The best ones ever – impossibly tender, green corn tamales with a ribbon of spicy pork in the middle, eaten at El Bravo in Phoenix, Arizona.
Good, everyday ones, heavier with less zing – from Ester Reyna’s kitchen, on Washington Avenue, in Kansas City, Kansas, always arriving the day before Christmas, with an invitation to join the whole Reyna family for Christmas Day feasting.
This year on Christmas Day there will be tamales steaming in our kitchen. I will pull out Rick Bayless’s cookbook, roast a bit of pork, char some chilis, whip up the lightest masa I can, and wrap little culinary gifts inside the corn husks for steaming. I’ll draft the boys to help tie little strips of husk around the bundles because making tamales is easier when more hands are involved. Ester always had sisters and nieces on hand to share in the assembly line. I’ll have make do with my two sons – we’ll only be making a couple of dozen, after all, not the hundreds that the Reyna’s produced!