Sometimes you go to a restaurant and have a dish that haunts you so much, that you have to figure out how to make it at home. One of my favorite places in Chicago, where I live, is a restaurant called Dos Urban Cantina. The menu changes seasonally, and they have a chocolate cake that has been named by everyone as the best in the city, and is in my top ten things I have ever eaten. It is therefore no surprise that they have one of my favorite appetizers, and the one that I just had to try and make myself at home: Tamale tots.
They make tamales, cook them, chill them, cut them into cubes, deep fry them till crispy, and serve them with a habanero crema for dipping. There are nights when the call of these is strong enough to make us stop by just for a drink and an order or two, even if we have plans to eat dinner at home. But if you don’t live in Chicago, you don’t have access to them, which makes me sad. So, I thought I should try and hack it so that you could have your own.
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
All you really have to do is source a good local tamale, and buy the plain, unstuffed ones, usually called tamale al elote. If you don’t have a tamale source off the top of your head, take this as an opportunity to explore the Mexican markets and restaurants of your community until you find one you like. Buy a few and bring them home and chill them well in the fridge or put in the freezer to store. Or if you make your own, the next time you are making them, be sure to make some with no fillings that you can stash in the freezer for future tots.
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When you want to make your tots, cut the chilled tamales into cubes, and dredge lightly in flour, patting off the excess, which will help them crisp. Heat a couple of inches of neutral oil like peanut or canola in a deep, heavy bottomed Dutch oven to about 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, wait until a small piece of bread dropped into the oil sizzles and browns quickly. Fry the tots until crispy and golden brown on the outside and heated through, only about maybe ninety seconds to a couple of minutes. Remove from the oil to a sheet pan covered with paper towel and immediately sprinkle with salt.
To make a dipping sauce, mix Mexican crema or sour cream with a bit of honey and some habanero hot sauce to taste. Serve the tots hot with the dipping sauce on the side.
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