I only read food-related books. After decades of collecting cookbooks, I have about 1,500 to choose from. The internet seems limitless, but for me it can’t compete with the pleasure of thumbing through cookbooks and finding a quirky fact or a recipe not yet broadcast to billions of people. The context is so much richer from original source material.
One of my New Year’s goals is to share three of my favorite cookbooks in a given category each week. I’ve already taken the time to rummage through dozens of cookbooks for information or inspiration on a topic. I may have done this in a sitting or over a period of years. The posts will not be cookbook reviews, but impressions about which cookbooks might be best to have for a specific dish, type of recipe, area of interest or topic.
I have dozens of cookbooks with one to fifty tamale recipes in them. This week I’m profiling the three cookbooks I find most helpful and inspirational for making tamales. Click here for my Vegetarian Chile, Tomatillo, and Cheese Tamale inspired by these cookbooks.
A step by step guide called Tamales 101, A Beginner’s Guide to Making Traditional Tamales written in 2002 by Alice Guadalupe Tapp has over four dozen traditional tamale recipes as well as a dozen basic sauces to choose from. If I could have only one cookbook to make tamales from, this would be it.
Tamales written in 1997 by Southwestern cooking kings Mark Miller, Stephen Pyles and John Sedlar is a bit more complex than Tamales 101 with a distinct chef written feel to it. There are two dozen recipes for masa tamale dough including mushroom, saffron, red thai curry, and a clam-fennel (which I won’t be making!). The tamales are just as interesting. I’ve made a number of them to rave reviews, including a vegetarian Candied Sweet Potato Tamale with Crystallized Ginger and a Chicken Tamale with BBQ Masa and Red Chile Crema.
For tamale trivia, I would suggest Authentic Mexican, Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico written in 1987 by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless. The 18 page chapter on tamales has a quote from a 16th century writer, regional tamales descriptions and recipes, illustrations, as well as extensive notes about ingredients and methods. I’ve never tried any of the thoroughly written recipes, I just love reading every detail in them!
By the way, I really wanted to include one of Mexican chef Diane Kennedy’s cookbooks in my list, but
A – I’m by definition limiting my list to three cookbooks and
B – She calls for instant grits in her tamale dough in one book and “tamale dough” in another which are both no starters for me. I’m sure she’ll show up in another one of my lists as I adore her writing.