Recipes

'It's so good!' Make Natalie's fave Cuban-style tamale meal from her hometown

May 20, 2014 at 1:53 PM ET

Video: In the new series “TODAY’s Hometown Cookin,” Natalie Morales takes us to Zafra in Hoboken, N.J., where she loves the tamales and rice and beans.

This week, the anchors are giving us a taste of some of their favorite meals from a hometown restaurant. Natalie Morales shares a tamale dish from the Hoboken, New Jersey eatery Zafra.

Fun fact: After giving birth, Natalie sent her husband to the restaurant to pick up rice and beans for her!

For the corn
14–16 large ears corn with large kernels (9 inches when husked) or 24 medium ears (7 to 8 inches when husked) or 1 pound 4 ounces frozen corn kernels, thawed if using a grater; or

12 large ears or 28 medium ears or 4 pounds frozen corn kernels, thawed, if using a food processor or blender

For the cooking sauce
2 tablespoons achiote-infused extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces slab bacon, finely diced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion (about 8 ounces), finely chopped (about 1½ cups)
4 canned plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1–3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon coarse salt, or to taste

For the masa
1/2 cup milk 
1 cup (51⁄3 ounces) fine yellow cornmeal

For the wrappers
60 dried corn husks, or 30 11-by-10-inch aluminum foil squares 
Kitchen twine

Instructions

Preparing the corn

If grating the corn, using the finest side of a box grater, grate the kernels from the cobs. 

Measure 7 cups and set aside.

If using fresh corn, husk the corn and cut the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife. 

Working in batches, puree the fresh or thawed frozen kernels in a food processor or blender until smooth. 

Measure 7 cups and set aside.

Making the cooking sauce
In a heavy 3-quart Dutch oven or cast-aluminum caldero, heat the oil over medium heat until it sizzles. 

Add the bacon and sauté until golden brown. 

Add the garlic and sauté just until light golden, about 20 seconds. 

Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until barely soft. 

Add the tomatoes, cumin, red pepper flakes, if using, and salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.

Making the masa
Stir the corn and milk into the sauce. 

Add the cornmeal in a thin stream, stirring constantly until smooth. 

Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until the butter is melted. 

Transfer the masa to a bowl and let cool before assembling the tamales. 

Watch the video above for the best way to wrap and cook the tamales. 

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