled salmon, as well as the more-traditional shredded pork and green chile kinds.)
One of her more popular veggie options is made with a sumptuous mixture of diced potatoes, tender carrot slices, corn kernels, and melted cheddar cheese. The dough (also called masa) is steam-cooked to just the right texture and isn't too mushy. A second choice consists of a vegetable-laden combo of zucchini, mushrooms, and cheese. It's quite flavorful and doesn't need the addition of any salsa or seasoning. Try either of these if you're mouth is too tender for all things caliente.
Under the hood with two of Molly's tamale's. The zucchini and mushroom is on the left, and the "Southwest Vegan" is on the right.
But if you're a glutton for spicy punishment, by all means go for the "Southwest Vegan" which features a fiery punch of black beans, carrots, and a smoky chipotle chili that is sure to prickle your taste buds.
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If you'd like something more sugary, Molly can also whip up some dessert tamales (a.k.a. tamales de dulces), like the "Rocky Road" (made with melted chocolate and marshmallows) or perhaps the fruity "Pineapple and Raisin."
Sounds pretty, uh...sweet.
By the way, Sedlmeier and her staff will be working until 5 p.m. tomorrow, in case you'd like to place a last-minute order. -- Benjamin Leatherman